Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A production lacking in direction


Welsh National opera , Wales Millennium Centre , September-19-10
Fidelio by Welsh National opera Those who enjoy debating the physical suitability of singers for certain roles and the worth of minimalist productions will have a field day.
The whole production is so lacking in direction that it barely makes any difference that some of the cast stretch the bounds of belief.

This evening would have been vastly improved had the set been totally discarded and the work performed as a concert piece, which some might argue it is always more suited to. This is a bought in show so at least it was cheaper than had it been created in Cardiff. I would have still rejected it at customs.

This was an evening for the new music director Lothar Koenigs, the orchestra and the chorus. The latter well deserved the reception from the audience for providing the only highlights of this opera. I rather wished the pit could somehow have been raised so the orchestra could have received a similar reward, although Koenigs clear jubilation when he took his bow was not reflected in the standard of the actual overall evening.

Imagine an opera sponsored by a supermarket chain that was also moving into furniture home delivery. At first we see seemingly a sturdy cage dominating the black set. Only from when Leonore (the wife of the political prisoner who adopts a male guise as Fidelio so as to rescue hubby) has to push it aside, it wobbles around throughout the evening like the trolleys supermarket shelf-stackers use. Furniture is then lugged around and a bit of backdrop lowered, totally confusing the setting of the action from then on.

Add to this hammy direction, such as the prisoners laboriously rather than convincingly walking through the shelf stacker trolleys into the bright sunlight shielding their eyes. If someone wanted to do a skit on opera they could do no better than the denouement when Leonore flips her hair from behind her head to over her shoulder and we are all supposed to gasp – “it’s a woman!” - and we expect the baddy to say “oh drat, foiled!”

The singing was patchy with the most pleasure from Clive Bailey as Rocco, the gaoler, and solid performances from Lisa Milne in the title role, Elizabeth Donovan as Marzelline and Robert Hayward as a panto villain Don Pizarro. It is always great to hear Dennis O’Neill but I doubt if this show will make it into his memoirs.

WMC and touring

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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