A visually impressive production by Edmea in Wexford
There was a sense of the solemnity of a pilgrimage rather than the dizzying excitement of a gala as the Wexford Festival reopened to the public last night with a fully staged production of Edmea (1886). Born in Lucca, contemporary of a more famous son, Puccini, Alfredo Catalani had great success in his short life.
Worn by Toscanini who conducted the work at only 20 years old, it became one of Catalani’s most popular operas during his lifetime. His work is largely forgotten today with the exception of a single aria from La Wally thanks to its inclusion in the 1979 film, Diva. Would a 21st century see Edmée as a long lost masterpiece or an interesting curiosity?
As the opera plots go on, it is later that most – an orphan thwarted in love is forced to marry the servant of his cruel guardian. There is descent into madness before a happy ending because she obtains her prince but at the cost of a terrible sacrifice. Director Julia Burbach presents a striking array of two-level mirror images. The dimly lit lower half presents itself as a surreal underground world. The director’s notes revealed that the concept was a portrayal of Edmea’s subconscious rather than an afterlife.
The production was visually impressive. The wigs and costumes were fabulous – jewel-colored taffeta dresses and a choir crowned with a profusion of auburn bobs that might have come out of the covers of a 1950s Vogue magazine.
French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels and Italian tenor Luciano Ganci were excellent in the lead roles. Korean baritone Leon Kim returned to Wexford brought a tender warmth to the role of Ulmo. There was a nice comedic twist from Irish bass John Molloy.
Reduced to chamber proportions, the orchestra conducted by Francesco Cilluffo sounded quite heavy and there was a splendid playing of the soloists.
Sitting apart rather than shoulder to shoulder, the audience’s reaction was hard to gauge, but the applause on the last recalls was warm enough to signal that the evening had been a success. Not a long lost masterpiece to me, but a pleasant curiosity nonetheless.
- Edmea: October 22,28,31 The performance of October 22 will also be broadcast live on RTÉ / Culture and on RTÉ Lyric FM on October 30