Lucio Silla, Buxton Festival, BIF, July 2017Posted on 10 July 2017
In true eighteenth century operatic fashion this presents a conflict between power and love, embodied in Lucio Silla (Lucius Cornelius Sulla) a Roman Consul and dictator during the early first century BC. The plot centres on the faithful love between Giunia and Cecilio, despite Silla’s attempts to win Giunia for himself.
Lucio Cinna (Lucius Cornelius Cinna who eventually succeeded the real Sulla) and Silla’s sister Celia, play important restraining roles, persuading Silla to let destiny take its course. Eventually the lovers unite, fulfilling Giunia’s late father’s wish for their match to succeed, and as Silla blesses their union, he also consents to Cinna marrying Celia, forgives the tribune Aufidio for fake flattery, and sees the victory over ones own heart as being the greatest triumph of all.
Sulla was in fact a highly successful general, defeating Mithridates VI, the title character of Mozart’s earlier Mitridate, recently performed at Covent Garden. Both works — written when Mozart was 14 and 16 — provide plenty of scope for long arias allowing the performers to show off their bel canto technique and express the highly emotional content of the story, which under the excellent baton of historical performance expert Laurence Cummings, they certainly did.
As a beautiful Giunia in her long dress and red hair, Rebecca Bottone was barely off the stage, providing a wonderful focal point for the varying traumas, and singing a superbly emotional Act III aria after her betrothed Cecilio has apparently been executed. Madeleine Pierard as a scruffy Cecilio of marvellous vocal tone made a thoroughly convincing rebel, and Karolina Plicková in the other trouser role of Cinna cut a fine masculine figure of serious mien with firm vocal control. His eventual partner Celia was delightfully sung by Fflur Wyn, with Joshua Ellicott making a rather dashing Silla, whose power turns to abject insecurity before he finally recovers his balance. In the minor role of his friend, the tribune Aufidio, Ben Thapa was a resolute figure of vocal authority, making up a fine cast of principals, complemented by the chorus. They would not have been out of place at the Teatro Regio Ducal in Milan where the original performance took place just two years to the day after Mozart’s success with Mitridate.
This minimalist production by Mozart expert Harry Siverstein, with sparse designs and effective costumes by Linda Buchanan, allowed Mike Gunning’s lighting to help express the abject misery of Giunia’s situation before Silla finds peace in a magnanimity that ends this early Mozart work in joyous reconciliation.
Performances continue on July 13, 16, 20 — for details click here.