Arts Review: Aleko & Francesca da Rimini

Conductor: Stuart Stratford, 6th May, Theatre Royal Glasgow

Scottish Opera’s Sunday Series: Opera in Concert stages pared down recitals of overlooked operas composed by great figures in operatic history, and they do just that with the latest production of Aleko & Francesca da Rimini. This double concert of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s lesser known pieces showcases the composer’s evocative scores and dark tendencies. There are very obvious parallels between the two stories of jealousy and betrayal, although with markedly different settings – a Romani camp and the second circle of hell.

In Aleko, the titular character’s Romani wife, Zemfira, grows weary of her husband and takes up an affair with a younger man, concluding in a violent tragedy. Similarly, Francesca da Rimini concerns an unfaithful wife who succumbs to a passion shared with her spouse’s brother, as told to Dante in his descent into hell. Both operas were adapted from Alexander Pushkin poems and are rife with beautiful melancholia.

Isolated without any of the gaudy trappings of fully staged productions, these operas shine by merit of the compositions themselves. From the mounting sorrow of Aleko to the terrors of hell in Francesca da Rimini, the orchestra sweep you up in the melodrama. Oleg Dolgov and Ekaterina Goncharova are a wonderful duo as the lovers in both productions, with Goncharova in particular showing impressive range in her shift from the spiteful Zemfira to the pious Francesca. Bass Alexei Tanovitski has an exceptional voice, while our perpetually scorned husband Evez Abdulla brings rage, anguish, and love in equal measure. His presence on stage is weighty and his brilliant performance brings you to sympathise even with his murderous temperament.

Conductor Stuart Stratford teases all of these elements from the performances, shining a light on operas which evidently well deserve a little more attention.

[Louise Wylie – @womanpendulum]

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