Il signor Bruschino/La scala di seta BYO Peacock Theatre 8 September 2009

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SanMois%E8The two parts of BYO’s Rossini double-bill shared a basic setting of a bare (if stepped) stage, although there was essentially a different cast for each opera.

Il Signor Bruschino had enough pieces of furniture and realistic costumes to enable you to tell who was who and what was going on. In fact, it went along very effectively, and I particularly enjoyed the well-matched and charming pairing of Elena Sancho (soprano, Sofia) and Thomas Herford (tenor, Florville).

We were sitting in the front row, which had many advantages (hearing the orchestral detail, hearing and seeing the singers), and also meant we couldn’t see the surtitles very easily. But once I’d decided to understand the Italian instead I found this meant I was drawn in much more than usual.

Some lovely music from the young Rossini and good playing from the Southbank Sinfonia meant we headed for the ice-cream-and-toilet break in very good heart.

I once (eight years ago, in fact) saw La scala di seta at GSMD with a very elaborate wood-panelled set which seemed to absorb all of the cast’s energies in dealing with it.

This time we had the bare (if stepped) stage with the occasional picture frame or lampshade or clothes rack for people to hide behind/under/in. And it didn’t work for me, in large part because Natalya Romaniw didn’t characterise the heroine Giulia sufficiently–by which I mean that if you want to be a (female) opera singer you really need to learn how to wear a dress and walk across the stage in character. The unbalancing of the structure in Giulia’s favour was probably heightened by the role of Germano–who is probably the other main character here–being taken by the understudy (Peter Braithwaite).  But I liked Carlos Nogueira as Dorvil, though the pairing with Giulia was a bit spoiled by her singing rather more loudly than him (rather too loudly compared with the rest of the cast I thought).

Hanna Hipp as Lucilla`also seemed to have caught the “It’s a comedy so let’s start off being mad” disease–you need to start with at least the appearance of order which then breaks down. That’s what comedy is. And there was at least one occasion when the less-than-minimalist setting meant I had no idea whether the action was taking place indoors or outside.

So including all of the doors, windows, wardrobes and so on mentioned in the text and stage directions doesn’t seem to work and ignoring them completely certainly doesn’t. There must be a third way…

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