The Chelsea Opera Group's 'I Puritani',
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL
A performance of Bellini's I Puritani with a cast that included Barry Banks, Judith Howarth and Luca Grassi would grace most opera house stages. But such are the vagaries of London operatic life, that it was the Chelsea Opera Group, an organisation whose chorus and orchestra are purely voluntary, who presented the opera in a concert performance conducted by Dominic Wheeler at Cadogan Hall on Saturday 10 June 2006.
Chelsea Opera Group specialises in refreshing the parts of the repertoire that other companies do not reach and, as with their recent performances of Verdi's Attila, they produced a top notch cast for an opera which, though not unknown, seems to have dropped out of the main opera companies' repertoires.
Ably conducted by Dominic Wheeler, the company's chorus and orchestra made a big, full bodied sound in the opera's prelude and opening scene. Cadogan Hall is perhaps slightly small for this size of ensemble and, coupled with its rather generous acoustic, this meant the performance was characterised by a generous volume of sound.
A concert performance in Italian of 'I Puritani' by Vincenzo Bellini, conducted by Dominic Wheeler, with Barry Banks as Arturo. Concert flyer © 2006 Chelsea Opera Group
The plot, such as it is, concerns a group of Puritans during the English Civil War. Elvira (soprano, Judith Howarth) is being allowed to marry Arturo (tenor, Barry Banks), despite his being a royalist, because she loves him. Elvira's father (bass Richard Wiegold) is holding Queen Henrietta Maria prisoner (mezzo Sarah Pring) though she is in disguise. Arturo realises who she is and helps her to escape. Elvira thinks he has eloped with the prisoner and loses her mind, cue mad scene for Elvira. Arturo and Elvira meet up in secret three months later and Elvira, eventually, returns to sanity when Arturo affirms he still loves her, cue a general amnesty for all royalists which thus enables the couple to marry.
Copyright © 13 June 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK