Bellini’s I Puritani in Turin

In Italy you might encounter simple productions, eccentric productions, daring productions  …  but they will generally be good to look at. So it was with I Puritani at the Teatro Regio in Turin. The opera has fine music, some impressive dramatic moments, but a rather silly plot. To turn it into something coherent and compelling, the director Fabio Cerese and his designers Tiziano Santi and Giuseppe Palella focussed on themes, associated with the Puritans, of repression and salvation through death. The lighting designer Marco Filibeck produced some superb effects. The first two acts are played out, often in a dark gloomy atmosphere,  in a horizontal cathedral, with glimpses of the sky (and heaven) through the vaults in the rear and it is only in the last act, as the lovers are reunited, that the stage opens up to show that freedom of action can lead to light and happiness.  Black indeed predominates, the Royalists alone being allowed colourful costumes and, as the action develops, the principal characters become intertwined with black veils and are escorted by figures in black with stylised movements – all of this representing death. Always visually satisfying, this production made the piece meaningful and powerful.

It was helped by the strong performances of Russians Olga Peretyatko and Dmitry Korchak in the leading roles; each has the vocal equipment to master the challenges, including high notes, of Bellini’s score, but also the physical attributes and dramatic involvement to meet the demands made of them by the ambitious staging. This cannot be said of the baritone Nicola Alaimo who, as Riccardo, was wooden and embarrassingly static. The bass Nicola Ulivieri was a sympathetic Giorgio and sang beautifully. Miss Peretyatko’s husband Michele Mariotti was in the pit, but his interpretation of the score did not give pleasure, being heavy-handed and insufficiently fluid.