Ireland Wexford Festival Opera  – Alfano, Risurrezione: Wexford Festival Orchestra and Chorus / Francesco Cilluffo (conductor), National Opera House, Wexford, 27.10.2017. (JMI)
Katiusha – Anne Sophie Duprels
Dimitri – Gerard Schneider
Simonson – Charles Rice
Matrena – Romina Tomasoni
Kritzloff – Henry Grant Kerswell
Director – Rosetta Cucchi
Sets – Tiziano Santi
Costumes – Claudia Pernigotti
Lighting – D. M. Wood
Franco Alfano (1875-1954) is better known for having completed Puccini’s Turandot than for his own compositions. Among them, however, are operas that are still in the repertoire, as is the case of Cyrano de Bergerac. Risurrezione premiered successfully in Turin in 1904, and has been performed in other major theatres in Italy and across Europe.
Continuing with its policy of staging often-overlooked works, the Wexford Festival Opera has turned its eyes on Risurrezione, and the revival has been a total triumph: a brilliant production, excellent musical direction and admirable vocal distribution. The opera, which is based upon Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection, is an interesting one and richly orchestrated. It may seem short on inspiration in the first half, but everything changes for the better in the second part, which features a beautiful duet between the two protagonists and a remarkable final act.
This new Wexford production is by Rosetta Cucchi, who directed Mariotte’s Salomé here three years ago. The sets, which are fairly traditional, help clarify the plot: a bedroom in Act I, a train station in the second, a women’s prison in the third and a field of grain in Act IV. Rosetta Cucchi does a good job with both soloists and the numerous extras, defining the characters and giving meaning to the somewhat confusing plot; the final scene is particularly moving. An excellent production!
At the head of the musical direction was Francesco Cilluffo, whom I had the occasion to see conducting Mascagni’s Guglielmo Ratcliff in Wexford two years ago. I was impressed with his work then, and he has now fully confirmed it. Conducting with a firm hand, he gave an intense, dramatic reading. The orchestra and chorus were superb.
The protagonist of the opera, Katiusha, was played by soprano Anne Sophie Duprels, a true singing-actress. Her voice is especially attractive in the middle, and she is an excellent interpreter. Katiusha is a complicated character, and Ms. Duprels was fully convincing as she passed from the young girl in love in Act I to the desperate pregnant woman in the second, the prostitute of the third, and the mature woman of the last act.
Tenor Gerard Schneider gave life to Prince Dimitri and was well suited and convincing. He’s a very expressive singer, and was especially exciting in the final two acts, particularly in the scene with Katiusha in Act III.
The other characters have less important roles. Among them, baritone Charles Rice as Simonson, the pretender of Katiusha in Act IV, stands out. Romina Tomasoni as Matrena and Henry Grant Kerswell in the part of Kritzloff deserve mention. All the other parts were sung by members of the chorus.
José M. Irurzun