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