Sung in Italian with English surtitles.
|Craig Smith and Elizabeth Llewellyn as
Simon and Amelia.
all photography copyright ETO and
Richard Hubert Smith
|Grant Doyle and Keel Watson
Many people will be most curious about up and coming soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn's debut in the beautiful role of Amelia which is at the top end of lyric repertoire and is entering the spinto territory. Hearing her "up close" in the Hackney Empire revealed things that I couldn't hear during her recent ENO Micaelas. The voice has a very smoky/husky lower register, dark middle range and incisive, full bodied top. The vibrato I find quite slow and wide for her voice category, but overall it is a sound of some beauty. The viscosity and density of the voice suggests that more spinto repertoire awaits, but it doesn't always feel fully in control yet - diminuendos aren't smooth and just cut out to off the breath singing, and occasionally a note doesn't sound fully engaged or supported until a quarter of a second into the note. The contrast between the smooth top and husky lower middle voice and chest voice gives the voice a raw edge which some will like, but to me it suggests raw potential that is yet to be fully capitalised on. She's still at the very early stages of her career so I look forward to seeing her continue to develop. Acting wise she is not very fluent either and seems inhibited in her interaction with her father and with Adorno, her lover. As mentioned already though, her two colleagues also had issues in this regard, and it was the only thing that marred the evening for me. The beautiful and important scene in which Boccanegra finds his long lost daughter is an unfortunate casualty.
Overall though this is a good evening of opera, with great musical rewards and the emotional pay off in Act 3 is overwhelming. The ETO's orchestra continue to go from strength to strength and are even better in conductor Michael Rosewell's hands than they were in their already impressive showing in yesterday's Cosi. The orchestral sound is simply magnificent for a band of this size, yielding nothing to the ROH orchestra (who will play the opera this summer), the strings' richness and fullness belying their small numbers and the wind and brass blending beautifully and never overpowering them. The sense of ensemble is excellent. What more can you ask for?