Out of all the art forms, melodrama probably belongs to opera more than any other, and in this classic tale of love, hate and revenge by Giuseppe Verdi, director Martin Lloyd-Evans certainly has outstanding source material to base this re-working of this classic upon.
This is a world of the middle ages and superstition. When the infant son of the Count di Luna falls ill after a visit from a gypsy woman, a fearful Count and local crowd have the woman burnt alive at the stake for witchcraft. In revenge, her daughter snatches the infant child from the Count intent on killing him. In a moment of madness however, she throws her own child onto the burning fire and brings the stolen child up as her own.
Years later as civil war breaks out, her “son” and the current Count di Luna (brother of the snatched child) become rivals in love and war to an inevitable conclusion.
Principal performers tonight were Roland Wood (Count Di Luna), Gwyn Hughes Jones (Manrico), Claire Rutter (Leonora), Anne Mason (Azucena the gypsy) and Jonathan May (Ferrando – Luna’s Officer).
This was just one of those nights where everything seemed to fall into place on stage. Every one of the principal characters on stage had that ability to “fill a stage” when they were on it and have the vocal talents to captivate an audience for the evening.
Gwyn Hughes Jones is imposing and impressive as Manrico and has that physical presence on stage that you expect an operatic tenor in this role to have. This role for him plays off wonderfully against the baritone voice of Roland Wood as The Count. Together, they look and sound great on stage.
Claire Rutter as Leonora is wonderful though all evening and her amazing soprano voice will I hope be entertaining Scottish Opera audiences for many years to come.
Anne Mason as Azucena the Gypsy (and “mother” of Manrico) probably gets the best of the female roles to play tonight for me. Revenge for her mother and guilt over the child killing have left Azucena slightly unbalanced and Anne Mason portrays that character wonderfully in vocal and stage performance.
Holding many of the inter-connecting pieces of this opera together is Jonathan May as Ferrando, and he does this with great style. It is Ferrando who at the very beginning tells us the tale of the stolen child and the burning at the stake of the gypsy woman and thus sets the tale for the whole opera.
Sometimes, the technical people behind an Opera get left out in reviews and that would not be fair tonight. As well as some great set design and fine period costumes, there is some of the best stage lighting that I have ever seen in any production. Lighting designer Robert B Dickson has produced a very dark and atmospheric stage with many of the scenes playing out against carefully controlled shadows of the set and the performers themselves. This attention to detail helps to set the scene for this performance.
We of course have some musical classics here by Verdi…the amazing “Anvil Chorus”, “Di Quella Pira” and “Miserere”. One of my favourites for the night though was the short but beautiful “Nun's Chorus”.
Conductor for tonight was Tobias Ringborg.
Just a great performance from everyone with Scottish Opera at its best.
Review by Tom King