English Touring Opera have included in their spring season a work that has been described as a “perplexing and sombre drama for connoisseurs rather than a popular favourite”.
It was a bold choice, for this story of two factions seeking power in Italy is dark and often totally unbelievable, and, though in the past director James Conway has shown he’s a sure hand in his staging, his updating of the action to the 20th century has not helped.
From the outset, the relatively small orchestra and chorus seemed to be overwhelmed by the weight and scale of a score that has to be momentous if it is to succeed.
When Simon, excellently sung by Craig Smith, comes onto a relatively bare stage, he looks as if he has been to a charity shop to buy his suit rather than a prospective leader.
As his adversary, Jacopo Fiesco, the highly regarded bass-baritone Keel Watson was totally out of his depth in trying to characterise this man torn with grief, and when his lost granddaughter, Amelia, eventually appears, Elizabeth Llewellyn was vocally a long way from the voice required for the role.
It was left to tenor Charne Rochford as Adorno to bring some vitality to the performance that it otherwise lacked.
Buxton Opera House