Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Rameau Dardanus

Sir Jack Lyons Theatre, Royal Academy of Music 24 November 2006

Lisa Crosato Anna Graca Lan Wei Christopher Diffey Christopher Tonkin Emilien Hamel Ross Mcinroy

Conductor Laurence Cummings
Director Robert Chevara

Designer Emma Cattell
Lighting Designer Paul Taylor
Choreographer Isabel Mortimer
Fight Director Alison de Burgh
Assistant Conductor Stephen Wood
Chorus prepared by lain Ledingham
Dancers from London Contemporary Dance School

A most welcome change from the more usual college opera productions, which give up-coming young singers opportunities to prepare for the profession by performing standard roles; the British premiere of Dardanus is a real coup for the Royal Academy.

The details of the plot won't lodge in the memory, and probably hadn't engaged those who didn't come back after the interval, thereby missing the exceptionally beautiful sequence in the Act 4 prison scene. Rameau's is extraordinary music throughout, with smooth transitions between accompanied recitative merging into expressive arias and dances which are an integral component of the entertainment.

The production evinces loving care at all points, and its small scale a change from the more common chances to encounter Rameau's operas, concert performances at St John's Smith Square in London or DVDs of lavish Parisian productions.

For the large cast of singers and dancers, it was a little cramped on a stage made smaller by a ramp up to a back-stage. That was often in darkness, but brilliant lighting by Paul Taylor revealed a sequence of memorable fleeting images there.

Musically it was a feather in RAM's cap, with the Period Instrument Baroque Orchestra impeccably stylish in Laurence Cummings' expert hands. With Philip Thorby at Greenwich and Laurence Cummings at RAM (plus the York Collection events), early music is well served in London.

Peter Grahame Woolf

There was splendid baroque-style singing from all concerned and I give full marks to the chorus, who collectively produced the most articulate French pronunciation.

In the mandatory allegorical prologue Lisa Crusato (Venus), in elegant period costume complete with Pompadour wig, shaded her fine soprano to give a performance which was amply seductive yet completely genteel. Anna Graca (Cupid) produced a more raunchy tone, lightened by elegance and wit – her voice has a distinctive timbre, and I look forward to hearing her in future roles.

The three principals in the main drama shared the honours equally. Lan Wei (Iphese), whose tall turban nicely mimicked Venus’s wig, combined eloquent phrasing with some glorious high notes. The rival warriors rose above their silly costumes, which could have come straight out of Asterix, and were well contrasted. Christopher Diffey shows promise of being a fine lyric tenor, and coped well with the severe technical demands of the title roll. Christopher Tonkin (Antenor) already has a heavyweight voice, with his rolling “r”s adding to the aggression of his character.

Among the smaller roles I noted very stylish singing from the two Phrygians, David Butt Philip and Kristen Darragh, and from Richard Rowe in his Chorus solo.

Finally, since at times actions speak louder than words, George Humphreys deserves an accolade for a splendid piece of mime as The Shepherdess’s slavering shaggy-coated pet.

Serena Fenwick

See PGW's five-star review of the fine Dardanus CD, recorded by Musiciens du Louvre/Minkowski with top specialist soloists headed by John Mark Ainsley

photos credit Chris Christodoulou