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Doreen Curran played Ottavia as being far sexier than I have been used to. She started to gain the measure of the role, but lacked the sheer undercurrent of tragic intensity. It needs to be remembered that the role can be played as screaming bitch (Cathy Berberian) or tragic queen (Janet Baker) and in an ideal world the singer needs to incorporate both. Curran has a way to go, but given the limitations of acting whilst sitting on a giant white pumpkin, I am not surprised if her performance lacked something. Here again the director must count as being partially responsible.
Gillett was excellent as Arnalta, but Gillett is an experienced enough performer to be able to project Arnalta's character in her short scenes even when lumbered with a tacky a costume as his mad maid's get up provided by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward. Gillett showed his musicianship by turning in a finely sung account of the lullaby.
As Ottavia's nurse, Diana Montague was similarly over dressed. Again Montague projected her part well in the small time allotted her, but I was left wishing that Montague had been allowed to sing Nerone. She is still in too good a voice to be restricted to short character roles.
William Berger and Joana Seara made a strong impression in their scene as Valletto and Damigella, and their scene was made even more poignant by being played out next to Seneca's body. Lucy Crowe's Drusilla dominated her scenes magnificently. Here was a Drusilla that was far more skittish than I am used to, but this worked well. The other, smaller roles were well taken.
Copyright © 24 October 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK