Opera Review: Singalonganopera

Donizetti's `Elisabetta'

RFH, SBC, London

The story behind the excavation of Donizetti's "lost" opera is almost as mysterious and convoluted as that of the Royal Opera House redevelopment. Singed manuscripts labelled "never finished or performed", almost certainly salvaged from a fire at Her Majesty's, were found bound and discarded in the basements of Covent Garden. The American scholar Will Hutchfield unearthed Acts 1 and 3 in 1984; four years later, Richard Bonynge came across Act 2 while looking for ballet music. Thus began the reconstruction and belated rehabilitation of Elisabetta di Siberia - the tale of a young Russian girl who walks from Siberia to Moscow, braving floods and Tartar hordes, to clear the name of her unjustly exiled father. Donizetti described it as a "tragi-comedy", mindful, it would seem, of the second act, where our heroine miraculously escapes drowning by floating atop the tomb of Ivano's dead daughter Lisinska. Now, wouldn't we like to see that in a new Richard Jones production?

Or perhaps Elisabetta was destined to be heard and not seen - as here, at its world premiere, in timely recognition of the composer's bicentenary. Aficionados were out in force, naturally. I heard tell of one little old lady who gratefully sang along with every number. Spooky? No, she'd heard it all before. We all had. Never mind the plot, feel the coloratura. Siberia or Sorrento? No matter, cue that feisty overture and let the festivities begin. Donizetti always left us something to celebrate, and here was no exception.

Minutes into this unlikeliest of scenarios, Elisabetta's father Potoski has a noble aria played out against the individual coloration of four horns and cello and bass pizzicati. And, with barely time to warm his voice, the immensly promising and handsome young Peruvian tenor, Juan Diego Florez, was tweaking at the ledger-lines in anticipation of a second aria, where wickedly placed high Cs suggested an early dress rehearsal for La Fille du Regiment. A small but elegant and mellifluous voice, it will sit most comfortably among the rich pickings of the bel canto repertoire, where one hopes it will grow and prosper. Mind you, Florez not only sounded but looked more like Elisabetta's lover than her father. Andrea Rost was well-matched but somewhat over-parted in that respect, lovely enough in her cello-led Benedizione near the end of Act 1, better yet in Act 2, where the key duet with Ivano (perhaps the highlight of the night) raised her singing to an altogether higher level of engagement. Alastair Miles was Ivano: suffice it to say that his performance was possessed of an input and will-power and interest that hers conspicuously lacked. She has the notes, she has the technique, but what does she tell us?

The character of Michele (the stylish Alessandro Corbelli) would put it all down to experience. Like a refugee from Don Pasquale, his brief lay in providing the patter of light relief (a courier's life is not a happy one). And so successful was he that you barely noticed that the Act 1 finale seemed to have suffered an unscheduled amputation. Carlo Rizzi conducted this and everything else like he knew what Donizetti had in mind, if not in manuscript. And doubtless the little old lady carried on humming the missing music to herself.

Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 7pm on Monday

News
peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Sport
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
sport
News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Geography Teacher

    £130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

    Do you want to work in Education?

    £55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

    Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players