Classical Opera reviews

Idomeneo

Grand Opera House, Belfast

Opera Northern Ireland's new-season production of was rich in promise of things new. Not only was this the first time the opera had been staged in Ireland, it was the occasion of a radical departure from tradition in the use of a non in-house chorus, in this case, the slender, but well focused choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Any production of has to be a special event; of all the great Mozart operas, this is the one that has waited longest to enter the repertoire and still, to an extent, needs the most special pleading. In the wrong hands it can seem weak on motivation, artificial in the development of the plot and wooden in delivery.

The overture was promising and, throughout, the orchestra played with a real feeling for style. When things worked, as in most of Ilia's arias, sung with genuine commitment by Louise Walsh, there was a real sense of contact between pit and stage that allowed the true drama of this remarkable opera to emerge. Most of the rest of the time, the production seemed so devoid of imagination, the interaction between characters so formulaic, that most sceptics would have had their worst fears about the piece confirmed. In his note about the work, the director, Harry Silverstein, spoke about "a maelstrom of relationships"; true enough, but the result on stage had little sense of passion or involvement. Nearly every confrontation passed as if nothing at all had happened, and the audience was left to pick its way unaided through a series of attractive but wholly uninvolving tableaux. Scenes of passion, doubt and torment went by without remark, sacrificed to a "noli me tangere" approach in which the performers seemed locked in plaster; gesture appeared to have almost no role outside the muted and stylised gyrations of the chorus and dancers. Far from contributing to the drama, the chorus, bereft of any real sense of urgency where it mattered, seemed little more than an ornament to hang on the substantial and often poorly lit set. Something must be wrong when the attention constantly drifted towards the magnificently expressive activities of the signer, Wendy Ebsworth - easily the most compelling presence on the stage.

The production's lack of engagement with the drama unfortunately fed into many of the musical aspects of the performance. Apart from Louise Walsh's outstanding Ilia, much of the rest of the cast was underpowered. Despite some fine, ringing tone, Emma Selway's Idamante was robbed of reality by the sheer gawkiness imposed on her stage presence. Even Virginia Kerr's Elettra, a gift of a role for which she was well equipped, seemed barely to raise any electricity. The Caius College choir when singing together produced splendidly clear lines; when separated out into individual strands the choristers sounded a touch undernourished. All in all, this was a disappointing occasion and a pity that so much evident talent and effort had been poured into a production that barely scratched the surface of one of the 18th-century's most profound studies of love and power.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future