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OPERA REVIEW - L'Heure Espagnole/Gianni Schicchi

“It’s a nice little thing, but I wouldn’t want to see it again.” This was the verdict of an exquisitely dressed but sour faced harridan in the orchestra stalls. One could say the same of her pinched but pretty face perhaps.
OPERA REVIEW - L'Heure Espagnole/Gianni Schicchi
“It’s a nice little thing, but I wouldn’t want to see it again.” This was the verdict on Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole, currently at the Royal Opera House in a double bill with Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, of an exquisitely dressed but sour faced harridan in the orchestra stalls. One could say the same of her pinched but pretty face perhaps. I would happily see L’Heure again in its current incarnation, a revival of Richard Jones’ 2007 production. Ruxandra Donose gets as much comedy as she can from Concepcion, the clockmaker’s frustrated wife, who is plagued by unsatisfactory lovers until she finally realises that the answer to her prayers is under her nose in the person of the muscular muleteer Ramiro (Christopher Maltman). The physical comedy in the farcical shifting of the clocks (concealing the two hopeful lovers) slightly upstages Ravel’s music but this is no fault of Antonio Pappano. Schicchi is the story of the grasping, snobbish Donati family; all of whom are hell bent on inheriting the estate of the fast fading invalid, Buoso. Neighbour Gianni Schicchi’s daughter, Lauretta, is in love with a young Donati but not considered good enough. When the family try to make use of Gianni’s cunning to change Buoso’s will, he soon spots a suitable way to solve his daughter’s problem. Maria Bengtsson is excellent as Lauretta and I would very much like to hear her sing ***** again. John Macfarlane’s two intricate set designs both make use of the full width of the Opera House stage. Torquemada’s clock workshop is a little too cluttered in L’Heure but Buoso’s gloomy death chamber is just right. It is easy to see why this double bill has been revived – just steer clear of the orchestra stalls when you go. L'Heure Espagnole/Gianni Schicchi runs until 28 October.

David Trennery

Wednesday 21 October, 2009

About the author

David Trennery is a free-lance writer.