Put it in a box: La Donna Del Lago

Joyce DiDonato as Elena in La donna del lago © ROH / Bill Cooper 2013 It's great that the Royal Opera warns you with its subtitle to La Donna Del Lago, that it is a melodrama in two acts. There is so much going on with love, unrequited love, arranged marriages that the opera strains under the weight of its exposition... At first. But as things eventually get moving, particularly in the livelier second act, it turns out to be a memorable night of music making.

And of course there are some incredible performances. Joyce Didonato as Elena, the Lady of the Lake captures the drama and beauty of the role and stops the show with her aria "Tanti Affetti". Equally captivating was Daniela Barcellona as Malcom, Elena's lover. She makes her Covent Garden debut and handled difficult singing (and some difficult tartans) with ease. And of course there was Juan Diego Florez, who makes runs and top notes seem as if they are easy. With such fine performances the audience was on their feet cheering at the end.

The audience were a tad hostile however to the creative team and the decision to set the action in a museum. I had left the auditorium by the time they came onstage but had to stick my head back in to see what the ruckus was about.
The last time I had heard catcalls and booing was during the most recent production of Falstaff, an unsatisfying update to the 1950s that made no sense. At least with this production the directorial choices were subtle and thought-provoking. Nonetheless the opening night audience wasn't up for it. Who knew that Rossini fans could be like that?

It is a silly opera anyway and what makes it memorable is the music making. So it hardly seems to be a crime to put everyone in glass boxes at the end or frame the action as a museum. The rationale for doing so, and how it represents the construction of a legend for other, nationalistic purposes, is described in the extended video below. It is worth watching before going to the opera. And whether it is a lady in box or a lady in the lake it looks and sounds great, and the opportunity to see some of the best interpreters of Rossini's work is one not to miss.

The preview for the opera is below. It runs until 11 June and is sold out so the usual 10am routine will apply where 67 tickets are available on the day of the performance if you head to the box office.

Photo credit: ROH Bill Cooper

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