Ireland Wexford Festival Opera 2017  – Cherubini, Medea: Wexford Festival Orchestra and Chorus / Stephen Barlow (conductor), National Opera House, Wexford, 28.10.2017. (JMI)
Medea – Lise Davidsen
Jason – Sergey Romanovskiy
Neris – Raffaella Lupinacci
Glauce – Ruth Iniesta
King Creon – Adam Lau
Captain – Thomas D. Hopkinson
Director – Fiona Shaw
Sets and Costumes – Annmarie Woods
Lighting – DM Wood
My stay in Wexford came to an end with Luigi Cherubini’s Medea, done in the Italian version, which had opened this year’s Wexford Festival Opera. It was a rather confusing production overall, with a musical direction that fell below my expectations and a somewhat uneven singing.
Fiona Shaw’s new staging brings the action up to current times. In works drawn from Greek myths, temporal location is not usually important since myths are timeless. But it doesn’t work that way in the case of Medea: it is much harder today to accept the actions and reactions of the protagonist.
In Act I Glauce and her friends are in a gym celebrating her upcoming wedding to Jason. The next two acts take place in Medea’s house which has a kind of island at the back where her deceased brother, whom she killed, apparently lies. Curiously, she has three children by Jason, not the usual two, although only two die. The stage direction is generally good, especially in the strange first act in the gym.
Stephen Barlow led the orchestra with a sure hand, but his reading lacked intensity and drama and as a result was often flat. Both the orchestra and the chorus were correct.
The character of Medea does not leave the stage after she appears about halfway through Act I. It is a truly demanding part that requires a dramatic soprano with a very wide voice. The presence of Lise Davidsen in the role had raised expectations: in her short artistic career she has attracted quite a bit of attention from opera lovers. In fact, she will debut next month at the Vienna Staatsoper as the lead in Ariadne auf Naxos. She is a powerful soprano with an impressive voice who also knows how to act. Seldom does one have the opportunity to hear a voice with these characteristics. She was a convincing Medea, although I missed more vulnerability in her performance.
Jason was played by tenor Sergey Romanovskiy who did well, although his voice is a bit lighter than what is desirable in this character. Obviously, in the duets with Medea he was obscured by the power of Ms Davidsen.
Mezzo-soprano Raffaella Lupinacci as Neris made a good impression: she sings with gusto and has an attractive voice. Soprano Ruth Iniesta sang the role of Glauce, Jason’s new love, and she was also good, with an appealing voice and plenty of expressiveness. Bass Adam Lau was more modest as King Creon.
José M. Irurzun
For more about Wexford Festival Opera click here.