Wexford Opera Festival, Ireland
Thursday 01 November 2012
For 61 years Wexford has been the emerald of opera festivals, refreshing the repertoire by trawling up underrated gems. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Delius’s birth – and his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet remains rare enough to qualify.
It may be flawed – weak libretto, slow pace – but what an outrage that a work of such ineffable gorgeousness has just been lying around, heard once in a blue moon! It hints at Wagner in Tristan mode, or Debussy in Pelléas et Mélisande – but the orchestration’s glowing transparency, the hypnotic inwardness, the sincerity of its sensuality, the poignancy of its message, those could have come from Delius alone.
Sali and Vreli, destroyed by their fathers’ feuding, reject the libertine life offered by the Dark Fiddler and decide to live one day of perfect beauty, then die together. Stephen Medcalf’s production focuses on the drama’s intimacy – but sending in clowns and acrobats and keeping them active in ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ proved unwelcome.
Soprano Jessica Muirhead was a radiant and wholehearted Vreli, John Bellemer an impassioned Sali and David Stout imposing in stage presence and voice as the Dark Fiddler. Rory Macdonald’s conducting let Delius’s subtlety and radiance win the day.
Cilea’s L’Arlesiana tells of a young man driven to suicide by unrequited love and a mother from hell. It’s a verismo roller-coaster, and the orchestra with conductor David Angus gave it suitable Mediterranean heat, despite a tricky production by Rosetta Cucchi in which Federico remembers the events from a mental hospital.
The real story turns on the psychology of his mother – a searing performance from the Italian mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri. As Federico, the Russian tenor Dmitry Golovnin made everyone sit up. He used to be a professional trumpeter, and his voice has a hint of the instrument’s brilliance and strength. Earlier, in his lunchtime recital, his larger-than-life warmth won the audience’s hearts in moments.
Finally, Chabrier’s Le roi malgré lui (The King Despite Himself) – is utterly bonkers, in the nicest way. Chabrier’s writing is brash, sophisticated and deceptively complex; it needs a precision that it didn’t always get. The staging by Thaddeus Strassberger threw too many different conceits into the pot and created a dog’s dinner. Excellent singing, though, from Nathalie Paulin as Alexina, Liam Bonner as the King, Quirijn de Lang as Laski, Luigi Boccia as Nangis and Mercedes Arcuri as the devoted Minka.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 2 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Olivia Colman and Mary Berry top Radio Times' female power list
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain