Claudia Boyle stars as Wexford Festival Opera 2020 concludes

IrelandIreland Balfe, Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, Gounod, Verdi: Claudia Boyle (soprano), Pietro Adaíni  (tenor), Wexford Festival Orchestra / Francesco Cilluffo (conductor). From the National Opera House, Wexford, and broadcast in association with RTÉ Culture and RTÉ Player, 16.10.2020. (RB)

Claudia Boyle (c) Frances Marshall

Balfe – Falstaff, Overture
Donizetti – ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (L’elisir d’amore), ‘O luce di quest’anima’ (Linda di Chamounix)
Bellini – I Capuleti e Montecchi, Sinfonia
Donizetti – ‘Regnava nel silencio’ (Lucia di Lamermoor)
Rossini – Si ritrovarla, io giuro’ (La Cenerentola)
Donizetti – Don Pasquale:, Sinfonia
Gounod – ‘Je veux vivre’ (Roméo et Juliette)
Donizetti – ‘Ah, mes amis’ (La fille du régiment )
Verdi – ‘È il sol, dell’anima’ (Rigoletto)

The final concert from this year’s Wexford Festival Opera featured Irish soprano Claudia Boyle and the young Sicilian tenor Pietro Adaíni performing a series of popular numbers from nineteenth-century Italian opera. The Italian conductor, Francesco Cilluffo, oversaw the event and did an excellent job keeping soloists and orchestra on track while overcoming the social distancing restrictions.

The evening opened with the Overture to Falstaff by the nineteenth-century Irish composer, William Balfe. I must confess that I was unfamiliar with this work prior to this concert. The Wexford Festival Orchestra gave a spirited performance and certainly made a case for the work being better known. This was followed by Nemorino’s ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ from L’elisir d’amore. The orchestra’s bassoon, harp and strings conjured up mood and atmosphere. Pietro Adaíni sustained Donizetti’s long vocal lines very well. However, the tone sounded a little forced and I would have welcomed more warmth and sensuality in the opening section of the aria. This section of the concert concluded with Claudia Boyle’s rendition of ‘O luce di quest’anima’ from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix. Boyle gave a superb performance:  the introduction was rock solid and the whimsical, coquettish aria was delivered with virtuoso flair.

The next section opened with Bellini’s Sinfonia from I Capuleti e Montecchi. Cilluffo led the orchestra in a highly energetic performance which captured the brilliance of the orchestral writing. The woodwind appeared to relish Bellini’s jaunty melodies and dotted rhythms. Claudia Boyle then returned to the stage to perform one of the great staples of the repertoire: ‘Regnava nel silencio’ from Lucia di Lammermoor. There was some beautiful legato singing at the beginning of the aria which captured the sadness of the character and the sense of foreboding. Cilluffo and his orchestral partners ratcheted up the tension and Boyle rose magnificently to the occasion. She gave a highly charged and dramatic performance of the aria while remaining on top of the flexible vocal line and Donizetti’s tricky coloratura. This section concluded with Adaíni’s performance of the Prince’s quest aria from La Cenerentola.  Adaíni was on top of the intricate vocal line and he hit the high notes cleanly.

The final section opened with the Sinfonia from Don Pasquale. The principal cello performed the opening melody beautifully, Cilluffo kept a tight grip on tempo, and the orchestral entries were tightly coordinated. Claudia Boyle followed this up with Juliette’s great waltz song, ‘Je veux vivre’.  I loved her handling of the lilting waltz rhythms and the luscious Romantic tone she brought to the aria. The florid vocal line was dispatched with virtuoso aplomb. The final aria was Tonio’s ‘Ah, mes amis’ from La fille du régiment. Adaíni hit Donizetti’s succession of top C’s with ease and he brought great verve to the aria. The concert concluded with the great Act I love duet between Gilda and the Duke from Rigoletto. Both performers gave an accomplished performance which was well supported by Cilluffo and the Wexford Festival Orchestra.

Claudia Boyle and Pietro Adaíni and members of Wexford Festival Orchestra

This was a very strong end to the Wexford Festival Opera 2020 curated in extremis. Claudia Boyle was superb throughout and her star is clearly in the ascendant.

Robert Beattie 

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