Chisinau National Opera
conducted by Nicolae Dohotaru
Tuesday, September 26, 2000 Apollo Theatre, Oxford
Reviewed by William Turner
Oxford has become accustomed to first-rate opera and expects to be visited several times each year by such excellent companies as Welsh National Opera and Glyndebourne Touring. More recently, it has experienced regular visits by the Chisinau National Opera, which hails from Moldova - a group criticised for poor standards and for being a distraction from homegrown companies. CNO exhibits both great enthusiasm and some excellent solo performances; also, there have been capacity audiences for all companies visiting Oxford throughout the year.
For its short visit to Oxford, Chisinau offered Aida, The Marriage of Figaro and Tosca. Its production style is not designed to shock, offer new interpretations or use modern dress but to give serious, fairly conventional, distinctly professional presentations of popular opera. This doesnt mean that the productions are predictable. For Tosca, the action started before even one note of Puccini was heard! Within a church clerics and choirboys (and girls) going about their business - a nice touch to set the scene. The production was a disciplined one and it was evident that nothing had been spared in either sets or costumes. This staging, produced by Ellen Kent and directed by Eugen Platon, steered away from too real a presentation, allowing focus on the music and the characters themselves - one could loath Baron Scarpia for example, sung revealingly and confidently by Vladimir Dragos. Ludmilla Magomedova sang Tosca herself with both intensity and sensitivity.
However, unreality won in the torture scene when Cavaradossi, realised magnificently by Oleg Kulko, is released with scarcely a drop of blood on his chemise. This was a far cry from the Raymond Gubbay production (Royal Albert Hall) where the torture chamber was visible! So, full marks to the team who, while setting the scene and establishing a credible setting, did not feel it necessary to stoop to extremes to increase the sense of actuality.
To complete an excellent production, the orchestra played with precision but was perhaps a little reserved under the tightly disciplined control of Nicolae Dohotaru.