rocking Jommelli’s Il Vologeso in London

It has been hinted that i’m slacking now with my blog not writing any more reviews 🙂 and i did want to write more: first there’re 2 posts on Semiramide that i’d loooove to talk about but kept thinking am looking a bit obsessed ;-), then the Ariodante (with VERY NICE jaw) which I thought is a bit now outdated.. then Mozart’s Lucio Silla which in fact i might or might not write about because i almost have nothing to say! (I’ll need to refer you to Anik’s post at this point).. and then Jommelli’s Il Vologeso hit and BAM, this is exactly the kind of things to kick-start the whole trail again! And besides, this is finally the FIRST day in months that I don’t have pending deadline breathing down the neck.. and since when do I buckle to trends/pressure to not blog regarding my obsession/thoughts anyway? So, let’s see if in the next few hours I can pump out more posts in reverse chrono, starting with the absolutely rocking show 2 nights ago here in London.


viola da gamba, ❤

Niccolò Jommelli’s Il Vologeso
Orchestra of Classical Opera
Ian Page conductor
Stuart Jackson Lucio Vero
Rachel Kelly Vologeso
Gemma Summerfield Berenice
Angela Simkin Lucilla
Jennifer France Flavio
Tom Verney Aniceto
Cardogan Hall, London, 28/Apr/2016, 7.30pm

One thing that hit me in term of contrast between Mozart 3 nights ago and Jommelli’s is that I ALWAYS talk about the orchestra. And if we think back to the beginning of this whole blogging experience, orchestration has always been such a huge part in all my discussions. And I’m very glad finally Dehggi (who has heard me babbling non-stop about this) got to hear what I always rave about: (very biased-ly of course:) the orchestra TELLING the story, setting the stage, filling in every little corner of space and time with insightful nuances + details as well as springing the singer(s) forward. (This last point, I have been wanting to also post ANOTHER Mitridate’s post purely on this, what I hear, on the duet, and why I’d “run” after E.Haïm the same way I do with N.Stutzmann, especially when they’re conducting their respective baroque orchestras.) And I have more love declaration for the principle viola-da-gamba player!! Simply set the tone from the first note (I looove watching her body movement! and facial expression! the goodies for sitting front row). But so was the oboe player, the principle violinist, every section. They alternate, shuffle, varying texture + dynamics. When the mood shifts, the instruments served the precise purpose of Akira Kurosawa’s symbolic cloud in conveying the message. During duets with singers, we hear the outward expression vocally, then internal thoughts/anguish/fury through single violin or swift section exchange or rhythmic pumps. And though sitting in the front row, i still think had they played with the baroque bows we would hear even more dynamics and expression. But this is not a complaint, as far as expressive orchestration leading the story/supporting singers go, it is as good as you will get!! and it is what I ALWAYS hear when N.Stutzmann conducts (though I’ve only heard her in Händel). Simply the way to get me completely immersed + involved***


Tom Verney, Stuart Jackson, fantastic principle violinist, Rachel Kelly

Onto the singers. It was a strong cast with a very nice ratio of 4 female singers to 2 male. After my very loud “scream” throughout the coffee hour prior to Silla in Vienna (apology to Anik and Dehggi as I might no longer be diplomatic about this…) it was a pleasant sight, and that the mezzo’s trouser has significantly more singing time than the CT. The strongest of the cast, to my ears, is tenor Stuart Jackson as Lucio Vero the villain: the singing was very expressive, including the recitative: even without looking up the surtitles I could follow the way he ended or sped-up / slowed-down the phrases and get the meaning, i.e., the way you typically communicate instead of monotone / equal rhythm or rushing. He hs the most to sing and pretty much outstanding from beginning to end. I remember thinking I would need to find a couple of samples of those arias for re-listening to explore more. Soprano Gemma Summerfield as his love-interest/victim also has some very expressive passages, especially just before the end when she had to sing very soft to convey Berenedice’s anguish. Her true love interest, Mezzo Rachel Kelly was very strong and drew the longest (if i recall correctly) applause after her (his) anguish aria. Though sitting directly in front of her (think I was 1 m away from her feet) I didn’t quite hear any pianissimo and thought she could even make more use of those the way G.Summerfield did. The other trouser-role went to soprano Jennifer France as some military-leader who escorted Vero’s true wife Lucilla back from somewhere… and she has this really high + full of rage (I think) aria that she convincingly transported, very loud applause and Dehggi also mentioned it being her favorite. Lastly, Angela Simkin as Lucilla: I would prefer muuuch more phrasing as it felt like she was just riding along with the gorgeous orchestra and singing along her arias..

Ian Page,

Ian Page,

Altogether, an extremely satisfying night. It definitely helps sitting in 1st row directly in front of the thin orchestra, seeing and hearing ALL of their expressions. For operas we (I) do not know, orchestration can help significantly in carrying the story along. But even/especially for operas that we do know, it can enhance the experience tremendously if participating equally rather than only “accompanying”. Though I don’t know enough about music at different periods to say whether this also works outside of the Baroque/early music repetoire.

*** please note again the bias in my hearing.


About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

6 Responses to rocking Jommelli’s Il Vologeso in London

  1. Anik LaChev says:

    Thank you for the lovely review!
    Did I miss the point where Il Vologeso became the next hotshot thing every cool venue had to put on? Either way, you’re inspiring me to get back to the Stuttgart video that I’ve still got saved away, and listen to it more thoroughly this time.
    (also, please write that Mitridate post on the orchestral grasp!)

    • dehggial says:

      Did I miss the point where Il Vologeso became the next hotshot thing every cool venue had to put on?

      There’s a Jomelli conspiracy going on 😉 it’s surprisingly (or not?) good/engaging despite the abysmal plot.

  2. stray says:

    Really, the difference between a “participating” orchestra and an “accompanying” one, if I understand what you’re saying, is the difference between an opera and a musical. And I’d say it’s even more critical later on.

  3. Pingback: Exciting Il Vologeso (Cadogan Hall, 28 April 2016) | opera, innit?

  4. Pingback: Il Vologeso: Niccolò Jommelli (1766) – The Idle Woman

  5. Pingback: The Mozartists (1768) (Wigmore Hall, 23 January 2018) | opera, innit?

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