The Mail on Sunday - Event - - CLASSICAL - Opera Hol­land Park, Lon­don E La Solita Sto­ria (Fed­erico’s Lament), L’Ar­lesiana Adri­ana Le­cou­vreur, L’Ar­lesiana; David Mellor

Mozart was de­voted to his pet star­ling, which he bought after he heard the bird singing his Pi­ano Con­certo No 17 in a Vi­enna shop.

Un­til Fri­day ★★★★★

What a joy to hear this im­pec­ca­bly cast, well sung, con­ducted with real author­ity by Dane Lam and sym­pa­thet­i­cally di­rected by Oliver Platt.

This is a clas­sic verismo opera; real life in the raw. Fed­erico is ob­sessed with a woman from Ar­les (who never appears). He sub­se­quently dis­cov­ers she has suc­cumbed to the rough charms of Meti­fio. Fed­erico’s over­pow­er­ing mother Rosa Ma­mai (a com­pelling Yvonne Howard) tries to prevent her son’s de­scent into madness. But even a pretty, al­beit con­ven­tional fi­ancee, Vivetta, sung with real con­vic­tion by Fflur Wyn, cannot prevent him from shoot­ing him­self.

Sa­muel Sakker is a re­ally ef­fec­tive Fed­erico, mak­ing a fine fist of the opera’s big aria,

which turned the first Fed­erico, a guy called Caruso, into a star.

The drama is un­flinch­ingly pre­sented by Platt. He clev­erly en­sures in the fight be­tween Fed­erico and Meti­fio that Fed­erico’s rage is not only about frus­trated love but also his anger that the girl from Ar­les could pos­si­bly pre­fer Meti­fio to him.

Francesco Cilea’s opera isn’t in the least a slushy piece. As my col­league Ge­orge Hall has writ­ten: ‘Few op­eras of the ro­man­tic pe­riod present such a neg­a­tive im­age of ro­man­tic love.’

was a suc­cess for Cilea, as was five years later. But the crit­ics got to him, and though he lived to be 84, he never wrote another opera after he was 40. On this evidence, a real shame.

Yet another mem­o­rable evening from direc­tor of opera James Clut­ton and gen­eral direc­tor Michael Volpe, who this sum­mer marks 30 years at Hol­land Park. Here’s to many more.

Caro­line Wet­ter­green as the Queen of the Night

Fflur Wyn as Vivetta and Sa­muel Sakker as Fed­erico

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