San Sebastian’s Quincena Musical Opens with Fidelio and Stuart Skelton’s Superb Florestan



Beethoven, Fidelio (concert performance): Orfeón Donostiarra, BBC Philharmonic / Juanjo Mena (conductor), Kursaal, San Sebastian, 4.8.2017. (JMI)


Leonore – Ricarda Merbeth
Florestan – Stuart Skelton
Pizarro – Detlef Roth
Rocco – James Creswell
Marzelline – Louise Alder
Jaquino – Benjamin Hulett
Don Fernando – David Soar
Prisoners – Jesús García Aréjula and Eneko San Sebastián

The program for this year’s San Sebastian Quincena Musical includes two operas as well as Verdi’s Requiem. It opened with Fidelio, Beethoven’s only opera, and the result was generally positive.

Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, led his orchestra in collaboration with Orfeón Donostiarra. A few days earlier, the same interpreters had performed Fidelio at the London BBC Proms (click here for review). I found his conducting uneven: the first part of the opera lacked energy and emotion, but the second half was much stronger. The BBC Philharmonic performed well; as for Orfeón Donostiarra, they were not at their best for the Prisoners Chorus but improved as the opera went on. The cast was the same as in London, and the singers performed without a score.

Leonore was interpreted by soprano Ricarda Merbeth, who is one of the most solid sopranos currently in the German repertoire. She is not an exceptional soprano, but her performances are always convincing. She was more comfortable in the high part of Leonore’s tessitura, but fell short on the lower notes.

The best performance of the evening came from Stuart Skelton in the part of Florestan, which is one of the most difficult scores ever written for tenor. Mr. Skelton was outstanding at the start Act II with a ‘Gott’ sung pianissimo that opened in a spectacular way in an endless note. He managed to solve the character’s very difficult tessitura.

As Pizarro, baritone Detlef Roth gave a lively performance, but his voice is not really suited to the part. This evil character requires a voice that is darker than Mr. Roth’s. Rocco was competently sung by James Creswell, who replaced Brindley Sherratt.

Marzelline was the young British soprano Louise Alder, and I was a little disappointed – I was expecting more from her. She is a good singer, but her voice isn’t particularly strong, and she had problems reaching the audience.

Benjamin Hulett was a correct Jaquino, but David Soar as Don Fernando fell somewhat short on both nobility and volume.

José M. Irurzun

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! The Piccadilly Chamber Music Series in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and More in Buenos Aires in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Spend a Penny for Grange Park Opera’s Lavatorium Rotundum __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! I Musicanti’s Alexandra and the Russians at St Johns Smith Square in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • UPDATED! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House Announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • UPDATED! SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS CHOOSE THEIR ‘BEST OF 2017’ __________________________________
  • NEW! Dénes Várjon Talks to Sebastian Smallshaw About Budapest’s __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM – DMITRI HVOROSTOVSKY (1962-2017) __________________________________
  • NEW! Ann Murray’s Masterclass at the V&A Part of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Russian Ballet Icons Gala at the London Coliseum on 25 February __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H