nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

La Phantom del West

I had a terrific evening on Saturday night at Opera North's production of La Fanciulla del West, in the company of the Grand Theatre’s informed and interested audience, who know not to interrupt a performance with random clapping.

I've wanted to see Fanciulla for years, since I first heard an extract on cassette, but it isn't performed often in the UK. This is an outrageous omission, because it is brilliant. It lacks the "Now stop and listen while I sing a really impressive aria" of something like Tosca, but instead you get a continous flow of glorious music. Not to mention a really weird moment during a love scene in which the listener thinks "Ah! This is Puccini turning up the violins in typical Puccini style"
when it suddenly turns into Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Music of the Night. Really: listen from 0.35.* It also had, and I appreciate that this is opera, and not only opera but Puccini Does the Gold Rush, so what I am about to say is completely ridiculous, but it also had a surprising amount of psychological realism. Some of it was the music, some the production and acting. Some, amazing to relate, might even have been the libretto**. Anyway, put together it really worked. It is ultimately a small-scale personal story, no fate of nations hanging in the balance, and it really is about the individual people. Even the villain is human and no Scarpia - he might be willing to go along with the "Let's play cards and if I win you give up your pursuit of the hero, and if you win he dies and you get to marry me" from the heroine (she cheats), but when he loses he sticks to his side of the deal. So great music, great music direction great singing - if you're in reach and like Puccini***, go and see it.

*Case settled out of court.

**Even if I did find myself pondering the world’s easiest academic paper at one moment, on the symbolism of a love interest called Dick Johnson.

*** That's the only caveat. I don't feel it's an ideal first Puccini opera, but the sort of thing that's better when you've heard Boheme and Tosca, because you see how it's a development of his earlier work.
Tags: opera
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