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Opera Holland Park - Introducing L'arlesiana, a magnificent rarity
News from Opera Holland Park
Dear Dominic Grantham,
As we approach the second half of our season, I want to write and urge you to consider booking for the magnificent L’arlesiana, by Francesco Cilea, one of those operas that have made the OHP name over the past two decades.
This is the third production of L’arlesiana in the company’s history, and there are good reasons for that. Firstly, part of our mission is to make rarities less rare, and to absorb them as part of the standard repertoire. Secondly, L’arlesiana is an exceptionally beautiful opera.
You may know Cilea’s most popular opera Adriana Lecouvreur, a delightful piece that has found fame around the world. L’arlesiana is a different beast: a far more engrossing and affecting work.
Cilea’s music powerfully evokes the hot Provençale countryside; his orchestrations glisten, his choruses thrill, but it is the bringing to the fore of the role of the mother that set such a precedent with this opera.
In L’arlesiana, Rosa Mamai, tortured by the agonies of her love-struck son Federico, neglects his younger brother (named simply ‘L’innocente’). A heart-breaking duet between the younger sibling and Rosa, as she realises her failures, follows on from the aria that has made this role so famous – ‘Esser madre è un inferno’ (To be a mother is hell) – when Rosa begs God to protect Federico from himself.
L’arlesiana is, in so many ways, pure verismo distilled into one opera, but it has delicacy and craft too. One of the opening arias, ‘Come due tizzi accesi’, deftly foreshadows the drama that is to come, while Federico’s Lament is one of the most famous tenor arias in the repertoire, and is the heart of the opera’s tale of Federico’s slow descent into chaos and self-destruction.
If you are yet to book your tickets for this landmark production, you should consider doing so now.
Further listening: Yvonne Howard sings Esser madre èun inferno
Working on this production of L’arlesiana has been a revelation to the cast and artistic leaders. Yvonne Howard, who sings the role of Rosa Mamai, has said that the third act interactions with her character’s children are the most emotionally challenging things she has ever done in opera – and Yvonne is a singer who has performed many great roles, including Norma!
If you have never heard any of the music from L’arlesiana (or even if you have), you can get a sense of the opera now, as we are excited to share a video of Yvonne singing Rosa Mamai’s emotional centrepiece aria, Esser madre è un inferno, recorded at Prelude 2019.
The rehearsal process sees our cast and creatives dig into the opera and explore the characters and emotions of the piece. Director Oliver Platt described that process as one of the joys of working on a rarity. It allows the team the freedom to simply be storytellers, and introduce the audience to a beautiful, heartfelt story for the very first time.
To give you a sense of the work going on behind the scenes, here are some photos of Director Oliver Platt, Conductor Dane Lam and the Opera Holland Park Chorus rehearsing.