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Halévy’s opera based mostly on Shakespeare’s The Tempest proves to be superb Wexford territory, if not fairly a forgotten gem


Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta – Giulio Pelligra, Hila Baggio, Giorgi Manoshvili, Nikolay Zemlianskikh – Wexford Competition Opera (Picture Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)


Fromental Halévy: La tempesta; Nikolay Zemlianskikh, Hila Baggio, Gio
rgi Manoshvili, Giulio Pelligra, Jade Phoenix, director: Roberto Catalano, conductor: Francesco Cilluoffo; Wexford Competition Opera

Reviewed 3 November 2022 (★★★★)

An Italian opera, on a Shakespearean topic, by a French composer, commissioned for efficiency in London, leads to a piece with participating musical moments and reasonably fractured drama

Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta - Giorgi Manoshvili - Wexford Festival Opera (Photo Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)
Halévy: La Tempesta – Giorgi Manoshvili
Wexford Competition Opera (Picture Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)

Impresario Benjamin Lumley commissioned a collection of latest operas for his grand opera seasons in London between 1847 and 1852. Operas thus commissioned embody Verdi’s I masnadieri. One composer that Lumley had his eye on was Felix Mendelssohn for whom a libretto based mostly on Shakespeare’s The Tempest was commissioned from Eugene Scribe (Mendelssohn’s selection of librettist). The Mendelssohn opera didn’t occur, however the libretto would cross to Fromental Halévy whose La Tempesta (in an Italian adaptation of the unique French) premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1850.

Halévy’s La Tempesta was our closing go to to 2022 Wexford Competition Opera (3 November 2022). The work was directed by Roberto Catalano and carried out by Francesco Cilluffo, with units by Emanuele Sinisi, costumes by Ilaria Ariemme, lighting by D.M. Wooden and choreography by Luisa Baldinetti, with Nikolay Zemlianskikh as Prospero, Hila Baggio as Miranda, Giorgi Manoshvili as Calibano, Giulio Pelligra as Fernando, Jade Phoenix as Ariele, Rory Musgrave as Alonso, Richard Shaffrey as Antonio, Gianluca Moro as Stefano, Emma Jungling as Sicorace and Dan D’Souza as Trinculo.

La Tempesta was profitable in its day being carried out each in London (in Italian) and in Paris (in French) and the premiere featured a powerful forged together with Luigi Lablache (as Calibano), and Henriette Sontag (as Miranda), and the dancer Carlotta Grisi as Ariele. There are two surviving variations of the opera, one with Ariele as a dancer and one with Ariele as a singer, this latter was the one carried out in Wexford.

The opera is in a prologue (overlaying the shipwreck) and three acts, telling a model of Shakespeare’s story. That is French grand opera, so we should always not count on faithfulness to the supply, however Scribe’s efforts to show Shakespeare’s play into an opera have successfully neutralised the plot.

Miranda is in fact the prima donna with Fernando (Ferdinand) as her primo uomo. Calibano (Caliban) is the villain, with a suitably elevated function, together with help from the off-stage voice of his mom Sicorace (Sycorax). Ariele (Ariel) is a coloratura soubrette, which leaves Prospero as considerably a spare wheel. As an alternative of being the protagonist, he flits out and in of the drama.

Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta - Jade Phoenix, Nikolay Zemlianskikh - Wexford Festival Opera (Photo Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)
Halévy: La Tempesta – Jade Phoenix, Nikolay Zemlianskikh
Wexford Competition Opera (Picture Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)

Act One ends with a rapturous duet for Miranda and Fernando. Act Two is sort of totally dedicated to Calibano’s plotting and Prospero is absent. Having seen them in the course of the Prologue, Alonso and Antonio solely reappear initially of Act Three and their function within the drama is cursory. Prospero is extra of an observer on this act and the ultimate phrase goes to Miranda who will get a considerable Italian fashion rondo to complete. In actual fact, you’re feeling the Italian affect elsewhere, as Halévy makes use of double arias (cavatina and cabaletta) too, maybe he was taking into consideration that the opera can be premiered by an organization that specialised in Italian opera.

The outcome is an interesting collection of set items. Miranda, Fernando and Calibano all get large-scale entrance arias, the duet for Miranda and Fernando is reasonably fantastic, and what little music Prospero does get is sufficiently participating to make you remorse his lowered function within the drama. Equally, Ariele has pleasurable interventions although he spends reasonably too lengthy locked right into a tree! However all this doesn’t fairly add as much as a coherent drama, as a result of there isn’t any actual protagonist; the tenor hero, Fernando, is sort of totally passive. Halévy is a composer who broke the mould in his 1838 grand opera La Juive when the starring tenor function was given to the heroine’s father reasonably than her love curiosity, and also you remorse that one thing comparable was not carried out right here. 

Because it was, Roberto Catalano’s regie-theater heavy manufacturing maybe was not superb and La Tempesta would have benefitted from a fluffier, extra divertissement-like method. That we had been severe regie-theater territory was steered by the metal-frame beds within the Prologue and the greatcoats worn by the refrain and dancers, all of which felt very Nineteen Eighties. However set towards this, Ilaria Ariemme’s costumes additionally had a component of caprice; Fernando, Miranda, Prospero and Ariele had been all in cream, apparently carrying toiles, outlines for some unspecified and as but unfinished costume, with each Fernando and Mirando in distinctly Tudorbethan costume.

Roberto Catalano contributed a brief article to the programme e book, entitled The Website of Nostalgia, which elucidated his method to the opera, or at the least tried to although I’ve to admit that regardless of re-reading, I remained none the smart.

Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta - Hila Baggio, Giorgi Manoshvili - Wexford Festival Opera (Photo Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)
Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta – Hila Baggio, Giorgi Manoshvili – Wexford Competition Opera (Picture Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)

The forged made as sturdy a case as might be for the piece, and all efficiently negotiated the varied technical and stylistic hurdles that Halévy introduced them with. Hila Baggio was an enticing Miranda, fragile sounding however with an inside energy. Regardless of being introduced as sick, Giulio Pelligra made a bravely ardent Fernando with a positively fearsome entrance aria. Jade Phoenix was a fascinating Ariele, filled with appeal and technical delight. Nikolay Zemlianskikh made a charismatic Prospero, virtually managing to compensate for the way in which the function was underneath written. Giorgi Manoshvili was a vivid Calibano, dim however participating.

Gianluca Moro and Dan D’Souza had nice enjoyable as Stefano and Trinculo within the energetic consuming scene, while Rory Musgrave and Richard Shaffrey did their finest with the little music allotted to them as Alonso and Antonio. Emma Jungling gave sterling help within the off-stage function of Sicorace, Calibano’s mom. Francesco Cilluffo and the orchestra introduced out the most effective of Halévy’s rating.

This was a courageous and worthwhile enterprise. Vital editorial work needed to be undertaken to be able to create a contemporary performing version. La Tempesta may not be a masterpiece, however it’s a fascinating nook of musical historical past, a bit of cross-border cross-pollination that didn’t fairly work. But there’s loads of participating music within the opera, and we by no means find out about a piece till somebody has been courageous sufficient to stage it.

Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta - the Prologue - Wexford Festival Opera (Photo Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)
Fromental Halévy: La Tempesta – the Prologue – Wexford Competition Opera (Picture Clive Barda/ ArenaPAL)

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