L'amore dei tre Re

Italo Montemezzi
Opera Holland Park
Opera Holland Park

Credit: Robert Workman
Credit: Robert Workman
Credit: Robert Workman

Montemezzi, like so many of his verismo writing contemporaries, is a one hit wonder. L’amore dei tre Re is rarely performed and the composer barely known, yet tonight's performance showcased an opera with melodic and orchestral writing to blow you away.

When Montemezzi composed L’amore dei tre Re in 1913, it was snapped up by the MET and seen onstage there over the following thirty-five years. Then, overshadowed once more by Puccini and more prolific composers of the time, this work has slowly lost its notoriety. Holland Park Opera has made it its calling card to stage these lesser-known verismo gems and by golly does this revival showcase L’amore dei tre Re well.

Montemezzi’s compositional prowess burns brightly in this fiery number, and the Holland Park Orchestra certainly glitters under Peter Robinson’s baton. He delivers the joyous dynamic extremes and soaring melodies with aplomb. Although the cavernous tent and lack of pit play merry havoc with the balance between soloists and orchestra, it’s a treat to hear Montemezzi’s playful orchestration in full Technicolor.

Director Martin Lloyd-Evans places the action on the balcony of war-scarred concrete housing; the cast strut in 1920s army britches and black leather jackets. This grim setting makes sense of the brutal plot.

Blind father Archibaldo distrust his son’s wife Fiora and with good reason: she’s sleeping with her ex-fiancé. She cannot give up her old flame despite the pressure of discovery and in true verismo style there are lots of passionate love scenes. Finally, she snaps and tells Archibaldo that she does indeed have another lover. Consumed with rage, he strangles her, setting off the chain of deaths in this bloody opera.

The cast throw themselves into the opera as much as the orchestra, dramatically excellent though vocal standards vary. Mikhael Svetlov (Archibaldo) is excellent as a blind yet still imposing military man; his wonderfully gritty bass tone captures the vocal drama too.

Simon Thorpe as the cuckolded husband displays an impressive instrument but does too much obvious ‘acting’, unlike Aled Hall (Flaminio) who may not get to sing much but whose impassioned cries finding his dead mistress made my hair stand on end.

The star of the show though is Natalya Romaniw whose exceptional vocal prowess lifts the whole evening. Her excitingly rich timbre soars through Montemezzi’s big, melodic lines and the turbo-charged passionate high phrases where she rides on top of a surging orchestra.

This operatic extravaganza makes for a gripping evening, and the lack of interval means there’s no respite from the overblown emotional drama unfolding.

Reviewer: Louise Lewis

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