Alzira – review

Buxton International Festival’s final instalment of the Elijah Moshinsky-directed/Stephen Barlow-conducted trilogy of early Verdi operas proves to be least successful.

Sadly, it was the almost obscure Alzira that was in need of the greater championing as its level of inspiration on Verdi’s part was not as high as it was with the other two, a long way short in the case of 1847 version of Macbeth (seen last year).

It is, though, not without its inspired moments, including a novel overture of originality and much stirring ensemble work, not least the superb sextet, Nella polve genuflesso, with chorus towards the end of act one.

The solo vocal music for the three principal protagonists is a little more variable, some fine, some less so, but nearly always taxing in terms of tessitura in the arias and their inevitable showpiece cabaletta.

Kate Ladner (Alzira), Jung Soo Yun (Zamoro) and James Cleverton (Gusmano) give it their vocal all, but on the strength of the opening night performance only the South Korean tenor had the requisite vocal equipment for Verdi’s music.

Cleverton, though, displays an impressive baritone voice; however, it lacks ‘Verdian’ weight.

The supporting cast does nothing wrong, while the Festival Chorus again provides outstanding singing and the augmented Northern Chamber Orchestra plays Verdi’s score magnificently under the unerring beat of Stephen Barlow’s idiomatic baton.

Visually, the kindest thing is perhaps to say nothing the staging. Some will like it, no doubt; some will not.

It’s almost as if Elijah Moshinsky wants to make up for the “in many ways naive” music (his words) by bringing the “action forward to near present day revolutions in South America, finding its imagery in the bright colours of the score.”

The result is much revolutionary mayhem with an element of confusion and violence, at times gratuitous, such as Gusmano shooting dead Alzira’s father at the end of act one for some reason.

None of which is in Verdi’s score about Incas and Spanish Conquistadors in Peru!

Further performances: 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th and 20th of July

* ‘Melodramatic Happenings  in Lima’ for more on Verdi’s Alzira

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