Francesca da Rimini, Opera Holland Park, London
Prom 26, Royal Albert Hall, London

'Francesca' is dangerously foxy, but catch her if you can

When an opera is rarely staged, you wonder why.

Fashion, economy, or quality control? The story of Francesca da Rimini, a noblewoman tricked into marrying into a powerful Italian family, inspired composers aplenty: Tchaikovsky came up with his symphonic poem, and Rachmaninov an opera, with a libretto by Tchaikovsky's brother, Modeste. Artists, too, notably Ingres, found irresistible the image of two lovers disturbed by a jealous husband. Rodin's The Kiss was originally called Paolo et Francesca. But for a real collector's item go to the back of the composers' A-Z.

Riccardo Zandonai's Francesca, first produced in 1914 and given a rare outing by Opera Holland Park in the same season as Pelléas et Mélisande, is shot through with the colours that Debussy mixed 12 years earlier in his own opera of doomed love and envy. Wagner, Strauss, Janacek ... they are all here, too, swirling around in a rich mix that, but for Phillip Thomas's razor-sharp conducting, would spin out of control. He puts you in mind of a dog-walker, in total command of the great danes and poodles without tripping over the pug.

Francesca (a pained Cheryl Barker) agrees to wed one of the good, bad and ugly Malatesta brothers, believing it's the appealing Paolo who is on offer. In Act Two, cauterised by disappointment, she tends loyally to her deformed husband (a cloudy-voiced Jeffrey Black), until the reappearance of Paolo (Julian Gavin). Temptation, the malice of the third brother, Malatestino, sung with joyous venom by Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, and the self-professing prophesy of the romance Francesca reads with her gentlewomen, guarantee a tragic ending.

Two clunking walls are heaved and shoved to create new places, but the push-bar-to-exit device in Jamie Varton's design had me baffled: was this anachronism a symbol of Francesca's entrapment, or merely the last door in the shop? Director Martin Lloyd-Evans, had similarly awkward ideas for the chorus, so that visually this production could not keep up with the fleet-of-foot music. And you could drop the head-in-a-bag scene. You usually can. Maybe that is why Francesca da Rimini is rarely staged. It's too foxy: exhilarating, but just a wee bit feral.

No such waywardness at Prom 26 in which the World Orchestra for Peace gave exemplary performances of Mahler's Symphonies Nos 4 and 5, one serene and summery, Camilla Tilling the soprano soloist, the other passionate in its wintery maturity. Even among the pick of the planet's players on stage, drawn from top orchestras and performing free, the Mariinsky's trumpeter Timur Martynov shone with his golden fanfare at the opening of the Fifth. A rapt Valery Gergiev, conducting, sculpted the closing Adagietto like a sacred object of veneration.

'Francesca da Rimini' (0845 230 9769), to 13 Aug; Proms (0845 401 5040) to 11 Sep

Next Week:

Anna Picard sees young love slighted by the Bolshoi's Eugene Onegin

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all