Exciting Il Vologeso (Cadogan Hall, 28 April 2016)

Any doubts about whether Jommelli’s 1766 Il Vologeso needed a belated UK premiere at all were dispelled on Thursday night. Indeed, Ian Page and the Classical Opera orchestra showed such care and enthusiasm for it that this ended up being one of the most entertaining (post) Baroque events I have heard/seen in London in the past few years.

Lucio Vero: Stuart Jackson
Vologeso: Rachel Kelly
Berenice: Gemma Summerfield
Lucilla: Angela Simkin
Flavio: Jennifer France
Aniceto: Tom Verney
Conductor: Ian Page | Classical Opera

Though perhaps it needed a bit (more) of editing, Jommelli’s work was made a definitive case for by Ian Page & Co. who used an entire palette of colours and accents to bring out the many twists and turns and ever changing moods. There were lovely interplays between sections of the orchestra throughout, with the viola da gamba, oboe and horn especially “on”. I was very tired after travel delays and not overly familiar with the work and still barely flagged at all.

The libretto is a tutti frutti mixing favourite period tropes such as the benevolent ruler who must fight his base emotions (he is, as Dubya would put it, a flip-flopper), the 18th century heroine who has generally high moral standards and is steadfast in love, ready to sacrifice her happiness and/or life for her husband, the said (also steadfast) husband, a freedom fighter who is, nonetheless, equally as concerned with saving the damsel in distress (his wife/lover), the secondary character/schemer who has his eyes on the virtuous heroine and whose schemes are eventaully twarted as true love prevails in the end. The music is a lot more exciting, with several moments of palpable suspense (accompanied recits and ariosos) if still built on a typically Baroque structure of recit/aria/recit.

Stuart Jackson1 as the amourous Lucio Vero shone as an exceptionally expressive singer/actor, clearly having a ball with his role, now putting smooth moves on Berenice, now spewing anger as his “good will and generosity” is repeatedly disdained by the stubborn couple Vologeso-Berenice. It’s fair to say that he electrified all the other singers into trying to match his level of involvement.

Rachel Kelly in the title role was especially ready to raise to Jackson’s level and their characters’ interactions were the most interesting of the evening, with Lucio and Vologeso tearing at each other with gusto. Which ran about 7 times along the lines of:

Lucio Vero: you are free, noble warrior! Behold my generosity!
Vologeso: freedom means nothing without my wife!
Lucio Vero: savage, you’re abusing my good will! Guards! Take him back to his cell!


Lucio Vero: you are free, noble warrior! Behold my generosity!
Vologeso (looking all bristly): what do you want to do with me? Make up your mind already!
Lucio Vero: guards! Take him back to his cell!

Gemma Summerfield had quite a bit to sing as Berenice, Vologeso’s wife, much coveted by Lucio. Berenice’s contempt for Lucio was very clear through the night. She had some of those woe is me ariosos to navigate and did that with much aplomb. Her voice stood out as larger than the ones around her; it had a very pleasing warmth to it and a solid body which I suppose it going to work nicely in Mozart.

Jennifer France as Flavio, Lucio’s army commander, had the honour of singing my favourite Vologeso aria, Crede sol, which turns out to be one of those Baroque-simile arias about how those who could never imagine cheating on their partner can’t believe there are people who jump from flower to flower like butterflies 😉 It is a difficult aria and she coped very well with the… bounciness of the insect. Yes, that’s right, Lucio Vero’s army commander singing about flitting butterflies 😀

Thadieu thought she made good use of the ppp. It’s worth popping over to her blog post on Vologeso for a more detailed description of the evening.

As it appeared everybody was running late and the Cadogan Hall rather cramped foyer was busy (and perhaps a bit overdressed?) as usual, we only briefly ran into Leander, Baroque Bird and friends. It’s also not the easiest venue to get out of because the foyer is in the basement and you have to go up the stairs to get to the main hall. That being said, it’s a good, nicely expanding auditorium. I can’t complain too much since we have more than one smaller scale venue (capacity: 950) in London when other cities have none. They should definitely look into semi-staged operas there.

  1. You can catch him soon in the next Classical Opera outing, Don Giovanni (as Don Ottavio). 

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on May 3, 2016, in acting in opera, cadogan hall, classical period, live performances and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. those Lucio and Vologeso convo were hillarious!! 😀

  1. Pingback: Il Vologeso: Niccolò Jommelli (1766) – The Idle Woman

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