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Wolf-Ferrari I gioelli della Madonna

Opera Holland Park 25 July 2013

A strange one for us. My wife wanted to leave after the first Act but I insisted we stay under the call of duty. After Act 2, I too was ready to depart, but it emerged that there was no second interval, so we were trapped in the middle of a row until the end.

It will be no service to offer Musical Pointers or Opera Critic readers a lengthy review of something which so completely disenchanted us, so better for you to study the long, enthusiastic one by Colin Anderson, whose listing in Classical Source I borrow (L).

In the programme book (a lavish one, packed with good essays) Tim Ashley gives a helpful history of Wolf-Ferrari and his operas.

The music seemed excessively loud and second rate to us, but that agrees with the opinion of The Telegraph's critic that: "It may be hokum - - for considerable portions of the evening I had my fingers plugged in my ears in an attempt to modify a decibel level in breach off all known EU regulations. The music is really pretty dreadful, most of it fired at full belt - - the vocal lines - - persistently masturbating towards a climax of explosive melody that it never achieves - - the resulting farrago holds one’s attention in an iron grip"; Christiansen then gives it a 4-star rating (out of 5) !

Members of the huge cast raced around the stage and auditorium to no obvious purpose and the last Act was dominated by a large red flashing light pointing to Donne (= women)...

The chorus and orchestra were fine. And to end with a big plus; we endorse Rupert Christiansen's opinion that the feisty heroine Natalya Romaniw [top R] "is quite thrilling as the wanton Maliella. The voice delivers rich and even tone across a wide range, remaining steady even at dynamic extremes, and there’s stage presence and personality to match it - - could be incubating a world-class career as a dramatic soprano."

Peter Grahame Woolf