OPERA / Hogging the ball: Verdi, revived but unwell in Cardiff: Un Ballo in Maschera - WNO, Cardiff
Friday 26 February 1993
What Jarvefelt and his designer Carl Friedrich Oberle get from the Stockholm connection is visual charm and atmosphere: some beautiful painted drops, sparkling costumes with a touch of frontier grotesque, sharp northern light, and with it sharp portraiture. I've less patience with the funny business of Gustavus playing with his doll's house stage right, or with the inevitable producerly sideswipes at monarchy. Malcolm Hunter's revival of the 10-year-old production still has its creaky moments, but also plenty of heart and intelligence. With time, and a spot of oil, it should belie its age.
Vocally, though, the revival needs a doctor more than a mechanic. On Monday, Donald Maxwell could barely penetrate a chest infection to make anything of Ankarstrom's two crucial arias, and the effort (I suppose) drove him into gestural exaggeration. The Oscar, Rebecca Evans, was a less obvious sufferer, though also plainly below her best. She frisked energetically in 'Saper vorreste'; but the full vocal equivalent was not always there.
These two recoveries will be well worth waiting for. The Canadian tenor Richard Margison's Gustav is worth hearing already: a splendidly vital and personable reading, which catches well the sententious frivolity that is the character's doom. There are touches of coarseness in Margison's singing; but they pale beside his consistently alert musicality. And he gets better. 'Ella e pura', delivered from the floor and with a bullet in his chest, is as controlled as 'Dunque, signori', and as touching as his gallows love-song 'Non sai tu' - passion with a boyish twinkle.
Lisa Gasteen's Amelia is less completely convincing. She can be thrilling when challenged. But she sounded ordinary in the middle register of 'Morro] ma prima in grazia', and was more stately than distraught in the gallows scene. Anne Marie Owens, similarly, is a subdued Ulrica, but also an intelligent one; she played nicely the subtle confusion of the handshake scene (struck, of course, by the encounter with a future regicide).
Carlo Rizzi conducts, as ever, with terrific style and unwavering spirit. The orchestra and chorus sparkle. Some of Rizzi's tempi took the singers by surprise. But this, like many of the other minor troubles, will surely vanish with the morning mist.
Further performances tomorrow and 4 March, Cardiff New Theatre (0222 394844). Then tours: details on 0222 464666
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 3 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 How much sex should I be having?
The 1975 leave social-media after cryptic comic strip tweet hinting at possible break up
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Netflix is testing out adverts
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Vote reveals Jules O'Dwyer beat Jamie Raven by just 2% despite using 'stunt dog double'
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: 90 viewers complain to Ofcom about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing' dresses
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history