The topic of Maria de Rudenz was derived from “La nonne sanglante”, a blood-steeped gothic drama, that did not go down well in the public’s taste and which was accepted by the Presidency of the Fenice-where the opera was first staged – only reluctantly. The music itself did not even please Donizetti himself, and the great tenor Nourrit, present at the dress rehearsal and the first performance wrote “It can only be called a complete fiasco…. Except for three pieces that are good….the whole opera is extremely pallid….you cannot imagine the stupidity of the libretto…” It was never clear why Donizetti accepted the libretto in the first place. One theory is that over this text where no love can be found, Donizetti poured all the grief and desperation of his wife’s death, only a few months earlier. The opera was given only one additional performance in Venice, truly one of the biggest fiascoes in Donizetti’s life. Surely not helped by the intricacy of the plot and the complexity of the characters. The opera was never staged on important theatres such as London, Vienna or Paris, but was played a couple of dozen times around the world up to 1870.
In Wexford, the scene consisted of a simple exterior/interior façade in Castle-style which were in fact sliding doors behind which the set could be swiftly changed from scene to scene. This set consisted of revolving 3-storey-high cubes with a different location on each side. This worked extremely well and very exciting was, in more dramatic scenes, to see the revolving itself. An idea of the director was to use puppets to mimic some scenes of the prior events or of stories that are told each other. This, in my opinion, could have been avoided as it added nothing to the already excellent direction, in fact if anything it added only cringy moments of ridicule. But overall the sets and costumes were beautiful and the direction excellent, proving that masses CAN be moved around to add flow to the plot.
Gilda Fiume, though a bit cold in her overall approach, is an excellent singer with a pure, smooth and creamy voice over the whole range who adds additional empathy in the highest range of her voice by playing with dynamics.
Very good also Joo Wan Kang as Corrado, who sang with a warm timbre. Jesus Garcia was adequate until he had to reach the higher notes of his role, which he reached a bit strained. Andrew Greenwood kept everything together quite well, minor roles were well cast and the chorus sang also very well.
Conductor-Andrew Greenwood, Director-Fabio Ceresa, Set Designer-Gary McCann, Costume Designer-Giuseppe Palella, Lighting Designer-Christopher Akerlind, Chorus Master-Errol Girdlestone, Maria de Rudenz-Gilda Fiume, Matilde di Wolf-Sophie Gordeladze, Corrado Waldorf-Joo Wan Kang, Enrico-Jesus Garcia, Rambaldo-Michele Patti, Chancellor of Rudenz-Richard Shaffrey
Photo credit: Clive Barda