Il Trittico, Opera Holland Park, OHP, June 2015

A terrific evening and superb start to Opera Holland Park’s 2015 season. Neil Irish’s designs were excellent, particularly for Il Tabarro in Martin Lloyd-Evans production where weary stevedores and noises of the quayside set the evening in motion.

Il Tabarro, all images OHP/ Robert Workman

Il Tabarro, all images OHP/ Robert Workman

As captain of the barge, Stephen Gadd’s calm tension and eventual exasperation, as he pleads with his wife Giorgetta, came over with great power aided by wonderful orchestral colours under the baton of Stuart Stratford, and Anne Sophie Duprels gave a beautifully nuanced portrayal of Giorgetta. Fine contributions from the rest of the cast with Jeff Gwaltney a convincing figure as her lover Luigi, showing sincere anger in his rebellious aria Hai ben ragioni. Sarah Pring made a wonderful Frugola, and Aled Hall gave marvellous light relief as the alcoholic Tinca, tumbling over as he dances with Giorgetta. A super performance, only spoiled by Luigi’s appearance simultaneously with the lighting of the match that calls him to his rendezvous with Giorgetta.

The Convent

The Convent

Had the evening ended with Tabarro it would have been dramatically very satisfying, but with the addition of Suor Angelica it was a knockout. Anne Sophie Duprels reappeared from her role as Giorgetta to give a truly gripping account of the title role. The single candle and cross on a table, partly surrounded by a screen, during her meeting with Rosalind Plowright’s superb Principessa was hugely effective, and their body language was enough to make one weep. But it was just one part of this excellent production by Oliver Platt that emphasised the coldness and brutality of the convent’s regime by a nasty slap round the face for one of the younger nuns.

Principessa and Angelica

Principessa and Angelica

The production’s fine cutting edge and Stratford’s excellent conducting, particularly when Angelica is alone on stage, had an emotional tug stronger than almost any I’ve seen, including the excellent one at Covent Garden nearly four years ago. Depending on performance, this opera can betray an insipid aspect, but the gripping immediacy of this staging was anything but, and the unusual ending left the audience feeling utterly wrung out.

The will is found in Gianni Schicchi

Gianni Schicchi, the will is found but not yet read

After this emotional harrowing the welcome wit of Gianni Schicchi provided a perfect antidote, starting in silence save for the moans of the dying Buoso. After he sat up and fell back in bed the music came in with a bang, and charming choreography and fine performances from the whole cast made it a joy to watch. Excellent singing from Richard Burkhard as a wily Schicchi, with reappearances from Tabarro by Sarah Pring as a determinedly bossy Zita, and tenor James Edwards as the young Rinuccio. His beloved Lauretta was beautifully sung by Anna Patalong, who launched into that glorious aria O mio babbino caro very naturally as she reached out to stop her father leaving (Ms Patalong will be heard later this month in the role of Suor Angelica).

O mio babbino caro

O mio babbino caro, Lauretta and Schicchi

A fine ending to a terrific evening of opera, and it is only extraordinary that there seemed to be empty seats. As value for money this is very hard to beat.

Performances, all starting at 7 pm, continue on various dates until June 27 — for details click here.

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