Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Francesca da Rimini, Opera Holland Park

Hmm, Zandonai. Imagine the opulence and heft of Strauss strung out with some Korngold-like muscular perkiness and one is in the right ball park. Francesca da Rimini is quite a sing for the small cast of principals, and frankly, all the others besides.

I found it all a bit full-on and over-earnest to be honest. This is despite the best efforts of a wonderful quartet of women , a sort of medieval clique of high school girls getting over-excited... and then over-emotional about the fate of the titular Francesca. Madeleine Shaw, Emma Carrington, Anna Leese and Gail Pearson were well-matched and worked well onstage too.

Still one cannot begrudge the great effort and undeniable passion generated by Cheryl Barker as Francesca and her unfortunate lover Paolo, sung by Julian Gavin. Their brief is to power from one teutonic set-piece to the next without much of a pit stop, and all the while scaling a large pair of dodgem cars, the free-standing set (a design I rather admired, actually). Jeffries Black and Lloyd Roberts brought a grainy, charcoal bass-baritone to the sound and indeed stage; the chorus were substantial, if not always making a breath-catching impact, but their management of the originally-crafted battle sequence was fluent and impressive in its way. Philip Thomas and his band did a solid job but one which epitomised the evening: blustery.