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
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
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
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

    Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

    £30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

    Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

    £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn