Opera + Classical Music Reviews

Aleko / Gianni Schicchi review – you wait forever for a Bryn and then two come at once

20 June 2024

An interesting pairing of two contrasting operas.


Aleko (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Rachmaninoff’s Aleko and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi are apt partners not only because they are vehicles for a ‘star’ baritone but also because they share a common theme in that both are about outsiders who defy the ‘natural’ order, even though their ends are very different. Stephen Medcalf’s production unites the pieces in other ways, notably with Jamie Vartan’s set design, which for the former work displays what looks like someone’s bijou Airbnb after a few too many bookings, and for the latter is Buoso Donati’s swish bachelor pad.


Bryn Terfel (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Bryn Terfel’s ability to hold a stage is evident throughout, and despite a bit of mugging here and there his performances were strong, if lacking a little of the volcanic yet controlled rage brought to Aleko by Robert Hayward in the recent Opera North production. His beautifully burnished tone seems undiminished by time. Ailish Tynan pulled off an impressive double role as Aleko’s unfaithful wife and Nella, one of the most vividly avaricious relatives in Gianni Schicchi.

“Bryn Terfel’s ability to hold a stage is evident throughout…”

Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Luis Gomes had ‘the lover’s part’ in both, and he sang ardently if at times a trifle challenged by the higher notes; he was delightfully partnered by Pasquale Orchard’s Lauretta, who sang her showpiece aria with unaffected grace. Robert Winslade Anderson displayed a mellifluous baritone as Zemfira’s father in Aleko and as Betto in Gianni Schicchi. Sara Fulgoni was ideal casting in both works, making the most of the ghastly Aunt Zita in the latter. The grasping relatives were all well cast, especially Matthew Brook’s Simone and Michel de Souza’s Marco.

Gianni Schicchi

Pasquale Orchard, Luis Gomes & Bryn Terfel (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Gianluca Marciano’s experience in this repertoire showed in his passionate conducting of the excellent BBC Concert Orchestra, alert to every twist and turn of Puccini’s score and driving Rachmaninoff’s music forward with assurance.

Pushkin’s depiction of free-living, cosmopolitan peoples, inspired by his devotion to Byron and the latter’s rebellious love of liberty, is perhaps somewhat muted in this production of Aleko, where the ‘commune’ is made up of rather louche individuals, although they are superbly sung by the chorus. The timing and characterizations in Gianni Schicchi tend towards the less manic end of the comedy spectrum, but overall this is an entertaining and very well sung pairing.

• Details of upcoming performances can be found here.

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