The singing and music are great but the rest are mixed
Rossini has always been a favourite, especially with Il Barbiere Di Siviglia and Guillaume(William) Tell. La Donna del Lago is not one of his best. The music is wonderful, especially O Fiamma Soave and the "love at first sight" duet, and the characters intrigue, but the story is rather weak with an incomprehensible extended scene at the end of act 1. This production I had mixed feelings about. The best things about the production are by far the singing and music, which generally are both outstanding. The music is stylishly and sensitively performed by the orchestra and Riccardo Muti's conducting is superb.
June Anderson sings with a lot of flexibility, and vocally it is a terrific performance. Even better is Martine Dupuy as Malcolm, her voice is rich and her technique is smooth. Of the male cast, faring best is Rockwell Blake, looking elegant and singing wonderfully throughout, especially O Fiamma Soave which is by far the best individual rendition of the performance. Chris Merritt I found disappointing. I like Merritt, but apart from the usual agile singing I hear in roles like Arnold(Guillaume Tell), I found it disappointingly edgy here. By that I mean a beautiful heroic sound in the middle/lower registers but a very unappealing nasal top which is very uncharacteristic of him.
Gurgio Surjan also disappoints, his singing could have been much more dynamic and there is a wobble to his voice now that makes his intonation approximate. Ernesto Gavazzi though is as solid as ever.I loved the sets, they were very atmospheric yet elegant with Herzog's distinctive style all over them. The costumes however were mixed, Anderson's and Dupuy's are appropriate, but for some reason Merritt's is very unflattering. The sound is very good.
Despite the music, singing and sets, the staging, some of the filming and acting disappoint. In regard to the filming, the lack of close ups and the constant use of medium and long range took away from any connection with the characters, and after watching this production I am still confused as to why the stage was lit in such a dark way. By all means, it is not quite as problematic as La Scala's Guglielmo Tell which despite the wonderful music, singing and orchestra/conducting was one of the most visually unappealing opera productions I've seen, but it was still a problem.
The staging didn't involve me in any way. There was one touch I liked, which was Anderson's arrival by boat, but the rest seemed very static and cold. I didn't like the decision to have the female chorus present during Elena and Uberto's duet, the duet is very intimate, and to have people listening in was I felt distracting and didn't make much sense. The acting came across as very stand and deliver quality with many of the key players, Dupuy and Blake show some spark and to a lesser extent Gavassi, Anderson has some great moments but also some dull ones but Merritt and Surjan come across as disengaged.
Overall, not bad, in fact pretty decent especially musically, but it could've been much better too with more involved staging and acting. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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