Who would have thought that Massenet’s Thaïs was such a knock-out opera, given that all we ever hear of it is its much-punted sound bite, the Meditation?
Last night’s magnificent concert performance by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Edinburgh Festival Chorus and a ripe array of soloists under Sir Andrew Davis not only gave that old lollipop its proper context – a tear-jerking symbolisation and recurring leitmotif of the courtesan heroine’s conversion from sin to righteousness – but revealed an operatic score that hits hard on the emotions from the word go. This is largely due to an orchestration whose heady exotic scent paints a juicy layer of decadence over the plot’s underlying religious piety.
Davis milked it for what it’s worth, capturing every twist and turn of the action with astute judgment, multiplying it to the point of mind-blowing exhilaration. He accepted nothing less from the orchestra and chorus, both of which responded with trigger-happy theatricality and incisive spirit.
At its heart was a monumental performance by Canadian soprano Erin Wall as Thaïs. It was sensuousness, vocally mind-blowing, and sturdily supported by Quinn Kelsey’s stoical Athanael (too much so, perhaps?) and Eric Cutler’s glowing Nicias, among others.
All in all, a timely revelation of a neglected opera. – Scotsman.com
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.