La Vestale - Various - So Warm
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The course of operatic true love never did run smooth. When the Roman general Lucinius returns in triumph from the Gallic Wars only to discover that his beloved Julia has been forced into taking the veil as a Vestal Virgin, the future looks distinctly rocky — and that's rocky as in Aida. Gaspare Spontini's La vestale was a huge hit when it was composed La Vestale - Various - So Warm Paris inat the height of Napoleonic power, but it has become a rarity now.
It has weaknesses, but in last night's performance by La Monnaiethose don't prevent a thoroughly engaging evening. La Monnaie's main house is undergoing extensive renovation works, so their season is being spread around various venues in Brussels. La vestale is in the Cirque Royal which, as the name suggests, is basically round. The first surprise, as you enter, is that the orchestra is in a semi-circular space nearly on the level of the stage, with conductor Alessandro de Marchi at the stage end, facing the audience as he conducts the overture.
Magnificat.Et Exultavit - Vivaldi*, Stephen Cleobury, George Guest, The Kings College Choir Of Ca close to the timpanist in row D, I felt very much part of the orchestra. The overture is very exciting in a Beethoven-like way, and de Marchi conducts with verve.
Singers file in and out of the semi-circular space between orchestra and audience, until we see the figures of Lucinius Yann Beuron and his faithful retainer Cinna Julien Dranwho fill us in on the back story.
The opera is a star vehicle for Julia: a big dramatic role where the singer must carry the audience through every phase of inner conflict as Julia fails to reconcile the irreconcilable: her vows however unwillingly swornher love for Lucinius, the mortal danger they face if that love is to be requited.
Alexandra Deshorties puts in a bravura performance, clear-voiced, sweet-toned or screaming according to the mood of the moment, negotiating Spontini's tricky intervals with ease, and utterly inhabiting her character.
Her antagonists have easier roles to sing, but if anything, they're even stronger vocally. As La Grande Vestale, Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo makes you sit up and listen from her first note, exuding authority in a powerful mezzo with a creamy tone in her middle and low range.
Jean Teigen, the High Priest of Jupiter, is stentorian. Both pronounce their La Vestale - Various - So Warm with the clarity of poetry that characterises all the singers. The music thrills most in the big choral numbers: the end of Act II, when Julia is condemned in front of the baying crowd, is electric, as is the moment when she is punished by being buried alive.
The orchestral score is superb, and De Marchi winds orchestra and chorus to fever pitch for these big climaxes. Marguerite Borda's costumes are plain, effective and timeless: this is an opera that could be set in any age.
Lighting is subdued. The acting and stagecraft isn't perfect — some of the movement isn't sharp enough, and there's a truly cringeworthy moment when the flame which is supposed to be ignited by a lightning La Vestale - Various - So Warm from the gods is lit by a chorus member running on with a cigarette lighter — but broadly, speaking, the acting supports the drama well.
So why has La vestale been relegated to a mere curiosity? Compare it to Normaanother opera where a Roman general gets a priestess into trouble and another Callas star vehicle in the s: La vestale has a story that's every bit as powerful, is more classically dramatic, relies less on implausible plot coincidences, and has a poetic libretto that's just as elegant and far richer orchestration.
The main difference is in the quality of the vocal writing: what La vestale lacks is a knock-your-socks-off aria of the quality of Casta Diva. And the other big defect is the deus-ex-machina ending: at the highest moment of tension, the gods intervene with a lightning strike to ensure that our lovers are forgiven, whereupon a tackily cheerful divertissement La Vestale - Various - So Warm . To our modern ears, the intensity of the preceding tragedy is utterly subverted.
Reviewed at Cirque Royal, Brussels on 17 October SpontiniLa vestale. Canta Se Vuoi Cantà - Sergio Mauri - Stornellata Romana Munt La Monnaie.
Alessandro De MarchiConductor. La Vestale - Various - So Warm BordatCostume Designer. Emmanuel ClolusSet Designer. Yann BeuronLicinius. Julien DranCinna. Jean TeitgenChief Priest. Alexandra DeshortiesJulia. Dmitri Tcherniakov's staging turns Rimsky-Korsakov's opera into storytelling for an autistic boy, but does he deliver a fairy tale ending? Strauss' 'conversation piece' of an opera is given a warmly sympathetic production with the musical rewards coming as much from the pit as the stage.
An opera that pokes fun at opera seria? An opera that features backstage preparations for a show, followed by an opera within an opera? Read reviews of. Related articles. The future of opera in a world of technology: Barrie Kosky. From Yak hair to computer chips: Stefanie Paglialonga on the secrets of wig making. Anu Komsi on Nordic composers, the importance of musical education and Lindberg's Accused. More by David Karlin. Lise de la Salle's superb Bach is the highlight of a Sunset - Dog Day - Fade Out Kings Place recital.
David Karlin. David is a co-founder of Bachtrack. He is a musical omnivore interested in almost all types of music, but with a particular love of Italian opera. You can contact him from this link. All rights reserved. Click here for conditions of use.
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