Le Villi on May 21st at Theatre Royal was the final performance in this season’s ‘Opera in Concert’ series. Consisting of two parts, the first included three instrumental pieces by Giacomo Puccini accompanied by some information about the music and the author. After the interval, the two-act opera Le Villi was performed as an operatic concert. ‘Opera in Concert’ is perfect for those who already like listening to classical music and opera, but don’t have a background knowledge of composers and eras.
The first half of the concert included ‘Perludio Sinfonico in A Major’, ‘Crisantemi’, and ‘Capriccio Sinfonico’. They were beautifully played with the whole orchestra on stage. What I personally liked the most was the conductor Stuart Stratford telling stories about Puccini and the music he has written. He seemed very at-ease on stage, addressing the audience, and it made me hope that the first part would last for hours.
After the interval, we were welcomed with the opera-concert staging of this incarnation of Le Villi. In the original version, Le Villi brings opera together with ballet and narration, whilst in this rendition, the opera and the narration were kept, but the ballet aspect was reduced to concert form. Scottish Opera’s staging of Le Villi seemed stuck someplace between an opera-concert, and a fully-acted opera: it honestly made me wish someone would stage Le Villi in all its glory. The main problem was that the lead singers constantly switched between the characters and their own (public) personas: acting and singing as if doing a full theatrical staging; but leaving the stage as they would in a concert. Similarly, they were given some props, but performed on a stage with the full orchestra and no setting. These problems have less to do with the concept of ‘Opera in Concert’ than with the lack of a theatre director who could bring unity to the performance.
The ‘Opera in Concert’ series is something I will watch out for next season, with hope that the nature of upcoming performances will be more clearly defined.