Sunday 4 March 2018

Ahi, sul funereo letto

"Non sai tu che se l’anima mia
Il rimorso dilacera e rode,
Quel suo grido non cura, non ode,
Sin che l’empie di fremiti amor?
Non sai tu che di te resteria,
Se cessasse di battere il cor!
Quante notti ho vegliato anelante!
Come a lungo infelice lottai!"

- Gustavo, Un ballo in maschera

And so to the opera. It was a half full auditorium, although personally I had no problems at all with the journey. Those who stayed at home missed an excellent production - for some reason the company's first ever - of 'Un ballo de maschera'. Indeed the chap sitting next to me turned out to have seen it already and been so impressed that he had driven a hundred miles to see it again and was setting off for the return journey when the final curtain call had been taken. I did say that the weather didn't really seem as bad as the media were saying.

The performance was set in a vague mid twentieth century milieu, with some very sharp suits and long overcoats among the singers giving the impression that liquor was being bootlegged somewhere offstage. Were I designing it I might have been tempted to extend that image with Ulrica the soothsayer practising her trade in a speakeasy. Instead she appeared to be dressed as a member of the French resistance, perhaps signifying that if you asked to tell your fortune then you had better listen carefully because she would say it only once. 

Dunque ascoltate:

It was Ulrica's lair that caused a descent into unintentional comedy on the night. While she communed with Lucifer red curtains were drawn up on three sides of the stage to both provide some atmosphere and to give Gustavo a place from which to eavesdrop; sadly a large part of it promptly fell back down again (my new acquaintance confirmed that this hadn't happened when he had seen it previously). Rather than making use of this large gap, members of the cast chose to enter and exit through what was left, having of course to avoid where the King was hiding behind the arras. The resulting chaos brought back happy memories of the Morecambe and Wise show, only with better incidental music.

"I'm singing all the right notes..."

I've written about this opera before. It's one of those sad stories in which the wife goes back to her husband rather than stay with the man she really loves: Casablanca springs to mind, you may be able to think of others.

"Mi schianto il cor – ti lascio"

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