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A riot for the senses as three operatic giants descend on Snape Maltings

PUBLISHED: 11:17 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:17 18 April 2019

Elizabeth I as staged by the English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: ETO

Elizabeth I as staged by the English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: ETO

Archant

Review: English Touring Opera, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, Snape Maltings, April 11-13

Macbeth, as staged by the English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: ETO-Alastair MuirMacbeth, as staged by the English Touring Opera at Snape Maltings Photo: ETO-Alastair Muir

For three successive evenings Snape Maltings was filled with the music of three giants of the operatic repertoire in superbly staged performances by the outstanding English Touring Opera.

Rossini's Elizabeth I was first heard in Naples in 1815 and in London three years later but more recent performances have been rare. The subject is the machinations between the queen, the Earl of Leicester and the scheming and ambitious Duke of Norfolk.

Mary Plazas conveyed the steely authority of the queen with some fine singing and Lucy Hall was in wonderful voice as Mathilde. Luciano Botelho's Leicester was both ardent and subversive; his aria in prison was especially compelling, aided by superb lighting that gave the scene the power of a Rembrandt painting.

The orchestral playing was polished and precise under the experienced baton of conductor John Andrews. Perhaps the piece is a little over-long and short of action but there is still much fine music.

In Macbeth Verdi wastes no time in launching us into the action and director James Dacre took up the challenge with ten witches, very creatively employed.

Grant Doyle performed at the highest level and was both credible and compelling in his character's disintegration and ultimate destruction. Madeleine Pierard was a chilling accomplice, razor sharp in everything and there was not a weak link anywhere.

Conductor Gerry Cornelius drew some mighty sounds that belied the modest orchestral numbers and it was an absolutely gripping evening.

Mozart's Opera Seria, Idomeneo, is set in Crete after the Trojan War, but, with typical acuity and invention, Director James Conway updated the action. As ever, the soloists were beyond reproach and the chorus was outstanding, both in actual sound and in their deployment around the hall.

The emotional tension rose to a powerful climax in the final act, accompanied by excellent orchestral playing under Jonathan Peter Kenney and, in Elettra's final agony, Paula Sides was searing. Here, as elsewhere, the set design was perfectly attuned to the action – simple but crisply effective.

No praise is too high for these artistic achievements, performed all over Britain and on limited resources.

Gareth Jones

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