Ernani at Liège

There are two types of opera production which irritate me enormously. One is when the creative team wants at any cost to provoke the audience with an interpretation which is perverse, vulgar or silly.  The second, at the other extreme of the spectrum, is where the team does nothing to give the performance a dramatic impact, but simply leaves it to the singers to show off their voices and make such theatrical impact as they will with old-fashioned posturing. I think that the second category, of which the current presentation of Ernani at Liège is a good example, is more reprehensible than the first, which at least makes an attempt to engage with a work and communicate something.  Jean-Louis Grinda, returning to the company which he managed for a number of years to direct Verdi’s early work, provides no insights into the significance of the work, or its contrived and tortuous plot. There is little characterisation of the principal roles, the soloists concerned more to show off their well-endowed voices, limiting dramatic expression to a few stock gestures. The over-costumed chorus trundle on and off the stage to little purpose. This is opera as I remember it fifty years ago and which I have been glad to see the back of. Even the conducting of Paolo Arrivabeni provided no compensation. He seemed insufficiently to have internalised the score, so what emerged was prosaic, lacking in nuance. A wretched evening which made me almost yearn for Alden, Bieito and co.