Review: A haunting unrequited love story
Opera: Guglielmo Ratcliff, National Opera House Wexford
With its second production, Wexford Festival Opera enters the world of verismo through Mascagni's Guglielmo Ratcliff. Set in Scotland and dealing with the consequences of unrequited love, it also engages the supernatural.
The opera revolves around anti-hero Guglielmo who, rejected by Maria, kills her next suitors before murdering her and then dispatching himself.
There is also the aged clairvoyant Margherita who crosses the threshold into the spirit world of Guglielmo's dead father and Maria's late mother, who had been surreptitious lovers.
Director Fabio Ceresa's ingenious approach uses dancers to present the dead parents in the form of majestic deer while the ghosts of Maria's fiancés are wolf-like hounds bidden by the mystic Margherita.
There is a haunting quality in Tiziano Santi's mainly white design while Giuseppe Palella's elaborate period costumes compliment Santi's concept.
Musically, Guglielmo Ratcliffe bears a kinship to Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana but its four-act form lacks the other's compactness.
The exceptionally demanding title role finds tenor Angelo Villari rising valiantly to the occasion. Despite hints of doubtful intonation, he sustains Mascagni's long and high tessitura without losing emotional gravitas. Villari is fresh, vibrant and impressive.
Richly voiced mezzo Annunziata Vestri is the wandering Margherita while soprano Mariangela Sicilia has positive strength as the anguished Maria. Baritone David Stout and bass Gianluca Buratto add sterling lustre as fiancé and father.
Drawing every expressive ounce from his singers and festival orchestra, conductor Francesco Cilluffo ensures Guglielmo Ratcliff maintains incisive momentum.