Testament to that the opera deserves to be better known
Ercole Sul Termodonte is a highly pleasurable opera. While not one of the operatic greats, it is one of those little-known operas that deserves to be better known in my mind, as it does have an interesting story and beautiful and stylishly distinctive music from Vivaldi. And this production from 2007 is thoroughly enjoyable on the most part, not without its imperfections but if you wish to get yourself acquainted with Ercole Sul Termodonte seek out this production to do so.
The production's visual style is very bold and audacious, it looks and feels classical which is fitting with the very Greek theatrical style. There is a little bit of contemporary thrown into the mix, but it didn't feel jarring or distasteful. The nudity didn't turn me off at all, it emphasises the sexual struggles between the characters and their situations and it definitely demands attention without getting too in-your-face. The stage directing is consistently arresting and while there are some innovative ideas the levels of distaste lie very low on the radar, which is a good thing.
Musically, the production is also very fine. The orchestral playing is respectful to Vivaldi's style, playing sumptuously and articulating crisply. Alan Curtis provides a fresh reading of the score, though does have a tendency to pace things a little too quickly, maybe part of the reason why some of the colouratura was not as clear as it could have been.
From a performance and vocal standpoint, while not without its hindrances the production is solid. A good starting point would be Zachary Stains. While his singing is a tad too coarse and nasal in the lower register at the start, it becomes much warmer and flexible later and stays like that for the rest of the performance. He gives a very masculine and heroic performance that is in full command of his vocals and character, helped by superb diction and intelligent interpreting of the text. Apart from starting off a little too fey, Randall Scotting's characterisation does mature and is more assured. And I did think that with his rich and smooth tone, even for a counter-tenor, that he provided the performance's most beautiful singing.
If I were to be honest, the females were not quite as impressive. Marina Bartoli fared least, she is compelling and attractive, but too much of her colouratura is tired and smudged. Laura Cerchi nails the comic aspects of Martesia which more than makes up for some occasional thin tone. But I have nothing to complain whatsoever about Mary-Ellen Nesi who is absolutely thrilling in every sense especially at the end of her big aria. Her singing is enough to raise the hair, and dramatically she is full of intensity.
Luca Dordello is the weak link of the production for me, being frustratingly inconsistent. His singing is sometimes quite nice but too often it is very acidic, and the colouratura is riddled with inadequacies. Telemone is not a big role, but Filippo Mineccia injects a lot of fun into it which I found pleasing. Overall, a good and thoroughly enjoyable if imperfect production. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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