Magazine article Musical Opinion

L'Arlesiana at Holland Park

Magazine article Musical Opinion

L'Arlesiana at Holland Park

Article excerpt

L'ARLESIANA AT HOLLAND PARK

Opera Holland Park have put those of us interested in rare and exotic repertory even further into their debt with their production of Francesco Cilea's L'Arlesiana on 4 August. Previously given in this country only in three small-scale performances by the Philopera Circle in 1968, this new production represented the first major UK staging of an important work of the verismo school which had been premiered in Milan in 1897 with Caruso in the leading tenor role of Federico.

Cilea would, of course, go on to find greater fame with Adriana Lecouvreur, his 1902 melodrama of life and love on the French classical stage, but this earlier work, based on the play L 'Aldsienne by Alphonse Daudet, for which Bizet had earlier composed Incidental Music, offers another side of his musical make-up. It is essentially a pastoral piece, though with a tragic foundation, and is set on Rosa Manai's farm in Province. Rosa's eldest son, Federico, has fallen in love with a mysterious girl from Arles, whom we never meet, only to lapse into despair and eventual suicide on discovering that she was the mistress of Metifio, a Drover.

For this almost quintessentially realistic plot Cilea conceived music that skilfully suggests the ambience and defines the characters' emotions in the usual heady verismo style. Not all the score is memorable, though the best of it, including the tenor aria known as the Lamento di Federico, has a strikingly passionate quality. All in all this proved a worthwhile revival. …

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