- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Handel’s Faramondo review at Britten Theatre, London – ‘atmospheric gangland staging’

Beth Moxon and Ida Ranzlov in Handel's Faramondo at the Britten Theatre, London. Photo: Chris Christodoulou

This year, the London Handel Festival’s annual opera is a great rarity: Faramondo, which had eight performances in 1738 and then disappeared until the 20th century. The plot is often written off as indecipherable, but William Relton’s staging maintains interest and dramatic momentum.

Faramondo was the legendary first king of the Franks, but since the earliest historical mention of him comes several centuries after he supposedly lived, the evidence that he ever existed is pretty meagre. The opera’s plot, consequently, is pure fiction. Placing the action, as Relton and designer Cordelia Chisholm do, in a West Side Story-like environment of gangs and nightclubs seems as good a way of dealing with it as applying a kind of faux-medievalism.

Like most of Handel’s operas, Faramondo tells a complex tale of dynastic feuds and generational conflicts, with most of the characters in love with the wrong person right up to the denouement, when matters are – as far as possible – put to rights.

In Relton and Chisholm’s visualisation, this is the era of teddy boys and switchblades, with Kieran Rayner’s tough guy Gustavo the competitive owner of the club where Beth Moxon’s suave Rosimonda is the torch singer; but Gustavo also has his gang, opposed by those of rival hard men Gernando and Faramondo.

Relton helps the cast achieve dramatic performances as well defined as the related vocal offerings. Moxon puts her arias over with the panache of a cabaret star. A magnetic stage performer, Swedish mezzo Ida Ranzlov makes an outstandingly assured Faramondo.

Countertenor Timothy Morgan enjoys Gernando’s villainy and demonstrates serious vocal potential. Harriet Eyley is spirited as Faramondo’s sister, Clotilde. Josephine Goddard’s measured Adolfo, Harry Thatcher’s dangerous Teobaldo and Lauren Morris’s skilful Childerico complete the central casting, while Handel expert Laurence Cummings presides over a stylish orchestral performance.

Handel’s worthwhile rarity gets a new look in William Relton’s atmospheric gangland staging

Production Information

Britten Theatre
March 20, 2017
March 25, 2017
Press night
March 20, 2017
Adapted from Apostolo Zeno
George Frideric Handel
William Relton
Laurence Cummings
Cordelia Chisholm
Kevin Treacy
Cordelia Chisholm
Jools Osborne (wardrobe), Janine Summerhayes (hair/make-up), Jen Watson (lighting programmer)
Stage manager
Ellen Dawson
Production manager
Paul Tucker
Cast includes
Ida Ranzlov, Harriet Eyley, Kieran Rayner, Beth Moxon, Josephine Goddard, Timothy Morgan, Harry Thatcher, Lauren Morris
Laurence Cummings
London Handel Festival, Royal College of Music
Running time
3hrs 15mins