- Published: 21 January 2015
Marseille from the main railway station: Gare St. Charles. The Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde in the far distance, crowned by the golden statue of the Virgin Mary by Lequesne. Usually this view is against the strong sunlight which so dominates and overwhelms the traveller on arrival from the north that the sunshine and blue Mediterranean sky becomes the view. The sky today is loaded with rain clouds which the strong and clear Mediterranean light somehow manages to penetrate, revealing the architecture and reminding how Marseille is a fascinating mixture of a Provence village and a modern French town.
- Published: 13 January 2015
Fresh vibrant production with fluid and dramatic performances of Verdi’s melodrama Un ballo in maschera. Royal Opera’s new production is about reclaiming the drama as well as the big singing. The leading ladies, Liudmyla Monastyrska (Amelia) and Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Renato), gave committed and satisfying musical performances; Marianne Cornetti gave a particularly spooky interpretation of Ulrica, the fortune teller. But for me it was Joseph Calleja (Riccardo) who commanded the stage musically, dramatically and with an athleticism that showed his enthusiasm for this role. Though I wasn’t convinced by Liudmyla Monastyrska as Amelia that he would be so much fallen in love as the plot requires.
This is an apparently straightforward setting but unusually is based in Austro-Hungarian Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, within which the production design holds consistent with a lot of detail and depth. The main benefits of this setting appear to be an opportunity for some tasty uniforms and sumptuous frocks. It sort of works as fitting preconceived ideas about how a grand opera should look though actually the staging is for an era fifty years after the premiere. The staging and lighting are complex but come over as straightforward, helping to build the melodrama without distracting from the music.
Read more: Un ballo in maschera - The Royal Opera