|Zanetto and Gianni Schicchi, Opera Holland Park, review|
|Written by news desk - telegraph.co.uk|
There was comatose conducting, a slack production with no farcical momentum in Gianni Schicchi at Opera Holland Park, writes Rupert Christiansen.
As an appetiser to the main course of Gianni Schicchi, Opera Holland Park has rootled around in the archives of the fin-de-siècle era and come up with Mascagni’s Zanetto, a one-act piece first performed in 1896, and set like Schicchi in Tuscany. Alas, it proves worthless.
Nothing amounts to a substantial plot: over 40 long minutes, the remorseful courtesan Silvia is charmed by Zanetto, a young intruder into her boudoir, but feels that romance would be too dangerous. The score exudes insipid musical schlock without any of the guts and brawn that make Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana so compelling.
The two singers involved both seemed disengaged: Janice Watson sounded jaded as Silvia and Patricia Orr was slack of pitch in the Cherubino title role. The director, Martin Lloyd-Evans, has turned the courtesan into a Sarah Bernhardt diva figure, but this isn’t enough to enliven the non-drama. Leaden conducting by Manlio Benzi did nothing to raise the emotional barometer.
Things could only perk up after the interval with Puccini’s masterly comedy – but not by much, it transpired. This was due to more comatose conducting by Benzi and a slack production by Lloyd-Evans, which got off to a lame start with a redundant mimed prelude and never gathered any farcical momentum.
Despite the plodding pace set for her, Anna Patalong sang O mio babbino caro prettily. I was less impressed by her ham-fisted Rinuccio, the Korean tenor Jung Soo Yun, and the remainder of the scheming family struggled too hard and knowingly to be funny.
Things only came alive when Alan Opie’s Schicchi appeared. Singing with a sullen rasp and reversing the staple portrayal of a lovable rogue, Opie presents a truly nasty piece of work. It’s a striking performance, but not enough to redeem this Opera Holland Park dud.
A hundred tickets had been given away free for the show, and the reception at the curtain calls was little short of ecstatic. I wouldn’t want to use that dirty word “claque”, but I hope that this baffling enthusiasm was sincerely spontaneous and not engineered.