We’ve seen this before – Jephtha again, complete with intrusive supernumeraries, cameras snapping (yawn) and of course plenty to confirm the notion that we’re all too dim to just focus on arias, so we need our eyes occupied with diversions.
I’m about to sing one of Mozart’s most sublime arias ‘Non temer’ / ‘Se il Padre perdei’ / ‘Zefiretti lusinghieri’ just take your pick and do I hear a basset horn? Perfect. Now all that’s missing is a banging door and two dancing couples to twirl about whilst I and here they are! That’s a relief I thought for a moment the audience might have to concentrate on the music.
As for me, I’m an alcoholic fresh from a bit of retail therapy, and you can be sure that I can’t possibly convey all my pent-up passion in ‘Idol mio’ so hey-ho, I’ve got an obsequious lackey to ahem stimulate me so that my coloratura won’t be too dull for the poor things aah, very satisfying. Perish the thought that florid music should stem from any source other than a sexual one.
I’m sure Sarah Tynan, Robert Murray and Emma Bell could not be so disloyal as to think the above. Ms Tynan’s Ilia is beautifully frocked but sings nervously, as well she might, and Robert Murray’s lovely, genuinely Mozartean voice is lost in a wimpish Idamante who never makes you feel that he could slay a sea monster (but of what do I speak? Of course, there wasn’t one). Adam Green provides the most convincing Arbace I’ve come across what a pity that he was denied the full glory of his aria.
Emma Bell’s Electra survives all the nonsense she is asked to do, including having to embrace the notion of hers as a comic character, singing with fiery confidence and elegant phrasing: particular kudos for turning in a beautiful ‘Idol mio’ whilst glugging champers / enjoying a massage and so on.
Paul Nilon is not up to the technical demands of ‘Fuor del Mar’ but he’s wonderfully vulnerable and phrases the music with as much love as anyone can muster. Fortunately, the sublime quartet found him at his best, and it was not coincidental that this was the one piece untrammelled by extraneous guff.
Ed Gardner draws wonderful playing from the orchestra, and you could often console yourself with the spacious serenity of what was coming from the pit. Onstage, we had a Holiday Inn foyer, followed by a cruise waiting area, sparse furnishings in vast spaces, lots of to-ing and fro-ing to no purpose, and a concomitant absence of the required emotional intensity. The tsunami was fun, the ‘photographers’ ready to snap the sacrifice, ludicrous.
I love modern productions provided they make sense and respect the music, but this one does neither. Should you go? Yes, because you’ll hear some of Mozart’s greatest music played by an orchestra at the top of its game, an Electra of real class, and elsewhere some fine singing which I’m certain will grow in confidence as the run progresses. Given the various deals on offer, such as tickets for 10 via the ‘Evening Standard,’ it’s really something not to miss in spite of the production.