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Les Vêpres Siciliennes

“Disappointing final instalment of david pountney’s verdi trilogy”

Verdi’s rarely staged but often magnificent The Sicilian Vespers offers a fictionalised account of the lead-up to a massacre that occurred in Palermo in 1282, when the local populace turned on their French overlords at the signal of the ringing of a bell.

David Pountney’s production is the final segment of a Verdi trilogy he has staged for the company he led up till 2019. The first – La Forza del Destino – was an exceptional success in 2018; its follow-up, Un Ballo in Maschera, less convincing the following year. With much of the same visual material recurring again, the show regularly looks overfamiliar.

Written for the Paris Opera at the height of its opulence in 1855, the piece includes a lengthy ballet – usually cut in modern performances.

Whereas the original was pure divertissement – an entertainment on the theme of the four seasons – Pountney turns it into a drawn-out depiction of the abusive relationship between French governor Montfort and the mother of his Sicilian patriot son, Henri. Do we really need yet another graphic depiction of the violent rape of a woman on stage? It’s nonsense to suggest that Verdi and his librettists would have countenanced such a thing.

It’s not a great evening, either, for the principals, with the exception of Anush Hovhannisyan’s spirited Hélène, which demonstrates her considerable potential. Much of the rest of the singing is rough-hewn.

No problems at all with the sterling work of the Welsh National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, though, while conductor Carlo Rizzi once more exhibits his mastery of the Verdian style.

Carlo Rizzi: ‘Conducting is not telling people what to do – you convince them’

Related to this Review

Un Ballo in MascheraUn Ballo in Maschera

Production Details
Production nameLes Vêpres Siciliennes
VenueWales Millennium Centre
StartsFebruary 8, 2020
EndsFebruary 22, 2020
Running time3hrs 30 mins
ComposerGiuseppe Verdi
DirectorDavid Pountney
ConductorCarlo Rizzi
ChoreographerCaroline Finn
Set designerRaimund Bauer
Costume designerMarie-Jeanne Lecca
Lighting designerFabrice Kebour
CastAnush Hovhannisyan, Wyn Pencarreg, Giorgio Caoduro, Jung Soo Yun, Wojtek Gierlach, Christine Byrne
Production managerRichard Norton
ProducerTheatre Bonn, Welsh National
VerdictThe final instalment of David Pountney’s Verdi trilogy is by far the weakest
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George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

George Hall

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