There were some excellent artists. Jennifer Larmore, in the male part of Ottone, had the necessary prickly bravura and a flow of warm, expressive tone, moving from defiance to pathos. Majella Cullagh, in the title role, was an astonishing songbird but she had very little wit or temperament. Even the tenor Bruce Ford, an outstanding exponent of this repertoire, seemed to apply an all-purpose rhetoric to his dramatic speeches, with technically adept roulades when necessary, which failed to suggest the empty bravado of Adelberto. Mirco Palazzi's serious delivery of the part of Berengario sounded workmanlike, though the young Rebecca Bottone shone in the role of Eurice.
Maybe part of the problem was the conductor, Giuliano Carella. He saw himself as merely an accompanist; there was no electric current between him and the singers. Nevertheless, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (with the SCO Chorus) played deftly, fielding that rare animal, a fine cor anglais player, in a long obbligato aria. Adelaide is not nonsense. The libretto could be made credible by an able producer, and there is much true Rossini in the score.
Earlier in the Festival there was another concert performance: Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, which recalled an even earlier occasion. The same opera was performed in the 2000 Festival; indeed, some of the artists from that version reappeared. But there were two outstanding changes. The most important was a superior conductor, Sir Charles Mackerras. He is a master of this kind of thing; his lively enthusiasm and enthralling tempos make the longest opera seem short.
The other, much more unexpected, difference was the performance of Magdalena Kozena as Sesto. In 2000 she showed the raw materials of a great voice. Now, she is the complete artist. She colours every phrase, with a separate expression, joining a contained passion to fluent and nimble coloratura.
As Vitellia, Hillevi Martinpelto was more uniform, less mercurial. But there was another thing in common with the 2000 performance. Ian Bostridge was down to sing the part of Tito, and on both occasions he cried off. He was replaced this time by Rainer Trost, a young tenor who was no more than adequate. More interesting were Christine Rice as a warm and characterful Annio, and the celestial Lisa Milne as Servilia. John Relyea was an authoritative Publio.
With the help of the SCO, Sir Charles demonstrated the enormous theatrical qualities of this piece. Next time, the Festival should stage it. Who knows: even the elusive Bostridge might finally turn up.Reuse content