Talented cast rise to challenge
WRITTEN as it is in Singspiel form, with spoken dialogue between the musical numbers, Beethoven's only opera is an ideal candidate to be performed in a concert version.
Jean-Nicolas Bouilly's drama had already done duty for two composers before Joseph Sonnleithner and Georg Friedrich fashioned a libretto to partner Beethoven's music. In an attempt to make the melodramatic story of Leonora's courageous plot to free her falsely imprisoned husband, more accessible to a modern audience Graham Billing's new English narration has a much lighter tone.
The result was a clash at times between the English narration, the lyrics which were sung in a heavier sounding German, and the splendid playing of Tony Burke's orchestral reduced score.
The extended finale, the only time the full chorus joined the principal singers, admirably captured the opera's melodramatic climax.
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Apart from a few hard edged notes Ethel-Jane Cormack brought the right mixture of determination and love to the role of Leonora. She was at her best in the romantic duet with Bjorn Huestege, who had by then recovered from a rather uncertain start.
The roles, and vocal challenges set by the Head Jailor, evil Prison Governor, and state Minister sat easily in the talented shoulders of Martin Le Poidevin, Brendan Casey, and Roderick Hunt. As did the characters of the lovesick Marzelline and her frustrated admirer Jaquino, finely judged and played by Dajana Kovac and a young tenor to note for the future, Guy Withers.