Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

The concert opened with Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, nicely atmospheric, then with witty bassoons spiriting off a Hallé performance of vitality and ever-increasing characterisation and drama, also as here, (If you are not familiar with Dukas’s Symphony in C, I urge you to try it; please see below.) Like Sorcerer, Respighi’s Fountains of Rome is a masterpiece of invention and orchestration (Technicolor before it existed), a dawn-to-dusk piece picturing fountains at various times of day, music full of imagery, and once again in a finely crafted account bristling with detail, the Trevi fountain, under the gaze of the midday sun, especially majestic, Sir Mark sticking to his tempo guns and then he and his musicians were subtle merchants of moonlight.

Puccini’s one-Act Il tabarro (the first of the Il trittico operas, 1918, for the Met) is set in Paris, not the city of our dreams on this occasion, but ominously set among put-upon and impoverished dockworkers – verismo with a vengeance, including unfaithfulness, two murders (Luigi’s body, Giorgetta’s lover, left under the cloak of the title for her to find before she is also killed), and revenge. A wonderfully descriptive opening (Puccini another orchestral genius), the motion of the Seine, boat and car horns sounding, setting the work in progress, some local colour, but tension mounts as situations are revealed, and as things start to go downhill there is room for a rapturous if illicit love-duet, with Michele increasingly suspicious of Giorgetta, and when he discovers Luigi is her lover Michele strangles him, a fate that will also be meted out to his wife. This was a marvellous performance, with superb, impassioned singing (in Italian) and the Hallé in top form (including a magical moment of distant trumpets) under Elder’s generous and opera-seasoned direction, transcending the airwaves for fifty-five minutes of imagined stagecraft, baleful brass closing the show, leaving no doubt of the tragedy that has just unfolded.

Lucio Gallo – Michele, a barge-owner (baritone)
Natalya Romaniw – Giorgetta, Michele’s wife (soprano)
Adam Smith – Luigi, a stevedore (tenor)
Annunziata Vestri – La Frugola, Talpa’s wife (mezzo-soprano)
Alasdair Elliott – ‘Tinca,’ a stevedore (tenor)
Simon Shibambu – ‘Talpa,’ a stevedore (bass)
Shengzhi Ren – Song Seller (tenor)
Laura Lolita Perešivana (soprano) & Ryan Vaughan Davies (tenor) – Two Lovers

Men of the Philharmonia Voices (offstage)

Paul Dukas’s splendid Symphony in C; Jean Fournet conducts the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic; concert performance; February 16, 1992; Utrecht.

Il trittico at this year’s Salzburg Festival: