<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE
Katherine Manley as Seleuce had to do rather a lot of drooping as well. Manley coped well with the fioriture. In fact, in terms of sheer brilliance of execution, the two sopranos were the best in the show. Like Orr, Manley managed to negotiate herself through the role and kept our sympathy, which says a lot for her appealing stage character.
Laura Mitchell was brilliant vocally and very appealing whilst Elisa was in love with Tolomeo. But when he makes his refusal explicit, Mitchell failed to find the nastiness under her skin. This was a failing she had in common with her stage brother Araspe, played by Kostas Smoriginas. Both Mitchell and Smoriginas were technically quite brilliant but had not quite yet developed the ability to use the fioriture to create character.
Conway's production was simple but effective. In a plain box set, one half of the stage was taken up with a ruined jetty, under which the disguised Tolomeo lived in a box. The other side of the stage was plain and served, with effective lighting, to provide alternative playing areas. Using a swiftly effective lighting plot, Conway succeeded in illuminating the various situations without needing recourse to complicated scene changes. He introduced a number of rather puzzling bits of business, but these did not impinge over much on the overall production.
Tolomeo has a plot which is easy to ridicule. The final act reached its happy ending with alarming promptness leaving Alessandro and Elisa very much in the air. But though many of the situations come about due to rather ridiculous misunderstandings, the emotions that they give rise to are very real. It is a tribute to Conway and his talented student cast that we took them quite seriously and suffered with them. ETO and their professional cast will have a hard time in maintaining the standards that the students have set.
Copyright © 20 May 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK
LONDON HANDEL FESTIVAL
ENGLISH TOURING OPERA
ROYAL COLLEGE OF MUSIC, LONDON