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Christopher Ventris was wonderfully believable in the tricky role of the Manolios, the troubled shepherd called upon to act as Christ. He is haunted both by his role as Christ and by the image of the widow Katerina, the Mary Magdalene figure. She was radiantly played by Marie McLaughlin; a thread of steel in her voice preventing her interpretation from slipping into kitsch or sentimentality.

Willard W White (Fotis) and Christopher Ventris (Manolios). Photo © 2004 Bill Cooper
Willard W White (Fotis) and Christopher Ventris (Manolios). Photo © 2004 Bill Cooper

Willard W White was Father Fotis, the priest to the refugees. Perhaps his tone is not quite what it was, but he imbued the role with immense gravitas and dignity. Timothy Robinson brought a welcome naivety to Yannakos the pedlar, who mends his thieving ways under the influence of his role as an Apostle in the Passion play.

The opera is very much an ensemble piece with nearly twenty named roles and all of these were cast from strength. Robert Lloyd played an old refugee and it was good to see the veteran tenor Francis Egerton as the schoolmaster; he has been appearing at the Royal Opera for as long as I have been going there.

The Royal Opera House seems to be currently engaged in renewing core repertoire, but I would hope that we might look forward to another neglected opera given such a powerful advocacy -- Bertholdt Goldschmidt's Beatrice Cenci anyone?

Copyright © 29 September 2004 Robert Hugill, London UK


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