MOZART Lucio Silla (Bolton)
It’s not even six months since I welcomed Marshall Pynkoski’s production of Lucio Silla from Milan. Now comes another DVD/Blu ray, filmed at Madrid’s Teatro Real. Where Pynkoski revelled in Baroque theatricality, though, Claus Guth – never one for excess – offers something more serious and austere, and ultimately more thought-provoking.
Christian Schmidt’s revolving set presents two contrasting worlds. That of Lucio Silla is a place of grubby white tiles and confinement, devoid of pomp and indicative of crumbling power; that of the brave Cecilio and his beloved Giunia is all dark blue tunnels and long shadows. In Act 2 we are presented with another space, a futuristic concrete lair mildly reminiscent of a zoetrope or salad-spinner.
Having established the contrast between these worlds, Guth’s most touching moments are where we sense both the closeness and distance between them. The director further enriches the action by giving us powerful sense of Silla as a troubled character – a tragic one, even – and offering a sense of the ritualistic that’s reminiscent of the trials of both Orpheus and Mozart’s Tamino: Giunia and Cecilia are often on stage together, but kept apart. There’s no shortage of blood, and a vivid sense of the characters’ desperation, of their existing on the edge of what’s psychologically bearable. The final reconciliation is deeply unsettling and ambiguous, with Guth long having set the action’s moral compass spinning.
It’s a fascinating and demanding production, for the viewer as well as, clearly, the performers. In the title-role, Kurt Streit, a distinguished Mozartian who’s turned in recent years to heavier roles, is compelling, the voice’s sweetness now mixed with an extra stern virility. Patricia Petibon acts with impressive intensity as Giunia but her singing is not always easy to bear: intonation often droops and her pallid tone turns to uncomfortable yelping when faced with the coloratura demands of ‘Ah se il crudel periglio’. Silvia Tro Santafé offers a terrifically sung Cecilio, though can’t match Marianne Crebassa’s overall performance on the La Scala film. I was also more impressed by Inga Kalna’s Cinna there than here, too; but there’s one major bonus on the present film in the elegant guise of Kenneth Tarver singing Aufidio, a role cut from Pynkoski’s production.
Ivor Bolton’s conducting is very respectable but lacks the punch of Marc Minkowski’s – or of Adám Fischer’s on his (audio-only) Dacapo set. Musically things could perhaps be a bit more compelling, then, but anyone interested in the drama of this early Mozart opera seria should seek out Guth’s fascinating staging.