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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Lucio Silla (1772)
Lucio Silla – Kurt Streit
Giunia – Patricia Petibon
Silvia Tro Santafé – Cecilio – Silvia Tro Santafé
Lucio Cinna – Inga Kalna
Celia – María José Moreno
Aufidio – Kenneth Tarver
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real de Madrid/Ivor Bolton
Claus Guth (stage director)
rec. Teatro Real de Madrid, 2017
Colour, 16/9, Full HD
BELAIR CLASSIQES BAC450 Blu-ray [180 mins]

My experience of Mozart’s Lucio Silla has, until now, been a purely audio one, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s star-studded set (2292-44928-2) a firm favourite despite its drastic cuts. The story revolves around the Roman general and statesman Lucio Silla or Lucius Sulla, who held the position of consul twice and revived the dictatorship, and his infatuation with the daughter of his enemy Gaius Marius, Giunia, who in turn loves the exiled senator Cecilio. This was not the first opera on the subject, with both Handel’s opera of 1713, Silla, and this present one taking liberties with historical accuracy for dramatic effect. Here, especially Silla is portrayed as a blood thirsty womanising tyrant, when in fact he was a skilful general and respected politician.

Mozart set Giovanni de Gamerra’s libretto when he was only sixteen for a performance at the Teatro Regio Ducal in Milan on December 26 1772, with the opera being regarded as only a moderate success. The first thing that struck me about this production was just how much better the story flows when compared with the Harnoncourt recording, it is not just the reinsertion of the minor cuts (Harnoncourt cut the role of Aufidio, tribune and friend of Lucio Silla, completely from his recording). This meant that Aufidio’s Act II aria’ Guerrier che d'un acciaro’, which is important in the understanding of Lucio Silla’s personality, was new to me, and with it Silla’s character becomes more developed, indeed when watching this, I soon became more and more aware of the shortcomings of the Harnoncourt set, with this production giving me a greater understanding of the story.

This production is littered with some very fine singing, with Kurt Streit being a wonderful Silla, from his first entry into the action in his Act I recitative ‘A te dell’amore mio, del mio riposo’, which he shares with María José Moreno as his sister Celia, it is clear that he brings real presence and distinction to the role. Patricia Petibon has become well known for playing the role of Giunia and has stated that this would be the last time she plays it. She is a singer I admire and of whom I have a number of recordings, and here she is called upon not only to be a great actor but to also sing with great vocal dexterity, her voice might have lost a little of that youthful bloom that first brought her to my attention, but this is a performance of impressive stature, with her Act II aria ‘Ah se il crudel periglio’ a good example of thi;, it is also, with its vocal theatrics, the nearest to a ‘mad scene’, something Petibon is renowned for, and it is no wonder that it is met with rapturous applause.

The rest of the participants also offer wonderful performances, with Inga Kalna impressive as Lucio Cinna especially in Scene Vi of Act II where she stars in the recitative and aria ‘Nel fortunato istante’. As already mentioned, having the role of Aufidio helps the plot and Kenneth Tarver is impressive in this small but not insignificant role. Celia, Silla’s sister is an important role throughout the opera and has telling and important interventions in each act; here María José Moreno is excellent, especially in her Act I aria ‘Se lusinghiera speme’ and her aria ‘Quando sugl'arsi camp’ from Act II. As the exiled Cecilio, Silvia Tro Santafé is more than impressive, especially in Act III, were she proves herself an excellent actor as well as singer. The playing of the Orchestra of the Teatro Real de Madrid is superb, especially they are using period instruments, something that is probably unusual for many of them, but the natural brass and period timpani add to the performance. The Chorus of the Teatro Real de Madrid, although not used extensively, shines when it is called upon, whilst Ivor Bolton keeps the pace of the opera moving as he directs from the harpsichord.

I do have issue with the revolving set, it looks like a piece of brutalist architecture, and is reminiscent of Preston bus station with its white tiles and bare concrete, which most Prestonians love to hate and is the cause of many an argument; this and the costumes, mostly suits and boots, make the whole atmosphere very monochrome, something that makes the red of the blood stand out, and which for me is out of sorts with the story behind the history of the work. However, I do not find that it detracts from the action of the opera that much, with the performance more than making up for the failings of the set and costumes, I just wish that one day someone would produce a performance of an opera which is placed in the correct historical context.

Stuart Sillitoe



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