BELLINI I Puritani
I Puritani was Bellini’s last opera, commissioned by the Théâtre Italien in Paris and performed with a star cast – the famous ‘Puritani quartet’ of Giulia Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache – in January 1835. This production is based on a new edition which restores material normally omitted, including a trio and a section of the Act 3 duet for the lovers.
Some puzzling aspects of the staging are explained in two short ‘extra’ features. Francesco Negrin views the libretto as ‘silly and not making much sense’: what Elvira says is unacceptable to the other characters and she goes mad ‘because she can’t express herself’. And Es Devlin’s set design incorporates a text from the New Testament in Braille to symbolise the Puritans’ blindness. What isn’t explained is why Arturo is shot instead of joining Elvira in a happy ending.
So this is not going to please anyone looking for a traditional approach to Queen Victoria’s ‘dear Puritani’. On the other hand, Negrin gets some excellent performances from his cast, who are able to express emotion without being either hammy or cheesy. Scott Hendricks as the rejected lover sings nobly after a gusty start. Riccardo Zanellato glances at the conductor rather too often but he is equally believable. John Osborn manages a stupendous top F, non-falsetto, and his singing in the trio, lyrical but desperate, is even more wonderful.
Mariola Cantarero, in an unbecoming auburn wig, impresses both in legato and in coloratura. Apart from an over-fast ‘Suoni la tromba’, Giuliano Carella conducts more than capably. Go on, give it a whirl.