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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

    £26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care Assistant

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This care provider provides hom...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manager - (communications, testing, DM)

    £32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

    £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum