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GOOD CASTING IN THE LADY OF THE LAKE – ROSSINI


As often at the Paris Opera, the casting is taken good care of. It is too the matter with Giacchino Rossinis opera La Donna del Lago, (The Lady of the Lake), to a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after Walter Scotts epic poem.

Roberto Abbado is conductiong, and in the leading roles we enjoy the brilliant coloratur by Karine Deshayes, in the titelrole and Javier Camarena. A great pleasure.

Final scene of Lady of the Lake, photo: Agathe Poupeney

Final scene of Lady of the Lake, photo: Agathe Poupeney

The Lady of the Lake was first performed 24th October 1819 at the Theatro San Carlo in Naples with Isabella Colbran (the future Mrs. Rossini) in the titelrole. The Lady of the Lake was one often operas that Rossini composed for Theatro San Carlo, and it remained in the San Carlo repertoire for 12 years. After various performances in Europe and the United States, the work sank into oblivon for more than a century berfore being performed at the <Maggio Musicla Fiorentino in 1958, however it was the works revival at the Rossini Festival in 1981 that helped restoreits popularity.

The action, like that of Walter Scott´s novel, is set in Scotland in 1530 at the time of the Highlanders of Stirling against King James V.

The Kings former tutor Archibald Douglas, sung by Simon Orfila. has been banished, and has been obliged to flee into the mountains accompanied by his daughter Elena, Karine Deshayes. He lives there under the protection of the rebel leader Roderick Dhu, sung by Colin Lee. To whom Douglas has offered his daughter Elenas hand out of gratitude. Little does he realise that, meanwhile, his daughter has fallen in love with the young Malcolm Groeme, sung by the mezzosoprano Daniela Barcellona, who has taken to the bush to follow her.

A desperate Elena spends hours every day meditating on the shores of Loch Katrine whish has earned her the name of “lady of the lake” among the local population.

The King James V, (Giacomo V), with coloratura virtuosely sung by the Mexican tenor Javier Camarena, is guided by the reputed beauty of the mysterious lady of the lake, has disguised  as a hunter under the false name of Uberto of Snowdon. He leaves his huntsmen in order to seek her out. Having found her, he pretends to have lost his way. He is immediately enchanted by the young woman, and her unselfish hospitality.

The complications in this mixture of “who loves who” is ending up after some hours with the Malcom is being unied with Elena to the surprise and union of one and all.

Scenography, basic. The Lady of the Lake. Opera de Paris

Scenography, basic. The Lady of the Lake. Opera de Paris

As mentioned, the casting is first class, good singers, headed by the virtous Karine Deshayes with her brilliant and well placed and controlled coloratura is a hightlight in the titelrole, so is Daniela Barcellona as Malcom. Javier Camerana has some of the most difficult and demanding long colorature arias in the operalitterature. His opening of the second act is so demanding, so i didn´t know that it was possible to sing, but Javier Camarena did it very well. Where the one long passage is following after the other one. It is extremely difficult to make it perfect, and the tempo is high. Mamarena did it well, and it seemed that in addition he was feeling well on stage, and to fill all the operahouse with his beautiful voice.

In other roles we enjoyed Diana Axenth as Albina, Jason Bridges as Serano and Philippe Talbot as Bertram.

So far so well.

The Staging is done by Lluis Pasqual, and as it is a new add to the Paris Opera repertoire, the audience has been looking forward to how the staging, scenography and costumes should be solved. Unfortunately it is not all a succes. The staging is good, the instruction of the caracters is well done separately, but beside that, the scenography and the costumes is not satisfying. When I listen to the music and singing I am enjoying one history, which is very good. When I open my eyes, I see something else. With the left eye I have a feeling that I , when looking at all the “roles”, are looking at Julius Cæsar by Händel, and when looking with the other eye and enjoying the good choir parts, I wonder if I am at the opening party at La Traviata. It is like it is two different operas played at the same time visually. But trying to tell another history, The Lady of the Lake. Furtherone there is build up a kind of a grandiouse decoration, which by it self is great, beautiful and well functioning, and I see the ideas of trying to making different rooms for the different parts of the history. But I dont find a real scotsman, and I am not so shure that any of the building parts is to be found in Scotland. However during the time some of the Highland nature and the lake is appearing, but why is the backcarpet so strange, and seems like it has been in to war, perhaps the idea is that is leftover from the war between the Higlanders and James V, who knows?

When coming to the grand finale, it was great to see the use of the stage room, and enjoying the great scandelliers, no problem, but why trying to chnge the appearing singers to Black and White, they could have continued in their Julius Cæsar outfit.

During the way, by using the La Traviata ball scene outfit, I wondered if the staging idea was that the choir was enjoying a theatre piece inside in a grand palais, but then it became strange with the mixture of the variors appearing. As there are many dead parts, with only beautiful singing, which I dont mind to listen to, we were a lot disturbed by thre male and one female dancer, trying to show what we didnt see the singers in the leading roles were sining about. That idea could have been good. But when we only see the same movements repeated, the choreography by Montse Colomé was not renewing, or bringing any extra in to the history, and as the fighting was not done by fighting instroctors, it seemed wrong.

But seperately seen, The scenography is good, but for another opera. Some of the costumes are really delicious, but for another opera. I had a problem in the start by recognising who was King Giacocmo V and Rodrigo di Dbu, as their costumes were very much the same, and as they with make up  looked a bit the same, and mostly not are on stage at the same time  and are the same type tenors, it was not easily during the first act. The costumier has to think about it, and to help the audience and the singers in this way. after a while I found out that the King was wearing a kind of a mantle, but then in the end, before dressing up for the last royal scene with an even more royal mantle, he is coming on stage without mantle, then I was again being confused.

In the scenography the scenographer has an idea of letting a bench, an underwatership, and other details coming up from the underground, which was ok, but repeated to many times it looked strange.

Scenography: Ezio Frigerio. Costumes: Franca Squarciapino. Light: Vinicio Cheli, Choreography Montse Colomé, The good choir was instucted by Alessandro di Stefano.

This production is a co production with Opera de la Scala, Milano and Covent Garden in London, in that way, it will be interesting to hear how the different nationalities are reacting to the staging.

Honestly, I dont mind renewing operas, but they must be reasonable, and understandable. This was confusing.

Unfortunately we have not received fotos of Karine Deshayes and Javier Camarena from Opera de Paris.

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