Comedic Leoncavallo: Another Success at Opera Holland Park

22/07/2017

 Leoncavallo, Zazà: Soloists; Opera Holland Park Chorus; City of London Sinfonia / Peter Robinson. Opera Holland Park, London, 18.7.2017. (CC)

zaza-021

Zazà at Opera Holland Park (c) Robert Workman

Cast:

Zazà – Anne Sophie Duprels
Anaide – Louise Winter
Floriana – Johane Ansell
Natalia – Kellie Edmonds
Milio Dufresne – Joel Montero
Cascart – Richard Burkhard
Bussy – James Cleverton
Duclou – Eddie Wade
Marco – Oliver Brignall
Augusto – Michael Bradley
Courtois – Charne Rochford
Signora Dufresne – Joanna Marie Skillett
Totò Dufresne – Aida Ippolito
Claretta – Alexandra Stenson
Simona – Charlotte Hewett

Production:

Marie Lambert – Director
Alyson Cummins – Set Designer
Camille Assaf – Costume Designer
Mark Jonathan – Lighting Designer
Danilo Rubeca – Choreographer

Not even the suddenly inclement weather could dampen this remarkable production of Lenocavallo’s “commedia lyrica” Zazà, premiered in Milan (Teatro Lirico) in 1900. The evening encompassed everything Opera Holland Park stands for: rare repertoire, intelligently staged and well performed. It was indeed a shame that the God Thor decided to swing his hammer in the final act, the sound of rain almost completely drowning out the singers and orchestra at a crucial time. Atmospheric certainly, especially with lashings of lightning, but then so was the production, playing and singing.

The whole stage of Opera Holland Park was intelligently used in the busy first act. The star of a revue, the titular heroine Zazà (pronounced “Tsa-Tsà”: long second “a”), is about to perform with her ex, Cascart. An alcoholic mother added to the mix indicates that things may very quickly go off the rails, and indeed before long Zazà is involved in a cat-fight with Floriana. Zazà is an old-style prima donna for whom things are about to get a whole lot worse. Following her lover, Milio, to Paris, she finds he is married (Madame Dufresne) and has a child. It is this little girl, Totò (aka Antonietta Dufresne), a spoken role, who moves Zazà and draws her away from thoughts of stealing away the husband. Back at the theatre, Zazà despairs. From the crowded scenes of the opera’s opening, the work has moved now to a crushing climax for just Zazà and Milo. Director Marie Lambert convincingly sets the opera in the 1920s in tandem with set designer Alyson Cummins.

Musically, Zazà is over-long. Not for this opera the terse argument of Pagliacci; and, if one is perfectly honest, not the memorable melodies, either. But in recompense are moments of utter delight (Totò playing the piano), simply gorgeous scoring (particularly in the final act) and even an aria in praise of a desk from Milio (a companion piece honouring the inanimate, perhaps, to Manon’s table or Colline’s coat). Yet there is a compelling dramatic thread that runs through the whole and some of the scoring is masterly (the beautiful textures at the opening of Act III, for example).

As Zazà herself, Anne Sophie Duprels, who has done fine service for OHP previously as Violetta, Magda (Rondine), Lucia, Kat’a and Iris amongst others, is exemplary, owning the stage and finding both power and tenderness in the role. Zazà’s fury is delivered with a cutting, but not painfully piercing, top; against that is the splendid interior sense she conveys when she reassures Totò that no-one will take her father away.

Her lover, Dufresne, is taken by Joel Montero, whose assumption of the part is so strong that it is possible to feel real revulsion as we see his reprehensible behavior. Vocally, though, he is somewhat variable. In fact, the two real star turns apart from Zazà herself are Zazà’s alcoholic mother, Anaide, portrayed with delicious aplomb and absolutely without restraint by Louise Winter, and an astonishingly strong vocal performance of Cascart, Zazà’s ex-lover, by Richard Burkhard, a singer who can coax out the most ravishingly tender phrases (his aria, “Zazà, piccolo zingara”) while exuding real stage presence at all times. Smaller roles were impeccably chosen; the overall impression was of a great ensemble cast as solid backbone to the evening. Aida Ippolito was simply captivating as Totò. Conductor Peter Robinson steered the whole evening with real confidence, the orchestra delivering, as always, fully-fledged belief in the red-blooded verismo repertory.

It’s been a good year at Opera Holland Park, from Rondine through Kabanová to Zazà. 2018 offers us Mascagni’s Isabeau amongst the more familiar territory of TraviataCosì and Ariadne auf Naxos. Somehow, even in this august company, it is Isabeau that stands out as irresistible.

Colin Clarke

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Some Forthcoming London Events from Temple Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House Cinema Festival Begins Monday 3 December in State-of-the-Art Linbury Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet at the London Coliseum 13 December 2018 – 20 January 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Sándor Végh Memorial Concerts 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Perform Amahl and the Night Visitors in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ELIM CHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Iain Farrington’s Mahler Piano Series was an Extraordinary Marathon __________________________________
  • NEW! Vancouver New Music’s Quartetti Festival: Recharging the Contemporary String Quartet __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST ANGELA HEWITT IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Montserrat Caballé (1933 – 2018): A Personal Tribute by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month