Vivette never meets her love rival in Cilea’s L’Arlesiana but the impact on her life could not be more traumatic as it leads to the suicide of the man she loves, Frederico.
Sung in this vibrant Opera Holland Park production by Fflur Wyn, the rising young soprano delights as she captures innocent love and embodies rural values in contrast to the worldly girl from Arles who has infatuated country boy Frederico.
The story revolves around Rosa Mamai hoping to save her family’s good name in the conventional village by her son’s marriage. But he has tasted forbidden fruit in Arles in the form of the worldly woman (who oddly in this Oliver Platt production does make an appearance as a scarlet woman, smoking and wiggling around the stage) and he is determined to marry her.
Yvonne Howard and Fflur Wyn
Such is the passion of her son; the mother reluctantly agrees to the unsuitable marriage but then another worldly type, Metifio, appears to reveal he is also the girl from Arles’ lover, brandishing shocking love letters. Sent mad with grief and being a good son (sort of) Frederico agrees to his mother’s suggestion to marry the rather staid village girl Vivette who has to be persuaded to scrub up a bit to win his interest. She has loved him all the time, of course. If he had been interested in singing rather than looks Vivette would have had few rivals! The character’s personality may be, well, dull but Fflur Wyn’s voice is sparkling, rich in pathos and emotion. I have never heard her in better voice.
The opera may be a French Cavalleria rusticana and Vivette a soul sister to Carmen’s Micaela, but with designer Alyson Cummins transposition we are showed a post Second World War Vichy France, where a Nazi flag and papers are burnt, suggesting this is perhaps a community that had collaborated or maybe just suffered under occupation. I am not sure why.
The generous mezzo of Yvonne Howard as the long-suffering (if rather scheming) mother Rosa Mamai is paired in passion by the full-voiced, Italianate singing of tenor Samuel Sakker as Frederico. I also rather liked the more Sicilian than Provencal Metifio from Simon Wilding.
There is bright playing of this not often performed Cilea score from the City of London Sinfonietta under the baton of Dane Lam.
Until August 2.
Images: Ali Wright
Main image: Samuel Sakker and Fflur Wyn