Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

The Siege of Calais

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

The Siege of Calais

Article excerpt

Review of Gaetano Donizettis The Siege of Calais. Directed by James Conway, The English Touring Opera, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, UK, April 8, 2015.

This opera, which in 1836 premiered in Naples, the operatic capital of nineteenth-century Europe, has a range of sources which include Italian and French plays, a ballet, and ultimately Pierre-Laurent de Belloys 1765 play Le siège de Calais-a recent edition of which was reviewed in this journal (RECTR 28.2). Belloy's play is discussed by Logan Connors, editor of the MHRA 2014 edition of Le siège de Calais, in terms of its invention- or not-of the patriotic historical drama genre. Donizettis opera, much reduced in plot complication, also celebrates the heroism of the inhabitants of Calais. The confidently besieging Edoardo (Edward III) sung in the English Touring Opera (ETO) version by Grant Doyle (baritone) seems, if not a villain, to be a cheery brute.

The ETOs version, with its stark stage set of a large broken concrete pipe, fragments of masonry, and odd dangling rags, along with its "modern" dress is ambiguous in its location and period and does not suggest any "patrie" in particular. The scene setting and drab clothing are all too familiar to us from newspapers, the internet, and television news programs. This siege could be taking place in Syria, in the Ukraine, in Iraq, or as director James Conway puts it in his program notes, in Stalingrad "the definitive siege of modern times. …

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