<< -- 2 -- Robert Hugill CASTING FROM STRENGTH
One of the main problems with the work, given its length (under two hours of music) is the large cast that it requires, fifteen named characters in all and not all of them minor. It is a credit to COG that all of these roles were cast from strength, with some of the men doubling and tripling up. Brad Cohen introduced the opera from the podium and helpfully explained the multiple casting to the audience.
In the small role of Maddelon, the old woman who gives the revolution her only surviving offspring, Chelsea Opera Group had luxury casting with the veteran soprano, Pauline Tinsley, who had first appeared with them in 1961. According to Grove, she was born in 1928 but she is still in fine voice and gave a performance full of the telling dramatic virtues with which we associate her. Scarcely less luxurious, was the casting of Elizabeth Sikora in the role of Maddalena's mother, the Countess. The Countess only appears in the first (pre revolutionary) act and Sikora gave a vivid, firm voiced performance which was well characterised without descending into caricature. As Maddalena's maid, Bersi, Jacqueline Miura made what she could of this short but important role; a role that I always feel is rather under written.
As the novelist Fléville, a friend of Chénier's, George Mosely displayed a fine baritone, but with not quite enough attention to the words for my liking. Mosely also doubled up as the public prosecutor, Fouquier-Tinville. Christopher Lemings sang creditably in the small role of the Abbé in Act 1, but came into his own in the later acts when he gave a strong performance as the spy, L'Incredible. This role is the closest thing to a real villain that the opera has and Lemings gave a good dramatic account of it. Andrew Mayor made a fine Mathieu, the sans-culotte and Keel Watson was a dark-voiced Roucher, another friend of Chénier's. Ewan Taylor contributed three small roles, the Major Domo, Dumas (the president of the tribunal which condemns Chénier) and Schmidt, Chénier's jailor. In all he gave well characterised and differentiated performances. Giordano does not allow himself much time for each of these characters to register and it is to the cast's credit that they gave such vivid performances.
Copyright © 10 June 2004
Robert Hugill, London UK