Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Massenet Le roi de Lahore Sunday QEH

The Chelsea Opera Group presents Jules Massenet Le roi de Lahore this Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  A pity it will be unstaged, because this is an opera that needs extravagant extreme visuals, in technicolor, and as over the top as possible. But we mustn't be greedy. Le roi de Lahore is a rarity. The only major production in recent years was at La Fenice, in 2005, presenting a new edition of the score by Marcello Viotti. The photo above comes from that production, which is on DVD but NTSC only. There's an informative review here in Opera Today. There's a single recording, with Joan Sutherland, but the recording quality does it no favours. Although Sutherland was only in her 50's when she sang Sitâ, the priestess, don't expect another Lakmé.

While Massenet's  Le roi de Lahore pre-dates Délibes Lakmé by only six years, they occupy different worlds. Worlds that reflect French taste for exotic orientalisme, rather than the reality of India. In Le roi de Lahore, we'll hear "Indian" trumpets blaring and and bits of local colour in the orchestra, but audiences weren't bothered by historical accuracy as long as they had a grand show. In any case, the plot is preposterous. In this pre-Islamic Lahore, the King, Alim, falls in love with Sitâ, the vestal virgin. Sacrilege! Alim is condemened to die in battle. Then things get really interesting. He gets killed. With the intervention of Indra, the Hindu deity, he comes back to life as a beggar. Dead and living sing together., Eventually, the lovers are reunited,  Even Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles pales in comparison.  Timour, the High Priest, has a great role. 

The Chelsea Opera Group performance weill be conducted by Renato Belsadonna,  better known as the Chorus Master at the Royal Opera House, which will be good, because the choruses are the making of Le roi de Lahore, though there are many good star turns for the soloists. If this opera had been written for Hollywood in the 1930's it would have been choreographed for hordes of singing, dancing extras. With Belsadonna conducting, we'll also have an extremely good cast, some of whom are ROH regulars. Book now -some seats still available.  :

Anush Hovhannisyan soprano, Sita, Priestess of Indra
Michael Spyres tenor, Alim, King of Lahore
William Dazeley baritone, Scindia, Minister to Alim
Jihoon Kim bass, Timour, High Priest of Indra
Justina Gringyte mezzo-soprano, Kaled, the King's servant
Robert Lloyd bass, Indra, an Indian deity

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