I Masnadieri, Royal Opera House, London

Daylight robbery

Schiller wrote the original melodrama, Die Räuber (The Robbers); Verdi gave London the opera, I masnadieri. But a brigand's life is not a happy one, and that in itself should have been an omen. Verdi's librettist, Andrea Maffei, made a pig's ear of the silk purse, and not even Verdi's burgeoning talent could salvage much dignity from it. There's a glimmer of originality in the darkly tearful cello concertino of the prelude. There are flashes of magisterial fire. But, for the most part, abject misery turns to unfettered joy – and vice versa – in a bar or less of Verdi's jauntiest accompagnamenti; for the most part, this is opera-by-numbers and it needs all the help it can get. But not here, not now, at the Royal Opera.

Elijah Moshinsky's production – first seen in Baden-Baden, Savonlinna and Edinburgh – is new to London, though any evidence that Moshinsky, or indeed any competent stage director, has been anywhere near it is sadly lacking. To call the evening theatrically moribund would be to suggest that there had once been life in it – and that I doubt. It's thoughtless, it's lazy, it's everything that opera can no longer be. No excuses. Imaginative direction and design can inject vitality into the lamest material. But here, even Paul Brown, the normally talented designer, is at a loss. A wall of windows – presumably suggestive of the fragile divide between respectability and the life of crime and deception to which the hero, Carlo, has been banished – is laboriously hand-turned by groups of costumed stagehands. Their body language suggests that they've worked on this production before – in another life. They move with the weariness and disengagement of the undead. Rain trickles down the glass. Tears? Before bedtime, certainly.

There's really not much else to say about the staging. Except that it makes the singers look bad even when they're not. Three members of the original cast, from four years back, recreate their roles. The odds against them doing so again must be fairly high. On this showing, I masnadieri was born and may die in London. Franco Farina, in the hefty tenor role of Carlo, should take some credit for his stamina. But try as he may (and he does, he really does), elegance eludes him. The voice suffers drop-out syndrome when he takes the sound away (too much can belto in big houses); intonation is not negotiable, but on occasions he appears to think it is. Paula Delligatti adopts what I would call the "big frock" approach with Amalia. Her singing is all about appearances, all about the notes and not nearly enough about what they tell us. And even the notes are cautious. Except the top "money" notes, unlovely and pushed enough to threaten the glasswork. Some inwardness, some intensity, would have been nice.

The lower voices both scored heavily in that regard. The sonorous Rene Pape made much of too little as the duped father Count Massimiliano, and his duet with Carlo is a glorious premonition of Verdian heartbreak to come. In an evening where even that great Verdi advocate Edward Downes seemed a little below par, this was a moment to seize upon. Others were provided by the one true star of the evening, Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Carlo's brother, the vindictive Francesco – Iago in embryo. What this fine artist always gives us is value to the bitter end of every note. No short-changing. His vocal charisma comes not just from a vibrant and seductive instrument but from a fierce intensity. "I've just had a terrible dream," he sings in his climactic scene. But it is no dream. He really is singing in this terrible production. Now that a new era has dawned at the Royal Opera, quality control should be stepped up to avoid dogs like this slipping through. Better a concert performance of I masnadieri than this.

To 19 October (020-7304 4000)

Arts and Entertainment
Emo rockers Fall Out Boy

music

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment

film

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

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.

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links