Timothy Nelson’s production, brilliantly choreographed by Jo Meredith, brings the dichotomy of this story to the fore.
Updated to 1920s England, complete with Union flags and the Charleston, King Riccardo is surrounded by the fierce loyalty of most of his people. But there are a few dissidents who feel his rule is unjust.
Whatever the truth, he has fallen in love with the wife of his most fervent supporter, and she with him. So while his public life is full of patriotism, pomp and enjoyment, he is consumed with love and wracked with guilt.
Oliver Gooch’s CHROMA Chamber Ensemble returns to the Iford cloister with its cleverly balanced account of Verdi’s music, toned down for the size of the venue but never missing the power, passion, excitement or delicacy required to tell this complex story.
The eight cast members, five of them multi-tasking throughout the evening to fill the tiny performance space, are all fine acting, dancing singers, and the action never flags as the lighting (by Charlie Lucas) transforms a terrace into a spooky cavern into a graveyard into a ballroom. There are memorable coups de theatre … but I won’t spoil the surprise.
American tenor Brian Arreola is a passionate and tortured Riccardo, with WNO regular Eddie Wade as an elegant and dependable Renato.
Nina Lejderman impresses as the page, Oscar, French mezzo Marianne Vidal relishes the possibilities offered by Ulrica and Catrin Aur is a powerful Amelia.
Iford is now in its 20th year, and this production is one of its finest.
Ballo is at Iford until 20th June, and a few tickets may be available. The opera season continues with Orpheus in the Underworld and Agrippina.
Photographs by Rob Coles.