Opera: Il Corsaro Royal Opera House, London

Lord Byron wrote the poem but I doubt he'd have recognised the opera. We're talking here of Verdi's "galley years", where plot and music were more or less interchangeable, where what was good for the Israelites would do just as nicely for the Greeks or the Peruvians, where exotic was exotic whatever the location, on high seas or low lands, and the Italian "banda" tradition brashly held court in one trumpet-led unison after another. Il Corsaro is a pretty rum affair, full of eminently recyclable tunes (the furtive, lovelorn clarinet quick to make its appearance) and tremulous declamation. An overworked piccolo exults in its salty spray.

Half a handful of character-forming arias are probably worth preserving from its compact hour and 20 minutes of music, not least the tenor's Act 3 lament with its lachrymose viola and cello obbligato. The final trio portends Rigoletto. But the opera needs to be fabulously sung if it's to be worth exhuming for even a concert performance. And this miserable excuse for an evening couldn't even manage decent. When a sick tenor (for whom apologies are made) sounds appreciably better than those in good health around him, then you're in trouble, big trouble.

Jose Cura was that tenor, captain of the corsairs, heroically buckling his swash while discreetly expectorating into a ready handkerchief. He has quite a following among the Covent Garden cognoscenti - a tall, swarthy figure with a voice to match. The colour of that voice - grainy, dark- hued - is arresting. But it's one colour, one dimension, without the interest of an instinctive, inquiring musicality. And without the natural resonance to sustain long, grateful phrasings, were they ever to be forthcoming. He should work on his legato and leave the trumpettings to look after themselves.

But thank heavens for him. He alone sounded like he had any business on this stage - with or without the scenery. Roberto Servile (as Seid, his antagonist) might regularly pass muster in smaller houses further down the international league table, but his dry, anonymous voice was conspicuously below par in this context. So, too, the young Russian Viktoria Loukianets as Corrado's beloved, Medora. Now here at least was a singer displaying the kind of musicality so sorely lacking among the rest of the cast. A little precious, a little fanciful, perhaps, but sensitive, subtly inflected phrasings that actually meant something. What a pity, then, that the voice itself should be so anaemic - pale and uninteresting. All the colour, all the quality goes out of it in the lower dynamics. It all but disappears at anything less than mezzo-forte. A good vocal coach might yet find some body in it.

Maria Dragoni (Gulnara) has plenty of that - and one can just imagine how exciting a prospect she must have sounded before the ravages of a plainly mismanaged career took their toll. The husky, Callas-like timbre is all that remains now. Vocal endearments are no longer an option. She gets by on vulgar glottal stops, an overworked chest register, and pneumatic top notes. It's a voice in distress.

Which just about sums up the evening. Evelino Pid eagerly presided over a tired and overworked orchestra and chorus, springboarding into every jaunty, singalong accompagnamento in a fruitless attempt to kick-start the proceedings. One was grateful to have been spared a staging, but some of us would have welcomed the distraction.

n Repeated 7.30pm tomorrow (booking: 0171-304 4000), and live on Radio 3

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high