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Les vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera split opinion when Stefan Herheim’s production was unveiled in 2013. It’s certainly a lavish affair, placing the action within the Paris Opéra at the time of composition, and providing a critique between the oppression Verdi intended, that of the Sicilians by the French in the thirteenth century, and that of the creative artist by the reactionary Second Empire. In other words, a play within a play. Herheim does a great job in fitting the action to his concept without mauling the original, but the opera is so patchy in its pacing that total success remains elusive. Antonio Pappano helps to provide a sense of cohesion with his zest for handling such a large-scale piece, but the cast is patchy. Bryan Hymel sounds superb as Henri and sails through the role’s excessive demands almost with insouciance, but his acting is stolid. Lianna Haroutounian is an elegant Hélène, though cautious in her coloratura. Michael Volle acts up a storm as de Montfort but provides a lusty but bumpy vocal ride, and Erwin Schrott’s Procida booms unidiomatically. The chorus and orchestra throw themselves into the performance with gusto.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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