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Despite this production being so much a team effort, special praise must go to Fiona Harrison, for her triumphant assumption of the part of Laura, the intended betrothed of Totaro. Cimarosa makes huge demands here, in a series of extended virtuoso arias which lift the opera beyond the enjoyable but merely frivolous froth it otherwise might have been. Laura's part transcends the comic-strip and requires heroic/dramatic singing in the manner and range of Mozart's Fiordiligi. Harrison's performance was a veritable tour de force, not only in a technical sense, but in its range of emotions also. Such a predominantly frivolous piece surprises when it engages the heartstrings, and Harrison, looking and sounding majestic gave it her all. Every aria she sang was a highlight, not least the formidable Act 1 scena which can hold up its musical head in the exalted territory of Come scoglio or Martern aller Arten, where the great master himself is at his most demanding. The assumption had its comic pay-off, though. Why would such a formidable lady choose to end up with an air-headed wimp like Totaro?

Thomas Guthrie, and Mark Saberton, played the hapless and gullible barons in fine comic style, and were in good voice incorporating a subtle and intuitive assumption of true buffo playing. Although their characters were too silly to command much of our sympathy, one pitied their being eaten for breakfast by the spouses they won, in the hard world of 'ever after'.

Sandra (Betsabée Haas) and Laura (Fiona Harrison)
Sandra (Betsabée Haas) and Laura (Fiona Harrison)

Betsabée Haas as Sandra was also impressive in the vocal pyrotechnics required of her, and drew a glorious comic character as a scheming, opportunistic social climber. This was a rich and energetic assumption with some fine ensemble playing. She was an excellent foil for Andrew Kennedy, who played Franchetto, her scheming brother, the man with all to play for, but who ultimately, like most weakest links, left with nothing. Kennedy had a pleasing voice and pleasing presence and manner. Perhaps it was just too pleasing for such a sly dog of a character. Or was this a double bluff? I think I would probably have bought a used car from him, and perhaps that's the point!

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Copyright © 25 September 2003 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK


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