Montezuma, King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Monday 23 August 2010
Continuing its theme of the clash of cultures between the Old and New Worlds, the Edinburgh International Festival has co-produced a rarity, Montezuma, by the 18th-century German Carl Heinrich Graun, with a libretto by his employer, King Frederick II of Prussia.
The destruction of the Aztecs and their civilisation by the Spanish Conquistadors reflected colonialism at its most vicious. Claudio Valdes Kuri's production, lacking focus and freshness of ideas, represented opera direction at its most feeble.
The Argentinian conductor Gabriel Garrido drew stylish playing from the period-instrument Concerto Elyma while the singing – particularly from the Italian counter-tenor Flavio Oliver flexing his muscles as Montezuma, and the valiant Mexican soprano Lourdes Ambriz as his put-upon fiancé Eupaforice – was decent enough.
After two acts with traditional though poorly designed costumes and a set based on Aztec pyramids, the opera ended in contemporary carnivalesque craziness with music by Luis Antonio Rojas, based on a work by a Mexican contemporary of Graun, Manuel de Sumaya. It may be part of Aztec culture to rip the heart from a living body, as the deified emperor did here, but that is no excuse for ripping the heart from an opera which, with its serious narrative content and not unappealing mix of arias, choruses and dances, has the potential to engage instead of enrage with its mindless silliness and sleaze. A mere parody of opera, Montezuma was more Monty Python.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food