The Wild West comes to Wexford

30/10/2018

Wexford Festival Opera [4] – Puccini, La fanciulla del West:  Cast of Wexford Festival Opera / Giorgio D’Alonzo (music director). Clayton Whites Hotel, Wexford, 23.10.2018. (RB)

Elisabetta Farris (Minnie) & Craig Irvin (Rance) (c) Malone Carty

Cast:

Minnie – Elisabetta Farris
Jack Rance – Craig Irvin
Dick Johnson – Richard Shaffrey
Nick – José de Eça
Ashby – Jack Sandison
Sonora – Jolyon Loy
Trin – Chase Hopkins
Harry – Andrew Masterson
Joe – Dominick Felix
Jim Larkens – René Bloice-Sanders
Wowkie – Cecilia Gaetani
Jake Wallace/Happy – Ben Watkins
José Castro – Elias Benito-Arranz
The Pony Express Rider – David Lynn

Production:

Stage director – Brenda Harris
Stage and Costume designer – Angela Giulia Toso
Lighting designer – Johann Fitzpatrick

This was the last of the three short works to be staged by Wexford Festival Opera. Puccini rated La fanciulla del West as his greatest work. He was clearly under the spell of the French impressionists and Wagner when writing the music, although he assimilated these influences into his own unique style.  It has never been as popular as the great middle period operas or Turandot, perhaps because it does not contain the same show-stopping highlights of these works. The production followed the libretto in setting the action in the middle of the nineteenth century during the Californian Gold Rush. Inevitably, decisions needed to be made about what material to cut in this condensed version of the opera. The plot was clear and easy to follow and the music was seamless, so the right decisions were clearly made. Angela Toso did an excellent job creating the Polka Saloon in Act I while the period costumes were spot on. In Act II Johnson had to hide in a trunk rather than in the loft, a decision no doubt arrived at because of the space limitations on the stage. This idea did not entirely work and the portrayal of the scene was not dramatically convincing. The performers used the hall itself to depict the great outdoors and at various points the performers walked through the audience on to the stage.

The three principal cast members did a reasonably good job with their respective roles. Italian soprano, Elisabetta Farris, portrayed gun-toting Minnie as both resourceful and maternal and her exchanges with the miners were skilfully handled. I was less convinced by the romantic relationship in Act II as there seemed to be very little chemistry between Farris and Richard Shaffrey’s Dick Johnson. Farris handled the daunting demands of Puccini’s score well and a lot of the singing was very fine. However, there was a slight quiver in her voice which occasionally detracted from the performance and some of the top notes in Act I sounded a little harsh. Irish tenor, Richard Shaffrey, gave a relatively subdued portrayal of Dick Johnson which grew on me as the opera progressed although I would have liked to see a little more tough man machismo. Shaffrey’s vocal entries were smooth and luminous and he clearly has a very beautiful voice, but he lacked focus in some of the quieter entries and power in the set pieces numbers.

Craig Irvin captured the obsessional and dangerous Jack Rance to perfection. He epitomised the Jack Palance-type cowboy villain and his brooding presence radiated danger and dominated the stage. His singing was robust and perfectly executed and he moved seamlessly from quiet menace to snarling commands and romantic pleading. The rest of the cast did an excellent job with their respective roles and I was particularly impressed with José de Eça’s Nick. Music director, Giorgio D’Alonzo, accompanied the singers beautifully throughout.

Overall, this was an enjoyable production containing some very good singing and playing and it provided a welcome opportunity to see Puccini’s neglected masterpiece.

Robert Beattie

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • 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! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 29 April – 11 May 2019 in Leicester __________________________________
  • 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 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Proms in June and August __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon on 30 June __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR PIETARI INKINEN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! When Music is Indistinguishable from Drama by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR MAXIM EMELYANYCHEV IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • 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 __________________________________
  • NEW! 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 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month