Gluck’s Ezio in Frankfurt

I have always argued that the best way to present baroque opera is by simplifying stage design and restricting stage business. Rarely have I encountered such a good example of this as in the first half of Vincent Boussard’s current revival of Gluck’s rarely performed Ezio at Frankfurt. The soloists, richly costumed, confronted their fate surrounded by bare walls and a minimum of props, but with strong, often coloured lighting, reflecting their different emotions. The intensity of the drama came out in their physical movements, but these were never exaggerated.

The approach worked wonders for an opera which is decidedly not a masterpiece of dramatic construction. Indeed, in the second half, one had the impression that Boussard had given up on the aim of imposing coherence on the convoluted plot, for he seemed to run out of ideas and resorted, at the end, to the cliché of having tourists, as outsiders, observing the statuettes of Roman emperors, and doubtless pondering questions of political power and tyranny. Under Christian Curnyn’s inspired direction, the musical dimension was most satisfying. Sonia Prina in the title role and Paul Murrihy as Fulvia stood out among the singers.