Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Vasily Petrenko: Mendelssohn’s Die Hochzeit des Camacho

Mendelssohn
Die Hochzeit des Camacho – Opera to a libretto by Karl August von Lichtenstein [sung in German with English surtitles; first performance of new edition by Clive Brown]

Quiteria – Katharina Persicke
Lucinda – Christina Haldane
Camacho – James Elliott
Basilio – Jérôme Billy
Vivaldo – Daniel Jenz
Carrasco – Shadi Torbey
Don Quixote de la Mancha – Peter Paul
Sancho Panza / Alkade – Andreas Jankowitsch

Meritxell Mur Guri & James Perrett (dancers)

European Opera Centre Chorus

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko

Ignacio Garcia – Director


Reviewed by: Glyn Môn Hughes

Reviewed: 9 April, 2011
Venue: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Vasily Petrenko. Styled by Lorraine McCulloch, courtesy of Cricket Liverpool, photograph:Mark McNultyIt’s easy to forget just how much music Mendelssohn wrote for the theatre. That said, it’s hardly surprising given the considerable drama he built into oratorios such as “Elijah” or the ‘Hymn of Praise’, the final movement of the Second Symphony. Yet, most of his dramatic writing was produced before he even attained his majority, so it’s all the more surprising to hear the considerable maturity portrayed by these pieces. Even so, it’s all too rare that audiences get to hear a Mendelssohn opera.

“The Wedding of Camacho” was here the world premiere of a new edition by Clive Brown, a Mendelssohn expert from Leeds University who has reconstituted the voice parts to correspond with those in the composer’s original vocal score of 1828. The orchestral parts are also taken from the autograph or from the revised copyist’s score. It was not an easy conception for the young Mendelssohn – he began writing it when he was just 15 – and the libretto was rewritten by Lichtenstein. Mendelssohn, unhappy with the result, rushed out of the first performance of the opera and failed to hear the ecstatic response with which it was greeted. He went on to reject the finished work and largely turned away from operatic composition during his short life. But that libretto! Confused! Confusing! Mad, even. The Liverpool Phil audience must have been grateful – one hopes, though one cannot be sure – for surtitles, not that they really added much, and may have added to the confusion. Most people seemed to shrug it off, apparently thinking that it’s opera and that’s the sort of thing you’d expect!

This was certainly a lively performance. However, having the orchestra on the same level as the singers did rather overpower the dialogue at times and vocal ensemble scenes were occasionally imperceptible. That said, Vasily Petrenko made the most of Mendelssohn’s witty, waspish score and played the action to great advantage. The European Opera Centre Chorus was powerful and supportive with a huge dynamic range and superb musical ability. There were also some fine voices amongst the soloists. The two female parts – taken by Katharina Persicke and Christina Haldane – were dramatic, subtle where they needed to be, and with finely developed voices which rose to the considerable demands placed upon them. Daniel Jenz used his fine, robust tenor voice to great advantage while Andreas Jankowitsch worked his comic roles to great advantage. James Elliott’s Camacho was as naïve as he was bombastic while Peter Paul exhibited fine drama and quite superb singing.

Just occasionally there were problems with coordination, but director Ignacio Garcia can reflect on a triumph. It’s just a shame this was a one-off performance in a city which can look forward only to one annual week of performances from Welsh National Opera.



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