Prokofiev Opera Offers Conservatoire Students a Chance to Shine

30/01/2012

Prokofiev, Betrothal in a Monastery: Soloists and Chorus of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Orchestra of Scottish Opera, Timothy Dean (conductor), Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 28.01.2012 (SRT)

Don Jerome – Rónan Busfield
Mendoza – Andrew Tipple
Louisa – Kim-Lillian Strebel
Clara – Anush Hovhannisyan
Antonio – Emanoel Velozo
Ferdinand – Mikhail Pavlov
The Duenna – Lynda-Jane Nelson
Rodula Gaitanou (director)
Jamie Vartan (designer)
Simon Corder (lighting designer)
Kally Lloyd-Jones (choreographer)

 

It has taken a while, but since the 2006 Glyndebourne production and subsequent recording, Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery has established more of a hold in the English speaking world. It’s one of the composer’s most successful operas, a comedy based on a play by Sheridan, written in firmly diatonic style with plenty of good tunes, so it’s a natural next step in the Royal Scottish Conservatoire’s Prokofiev cycle (following on from The Love for Three Oranges and War and Peace in previous years).

The Conservatoire has developed a good reputation for its annual opera productions, and imaginative programming like this gives its students a chance to shine, as well as something fairly tricky to get their teeth into. With so many character roles Betrothal is a gift for a big cast, and the variety on offer can show off a company at its best. The standout voices for me were Kim-Lillian Strebel’s fulsome Louisa and Rónan Busfield’s vivid Don Jerome. Strebel, who has already appeared at Bayreuth, sang this difficult role with maturity and flexibility, demonstrating remarkable range and clarity, while Busfield’s bright tenor gave Jerome a pingy edge that set him out among the men – comical but always profoundly musical, and very pleasing on the ear; he also had the clearest diction of any singer. Anush Hovhannisyan’s Clara was rather underplayed until her big Act 3 aria at the convent. The other lovers were fine, even if their sung English was rather bizarrely inflected at times. Brazilian Emanoel Velozo had a slightly nasal tone but has all the equipment to be an exciting lyric tenor in the future, while Mikhail Pavlov’s rather fruity bass looked good on stage but could sound hollow in places. Lynda-Jane Nelson’s rich, throaty alto gave the duenna much needed contrast and a slightly raffish edge. Andrew Tipple didn’t quite convince as Mendoza, however; he had a pleasant voice which lacked the gravity needed to convince as an older man. I wished I could hear more of Andrew McTaggart, however, who brought vocal beauty (if a little too much slapstick) to the small role of Don Carlos. The choral singing was very strong throughout, and the cameos from the four solo monks were excellent.

Jamie Vartan’s garish designs located the action firmly in Mediterranean sunlight and provided the right visual atmosphere for the comedy to unfold. I liked the contrast of the bright outdoor scenes with the gaudy interior of Don Jerome’s house, and the transitions were managed well and without taking too much time. Rodula Gaitanou’s vision for the piece worked well and each individual character was delineated successfully, though the crowd scenes lacked conviction and too many characters seemed to end up milling around to little effect. Still, both musically and dramatically it made for a very satisfying evening. The orchestra seemed to revel in Prokofiev’s subversively comic writing, and Andrew McTaggart’s direction brought out the comedy without underplaying the darkness.

Simon Thompson

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! Bregenz Festival 17 July – 18 August 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Sergei Polunin and Friends at London Palladium 28 May – 1 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Elgar Festival in Worcester from 30 May to 2 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2019 from 30 August to 19 September __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 BBC Proms 19 July – 14 September __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2019-2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder Announces 2019 Art-Song Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Adrian Partington Introduces the 2019 Three Choirs Festival in Conversation with John Quinn __________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Longborough Festival Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! YOUNG RUSSIAN PIANIST ALEXANDRA DOVGAN TALKS TO GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! When Music is Indistinguishable from Drama by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month