Opera Scotland

Montezuma 2010Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Montezuma

Graun’s rarely-performed opera was given its British premiere in an irritatingly eccentric production which made it difficult to assess the quality of the work itself.  It seemed that the director, as a Mexican with his own perspective on the Conquest and on subsequent forms of colonisation in Latin America, was simply using a very different opera as a framework on which to display his own views.  A large portion of the opera - roughly a third - was cut, and one or two pieces of modern music were added.

The opera began much as one might expect of an eighteenth century opera seria played on original instruments.  Some of the voices were perhaps on the light side, but the King's Theatre helped them to project.

The production itself seemed unhelpful, starting with the arrival of the chorus as a form of anti-colonialist demonstration - modern dress, cameras, cans of Coke - essentially somewhat facile.  No doubt this was well-meaning, but the fundamental problem was that Graun's opera was swamped, and in the end sank almost without trace.  Whatever genuine quality it may or may not have became rather difficult to assess.

Some of the singing was quite good, especially Flavio Oliver in the title role, Adrián-George Popescu as Cortes, and Lourdes Ambriz as Eupaforice.  Oliver spent ages perched perilously high above the stage.  The soprano was given a particularly difficult assignment, having to sing a highly elaborate aria 'Non han calma le mie pene' on her back, walking crab-style up and down a flight of stairs.  The fact that this aria was perhaps the only one known to any members of the audience beforehand (thanks to Joan Sutherland's recording from the 1960s) simply made her task even more difficult.

One of the highlights of the evening was the contribution of a large dog promenaded from side to side of a gangway in front of the orchestra pit.  Its vocal contribution gave the stalls audience great fun, though it must all have been a bit of a mystery to people in the upper parts of the house, for whom these antics were invisible.

The large number of co-producers is very unusual, though the value of their joint contribution is perhaps questionable.

The rescue from oblivion of baroque opera seria continues apace.  Handel's genius in this field was rediscovered long ago, Vivaldi's resuscitation is now well under way.  Successful revivals of Pergolesi, Hasse and Jommelli have been done on the continent, though not yet in Britain.  Thanks to this event it seems likely that Graun will be consigned to the back of the queue.  This opera certainly contains some attractive music and interesting situations.  Perhaps it could best be assessed by means of a concert performance in the Usher Hall at some future Festival.


Performance Cast

Montezuma emperor of the Aztecs

Flavio Oliver

Eupaforice Queen of Tlascala, Montezuma's betrothed

Lourdes Ambriz

Tezeuco adviser to Montezuma

Rogelio Marín

Pilpatoè a general in the Aztec army

Lucía Salas

Erissena Eupaforice's confidante

Lina López

Cortes leader of the Spanish army

Adrián-George Popescu

Narvès a Spanish captain

Christophe Carré

Performance DatesMontezuma 2010

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

14 Aug, 19.15 15 Aug, 19.15 17 Aug, 19.15

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