Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Alfonso und Estrella review at Opéra de Baugé – ‘surprisingly epic’

Roger Krebs and Stephanie Edwards. Photo: John Grimmett Roger Krebs and Stephanie Edwards. Photo: John Grimmett

The Opéra de Baugé, an enterprising British-run summer festival in the Loire, this year offers Die Zauberflöte, Il Trovatore, and a rarity, Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella.

Schubert produced some 16 operas during his brief, but astonishingly productive life, but none have held the stage. This work’s hero and heroine meet by chance and fall innocently in love, unaware that Alfonso is the son of an exiled king whose usurper is Estrella’s father. It ends with reconciliation and rejoicing all round.

Initially, Schubert seems less concerned with theatrical momentum than with expansive, lyrical vocal lines supported by full-bodied instrumentation. Things come decisively alive after the interval with a substantial scene of anxiety followed by joy as Estrella’s father (Jake Muffett, singing with outstanding authority and definition) and his court await the princess who is missing after a hunting trip. Also striking is a strenuously ferocious aria for the lustful villain Adolfo (the punchy, charcoal-toned Roger Krebs).

As the plot thickens, Alexander Aldren (Alfonso) and Stephanie Edwards (Estrella) also rise to their expressive challenges. At first, they seem underscaled – though always mellifluous, accurate and sympathetic. The fifth principal is the deposed (and incognito) King Froila, sung with warm nobility by Denver Martin Smith. The chorus – primarily young professionals – switch adeptly between incarnations as villagers, courtiers and soldiers.

Schubert’s distinctive genius is perhaps most evident in the orchestra: the graceful wind writing, the string figurations and oscillations between major and minor. Conductor Alexander Ingram ensures the score – conceived on a surprisingly epic scale – unfolds eloquently and with pace.

Directing, Bernadette Grimmett takes the storybook setting at face value, while creating lively stage pictures and rounding out the characters with insight and compassion.

L’Arlesiana review at Opera Holland Park, London – ‘tugs the heartstrings’

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Rare and valuable chance to see an opera by Schubert