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Verdi – on point

Ballet sequences alternate with arias in The Royal Opera House’s grand production of Les Vêpres siciliennes

20 October, 2017 — By Sebastian Taylor

Erwin Schrott as Jean Procida with dancer in Les Vêpres siciliennes. PHOTO: Bill Cooper

Grand opera at its grandest is at the Royal Opera House just now in the form of Verdi’s epic Les Vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers).

It was composed to be performed in the Paris Opera in 1855 when ballet sequences, big crowd scenes and exotic animals were all the rage.
There aren’t any animals in the Verdi opera. But it’s full of big chorus pieces and delightful ballet vignettes, very much à la Degas, popping up every so often.

The piece was composed after La Traviata and Rigoletto and you can hear delightful snatches of Verdi’s music written for the two operas.
Norwegian director Stefan Herheim’s staging relocates the story about the thwarting of a Sicilian uprising by an autocratic French governor from medieval times to the 1850s.

Clever use of mirrors multiplies the crowd scenes and the ballet sequences that alternate with arias, duets and soloist ensemble.
Soloists are in fine form throughout and the orchestra conducted by Maurizio Benini delivers Verdi’s music in spades.

• Les Vêpres siciliennes, until November 4 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, WC2, 020 7304 4000,


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