All artistic organisations need to make money to survive, and New York’s Metropolitan Opera is no exception, with its more recent challenge being that of an audience turning from the renowned classical productions to newer, more modern operas, despite these often lacking the depth in both libretto and orchestra of the established repertoire. The return of Giordano’s exhilarating Fedora – a new production directed by David McVicar rather than a revival – after a 25-year absence may reflect the perfect balance in its appeal to audiences old and new; it was certainly one of the most enjoyable productions I have seen and which at the time of its own writing would have been considered very modern and radical.
Princess Fedora Romazoff (Sonya Yoncheva) has only just arrived at the home of her fiancé Count Vladimir Andreyevich in St Petersburg when he is brought in wounded. Police Inspector Gretch (Lucia Lucas), from questioning those present including a servant, Dimitri (Laura Krumm), and a coachman, Cirillo (Jeongcheol Cha), determines that the likely suspect is Loris Ipanoff (Piotr Beczała) whom he, along with diplomat, De Siriex (Lucas Meacham) plan to investigate further. When the doctor announces that the count has died, Fedora is devastated and swears revenge.
At a reception at Fedora’s house in Paris, Countess Olga Sukarev (Rosa Feola) introduces the virtuoso Polish pianist Boleslao Lazinski (Bryan Wagorn), before a mutual flirtation with De Siriex. Fedora has begun to fall for Loris but after his apparent confession, she writes a letter setting out the details and passes it to Gretch. When Loris returns he provides proof that the count had seduced his wife and was only marrying Fedora for her money, and they are reconciled.
In the garden of Fedora’s villa in Switzerland, Loris and Fedora are deeply in love. But is the arrival of De Siriex just to relight his own flame with Olga or does he bring other news from St Petersburg? Just how strong does love have to be to survive and forgive?
Fedora is an opera about décor and Charles Edwards set gave us that and more with each of its three stunning locations emanating from the previous one as layers are cleverly stripped away and we move from a claustrophobic Russian man cave through to a more elaborate and feminine Paris salon before finally arriving at the airiness of a Swiss villa terrace.
Matching the coffered ceilings, gilt-edged sofas, and patterned wallpaper come Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s glittering gowns and sparkling tiaras but even these give way at last as the final act takes us back to basics with only Fedora’s redemptive cross worn round her neck connecting to what has gone before.
On stage saw strong performances where Yoncheva’s spectacular vocal was more than ample to meet the very highs and very lows of a soprano’s range whilst tenor Beczała powerful and passionate delivery was something else to behold, with their natural chemistry resulting in an all-round moving and emotional performance. Feola and Beacham were equally good and comfortably drawing on the natural humour, provided their perfect counterfoil. A special mention to Lucas and Cha who provided wonderful support, whilst Krumm demonstrated a real stage presence suggesting she is one to watch out for.
The verismo provides a sumptuous style from which the orchestra, and the on-stage Wagorn, led by conductor Marco Armiliato provide their own drama with a depth and intensity aligning with the tempestuous characters as they move between the many human emotions expressed through despair and regret; hope and expectation; love and belief. This was a joyous production which I could happily enjoy again and again.
Reviewer: Mark Davoren
Reviewed: 14th January 2023
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★