Francesca da Rimini
Music by Sergei Rachmaninov. Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky, based on Canto V of Dante's Inferno
Opera North's Eight Little Greats season
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
Because of other commitments I had to miss the second set of Eight Little Greats (La Vida Breve and Il Tabaro) and, to be honest, was not looking forward to the rest of the season after the disappointment of Pagliacci and Djamileh, although the latter was rescued by the quality of the performances. But, in the event, I need not have worried.
Francesca da Rimini was superb. Highly theatrical, yes, but here the theatricality served the piece rather than working against it. Low lighting, atmospherically designed by Adam Silverman, complemented a stark cage of a set (designed by Johan Engels) in which the souls of the damned were like the inhabitants of a gulag, a concentration camp or, given the fact that each carried a suitcase, a camp for asylum seekers. Into this, down a steep staircase at the back of the stage, descended Virgil and Dante, carrying powerful torches which looked like searchlights sweeping through the black-clad figures. When Paolo (Jerrey Lloyd-Roberts, doubling Dante), Francesca (Nina Pavolvski) and Malatesta (Jonathan Summers, doubling the Ghost of Virgil) tell their story, the chorus use their suitcases to create beds, platforms and rostra.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan