Keen, Telling Direction from Marchment in Concert Performance of Il tabarro

05/05/2016

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Puccini, Il tabarro: Soloists, Chorus (chorus master: William Cole), Melos Sinfonia, Oliver Zeffman (conductor). LSO St Luke’s, London, 1.5.2016. (MB)Puccini, Il tabarro

Cast:

Michele – Simon Thorpe
Giorgetta – Sarah-Jane Lewis
Luigi – Charne Rochford
La Frugola – Fiona Mackay
Tinca – Robin Jeffcoat
Talpa – Arshak Kuzikyan
Song-seller – Luis Gomes

Ella Marchment (director)

This was a May Day performance of Puccini’s opera to match what one might hear in the most exalted of houses, with all the advantages of observing the action at close hand. In this concert staging. there were no sets, but there was keen, telling direction (Ella Marchment). Imaginative use was made of the space too, the chorus and certain other solos being heard from above and around, reinforcing the sense of being trapped, fatally so, upon a river barge.

The Melos Sinfonia under Oliver Zeffman offered a duly hypnotic, post-Debussyan opening, the Seine immediately announced as a major, arguably the major, character. Zeffman’s care for orchestral balance was a richly rewarded as his dramatic pacing throughout. Try as I might – and of course, I was not really trying – I could not find anything to fault. Dramatic tension and the needs of the moment were as well balanced as the orchestral lines (both with each other and with the voices). Just when one began to think that Puccini might be veering a little too close to Debussy for comfort, orchestral swells proclaimed his identity all the louder. The twists and turns in the score, for instance when Luigi offers his men a drink, were navigated with a sharp ear for rhythm and colour – and splendidly executed by the orchestra. Rhythm, perhaps in this of all Puccini’s score, proved properly generative, progenitor of as well as aqueous participant in the drama.

There was no doubt, moreover, of the existential tragedy when Luigi took to the stage to respond to Tinca; one could have cut the atmosphere with a knife; Paris, another existence, certainly called to the lovers in their duet. A duly symphonic conception that yet did not forget this was an opera underlined, indeed in every sense underscored, the inexorable human tragedy. The icy chill of the strings’ knife-twisting thus took its place not as a mere ‘effect’ but as a necessary outcome of what had gone before. Stravinskian ostinato – surely at least as much to the point as the organ-grinder’s colourful reminiscence of Petrushka – looked forward to Œdipus Rex.

I had no more reservations concerning the singing than I did the rest of the performance. Simon Thorpe’s darkly tortured – and torturing – Michele was at least as powerful a portrayal of the role as I have heard. The same could be said of the rich-toned Giorgetta of Sarah-Jane Lewis, whose plight and character could not have done more to engage our sympathy. Charne Rochford’s powerful yet subtly attentive Italianate reading of Luigi’s part was to be heard at just as impressive a level. Fiona Mackay and Arshak Kuzikyan developed their characters, La Frugola and Tinca, with excellent eyes and ears for detail: there was nothing incidental about their roles. Nor was there in the case of Robin Jeffcoat’s lugubrious yet, in more than one sense, ‘realistic’ Tinca or the finely-observed Song-seller of Luis Gomes. The small chorus, well trained by William Cole, was on equally excellent form, whether corporately or in the case of other solos. At no point did it occur to me to miss this panoply of full staging.

Mark Berry

 

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tamara Rojo’s new Raymonda and ENB in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Transitions Dance Company’s 2020 UK Tour from 21 Feb – 6 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Aldeburgh Festival from 12 – 28 June 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2020 from 29 April to 16 May in Leicester __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and more in Buenos Aires during 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! YAN PASCAL TORTELIER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH UKRAINIAN SOPRANO LIUDMYLA MONASTYRSKA __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH CHINESE SOPRANO HUI HE __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! BEST OF 2019 FROM SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR TOM HAMMOND IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH SOPRANO LISETTE OROPESA __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month