Friday, October 05, 2007

Il Travatore

Another evening out at the Millennium centre for a Verdi extravaganza, occupying almost front row seats (discounted because you have the extra effort of looking up high to read the surtitles). It's not really my favourite opera, as it's a rather glum melodrama, with a fast paced last act that does little to exploit fully the melodramatic potential of the story. It's most memorable for the famed 'Anvil Chorus', which was taken on this occasion at quite a vigorous Italian pace by Carlo Rizzi and the WNO crew.

Wales' other favoured operatic son, Dennis O'Neill, sang the lead role of troubador flawlessly, with a mighty Italian soprano, Katia Pellegrino, his equal in excellence as the doomed heroine. The set was fashionably drab and minimalist, so it would have been fine just to sit and listen with eyes shut. However, if I'd done that, I would all to easily have slipped into a trance, and maybe ended up snoring - something that wouldn't go down too well sitting just in front of centre stage. So I made the effort and kept my attention on the rather limited action up front.

As a straightforward rendering of storyline in 'historical' context, (fifteenth century Spain) it was adequate but didn't offer a great deal to reflect upon. Transposing the scenario visually to a different context can be stimulating, as WNO has done with a production which sets Verdi's 'Rigoletto' in the world of modern gangsterism.

The bendy bus shuttle from City centre to the Bay worked perfectly for us in both directions. One big niggle, however, is the posh video screens on the bus. When stationary, the display shows views of all the doors and the street by the stop. On the move, sometimes BBC News 24 plays inaudibly, but when the system loses the signal it reverts to a looped promotional video made for the City's centenary in 2005. The new buses have been operational for over a year, and the video pre-dates the introduction of the buses. Far too much of it promotes eating out in Cardiff as if this was the only thing that ever happens. Well, maybe it wouldn't be such a good idea to show pictures of thousands of people staggering about getting drunk, but even a visual tour of the SD2 building site would be a bit more interesting than yesteryear's promotions.

Surely Cardiff can do better than that?

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