This was vintage Verdi, complete with turbulent personal relationships, misunderstandings malignantly exploited by the villain, all culminating in star-crossed lovers and their tragic death. The music, though not as familiar as, say, Rigoletto, has some fine dramatic moments, and this production gave them full measure. Niall Hoskin was an admirable Miller, a fond foolish father, concerned only for his daughter, Luisa, his rich baritone in good order, both in the solo work and the ensembles. Edward Harper’s Count was suitably and arrogantly aristocratic, determined that his son should marry the “right woman” and angry when the young man disagreed. His henchman, Meik Wurm - what an apt name - played by Roderick Hunt, was the seriously sinister villain, a big man with a big bass voice to match who gave a fine performance. Three splendidly sonorous bass baritones who all looked and acted the part. Judy Davis as the Duchess rejected by Rodolfo provided an affectingly tearful response: and Gill Clarke as Laura, Luisa’s confidante, gave another of the attractive vignettes she does so well.
Rupert Drury was an excellent Rodolfo, the voice and diction clear, the passion given full reign, and Hannah Lockwood’s Luisa was the perfect foil, her warm supple soprano radiant throughout the range, and the tragedy of her situation conveyed with real pathos. The final scene, when their hands just managed to touch, was a genuinely emotional moment, with all the singers totally involved.
The chorus, without a lot of singing to do, nonetheless made an important contribution to the excellence of this production. Neil Kirkman’s staging was ingenious, neat and very effective: and John Palmer’s direction found just the right balance between the light-hearted warmth of the early crowd scenes and the final fatal denouement. Peter Blackwood’s orchestra positioned at the rear of the stage behind a transparent curtain, gave excellent support, using television monitors - though I wonder if he missed direct eye-contact with the singers? But the equilibrium between the vocal and orchestral sound worked very well and the whole performance crackled with moving, dramatic tension. Bath Opera should be very pleased, both with the quality of the singing and the bringing to vibrant life of Verdi’s creation.
Peter Lloyd Williams