L’Amore dei tre re [Libretto by Sem Benelli after his own play; sung in Italian with English surtitles]
Fiora – Amanda Echalaz
Avito – Julian Gavin
Manfredo – Olafur Sigudarson
Archibaldo – Mikhail Svetlov
Flaminio – Aled Hall
Opera Holland Park Chorus
City of London Sinfonia
Martin Lloyd-Evans – Director
Jamie Vartan – Designer
Reviewed by: Paul Hutchinson
Reviewed: 27 July, 2007
Venue: Opera Holland Park, London
Italo Montemezzi’s “The Love of Three Kings” was first performed at La Scala in 1913, but for some reason seems to have enjoyed greater popularity at the Met. From its premiere at that house in 1914 until the mid-1940s the Met’s ‘blue-chip’ artistes beat a well-worn path to appear in the work. Toscanini and Serafin conducted it, Elizabeth Rethberg, Giovanni Martinelli, Mary Garden, Ezio Pinza, to mention a few, sang it; to say nothing of the great Rosa Ponselle, who appeared in four performances of it.
Why? Well, it might be to do with its richly-textured score; the fingerprints of Richard Strauss and Debussy are all over it. It might also be due to the libretto with its Tristanesque atmosphere – adulterous passion, jealousy and murder all lit by flaming torches. Fiora, in love with Avito, is forcibly married to Manfredo as part of a Peace Treaty. Fiora’s father-in-law, the blind Archibaldo, is deeply suspicious of Fiora. The scene is set for tragedy.
Opera Holland Park’s last production in its 2007 Season is doubly welcome. Firstly, this is the first professional production in the UK since the 1930s; secondly, it is truly of the first-rank.
Martin Lloyd-Evans turns a 10th-century castle in Northern Italy into a Brechtian landscape, complete with a soaring concrete tower. Appropriate (but indeterminate) costumes, doors without handles and slopes which seem to lead to inky darkness all heighten the tension as the drama is played out.
Fiora is sung by Amanda Echalaz and she is in superb voice, passionate in her duets with Avito (a splendid OHP debut for Julian Gavin), guileful in her duet with her husband Manfredo (a consummate portrayal from Olaf Sigudarson as the unloved, cuckolded warrior). Mikhail Svetlov is Archibaldo, the blind old patriarch jealously guarding his son Manfredo’s honour until he believes his suspicions are justified and he decides on his final, terrible revenge. Svetlov sang with resonant tone and style, catching his moment in the soliloquy in which he remembers his beloved Italy of some 40 years before. A very satisfying performance, especially in music of a rather high tessitura. Aled Hall’s Flaminio, servant to Archibaldo but secretly on the side of the lovers, is not a big part. But Hall gave a performance that certainly registered.
The several non-singing characters give good support, and once again the stunning OHP Chorus sings superbly. Peter Robinson brings out all the light and shade that illuminates the drama and tension in this very richly orchestrated score. Now that the pit is enlarged and the acoustic is changed due to the new canopy, the orchestral sound is much improved.
I cannot recommend this production too highly.
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