The Rite of Spring/Gianni Schicchi, Theatre Royal, Nottingham, 4****: by William Ruff



Opera North (The Rite of Spring/Gianni Schicchi)


March 22 2019


Theatre Royal, Nottingham




Review: William Ruff



A Stravinsky/Puccini double bill?  Sounds bonkers, but it works – sort of…


At first sight Opera North’s idea for a double bill which yokes together Stravinsky’s visceral ballet The Rite of Spring and Puccini’s one-act comic opera Gianni Schicchi seems (as Sir Humphrey would say) a ‘brave’ choice.  Or let’s be more honest, completely bonkers.  Well, in a way it is, but there’s no reason why huge slabs of raw meat shouldn’t occasionally be followed by platefuls of tiramisu.

The marriage of Opera North’s orchestra and Phoenix Dance Theatre is one made in heaven.  At first it seems strange to hear such a familiar concert hall score in the much drier acoustic of a theatre, but once the ear attunes you begin to hear all sorts of unexpected detail in Stravinsky’s ground-breaking music.  Garry Walker’s conducting and the virtuosity of his players produce thrilling results throughout.  The dancing is much more abstract than I was expecting and only loosely connected with the ballet’s original scenario.  There are eight dancers, clad in white with painted hands, praying to spirits and then becoming possessed by them.  What is fluid in the first half becomes much jerkier and more angular in the second, even though the movement never really matches the earth-convulsing violence of the music.  The overall effect, however, is exhilarating and a powerful demonstration of how energy exchanged between dancers and musicians can make the air crackle with electricity.

And then comes Gianni Schicchi in the second half, the opera in which a dead man dictates a will which disappoints every single member of his family.  It’s a bouncy satire on human greed and on people’s capacity to delude themselves and others when money is at stake.  The family is presented with grotesquely comic gusto in Opera North’s production (the selfie with Buoso’s corpse a particularly ghastly idea) and Richard Burkhard gives a wonderfully shameless, exuberantly comic performance as the gangster-like Schicchi, turning the tables on the lot of them.  Providing some emotional depth, as well as some lovely lyrical singing, are Diego Silva (Rinuccio) and Tereza Gevorgyan (Lauretta).

Again the orchestra shines, adding to the comic fizz and proving what versatile musicians they are.


The Rite of Spring

Manon Adrianow

Natalie Aleston

Aaron Chaplin

Carmen Vazquez Marfil

Carlos J Martinez

Michael Marquez

Vanessa Vince-Pang

Prentice Whitlow


The Orchestra of Opera North

Conductor                   Garry Walker

Choreographer           Jeanguy Saintus

Costume Designer      Yann Seabra


Gianni Schicchi

Dante/Buoso               Prentice Whitlow (Nottingham)

Rinuccio                      Diego Silva

Nella                            Victoria Sharp

La Ciesca                     Claire Pascoe

Zita                              Leah-Marian Jones

Gherardino                 Ben Hinchliffe/Frazer Lee

Gherardo                    Aled Hall

Marco                         Peter Savidge

Betto di Signa              Dean Robinson

Simone                        Stephen Richardson

Lauretta                      Tereza Gevorgyan

Gianni Schicchi            Richard Burkhard

Maestro Spinelloccio  Ross McInroy

Amantio di Nicolao     Jeremy Peaker

Pinellino                      Gordon D Shaw

Guccio                         Richard Mosley-Evans


The Orchestra of Opera North

Conductor                   Garry Walker

Director                       Christopher Alden

Set Designer                Charles Edwards

Costume Designer      Doey Lüthi

Lighting Designer        Adam Silverman

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection