Opera: Il Turco in Italia and Prima Donna

It was a weekend for checklist operas. Once you have seen them you can mark them off your list as never needing to see them again.

First up was Il Turco in Italia at the Royal Opera. Here was a great cast let down by Rossini's over plotted and overlong opera. Still when the cast could sing and act it was hard to be annoyed and wish they would get on with it. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo as the prince and Aleksandra Kurzak as the errant wife made infidelity seem so glamorous too. I also wasn't so sure about the cardboard cutout set, but I did like the sleeping cat. There should be more stuffed animals in productions.

The Royal Opera also continues its trend for non-singing beefcake in productions (following on from the Rake's Progress), with a muscle man parading in his speedos at the close to taunt Kurzak's character one more time. Leaving the theatre we almost ran into him racing towards the tube station. He was almost unrecognisable in his tight t-shirt but the glowing tan was a giveaway... It finishes Monday night.

Saturday night was a chance to catch Rufus Wainwright's opera Prima Donna at Saddler's Wells, which had its premiere in Manchester last year. Whereas Il Turco in Italia had enough plot for two operas, this had barely any. It was a bit of the third act of Traviata meets Sunset Boulevard. An opera about a singer who has lost her voice, gives and interview and then an autograph is never going to work... Especially when the music sounds like Puccini on a bad day and no cliche was left unwarmed. The booming orchestrations didn't help either as they simply served to confuse everything and also drown out the singers. I wasn't quite sure at times either what we were listening to could pass for singing either...

All told, it felt like a one act opera drawn out to two and a half excruciating and hours... Afterwards we escaped to Soho for a drink. It was bewhildering what to make of it sober as the following Audioboo can attest. Here's hoping Rufus continues to write music, but lets hope he has got writing operas out of his system...


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