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L’africaine at La Fenice

Meyerbeer's L’africaine is rarely staged. So it was a "must see" at La Fenice when I was in Venice. Well, the cast was pretty good: Zuzana Marková was Inés who had presence despite the somewhat minor role. Luca Grassi was a heroic Nélusko - and had the right look too. Vasco was sung by Antonello Palombi who could fill the auditorium with a booming tenorial voice, though it lacked finesse and tenderness: his version of O paradis was ok. Patrizia Biccirè was Sélika who was superb - especially in the last act.

The staging and lighting was poor. Clearly the house didn't have money, but to have a few chairs in act 1, some box-standard prison gates in act 2, a bit of a ship in act 3, NOTHING for act 4 and just a plank and a tree for act 5 simply did not do the genre justice. Oh and there was no ballet. Everything was poorly lit - they even for got to light the lead soloist at the final curtain call!

I thought it was an engaging opera. The music followed (a mature Meyerbeer work) and you could hear where Wagner and Verdi got their ideas from. And I think it deserves a better grand opera treatment if it were to be staged at Covent Garden or The Met.


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