The final Open House for the season at the Royal Opera House Muscat on Saturday was entitled “Clown for a Day” and was aimed at children in the community with a series of activities. In anticipation of next weekend’s performance of Leoncavallo’s 1892, “I Pagliacci” (the Clowns) by Teatro dell‘Opera di Roma, ROHM provided workshops for young people in their foyer and porches, while Opera Galleria presented an all-day exhibition, film, colouring and face-painting. Adults could enjoy ‘Lunch Music’ in the Courtyard with a selection of arias from “I Pagliacci” and other popular operas given by soloists from ‘Opera di Roma’. With all the activities laid on for children from 10am until 5pm, it was a pity that some children were allowed to run around in front of the stage, distracting performers and public alike. Unfortunately unaccompanied adults, journalists and TV crews were not allowed to view the workshops, but the brochure assured that were given by experts in each field: Chris Gray from Scottish Opera provided Composition, Jane Davidson led Drama Improvisation and Iain Piercy guided the Visual Arts Group in creating simple masks and clown shoes. Make-up application and Circus Costume creation was led by Rawan Al Marjibi and the ROHM Costume Department. By popular demand, Cuban percussionist, Ernesto Raymat, returned with his Drum Circle in the Maidan for two separate sessions, for children and adults.
As ever, the menu at the lunchtime recital was enticing and the dishes themselves, succulent. Five soloists from Opera di Roma performed for an hour with their expressive accompanist, Aida Bousselma at the Shiny Grand Piano. First up was baritone, Giuseppe Altomare, in Tonio’s Prologue, ‘Si Puo?’ from “I Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo. His voice was consistently rich and resonant in all registers of this declamatory piece. After warm applause, the delightful soprano, Valeria Sepe, performed Nedda’s Aria from Act 1, ‘Qual fiamma avea nel guardo! Stridono Lassu’. Her passionate rendition of this dramatic aria showed her broad range and huge sound to perfection in the favourable acoustics of the Galleria Hall. The seated audience loved her beautiful voice and it was a hard act for tenor, Marco Voleri, to follow. Harlequin’s Serenade, ‘O Colombina’ was short and well sustained in his high register. To conclude the Mains came Francesco Anile’s powerful performance of Canio’s Aria from Act 1, ‘Vesti la Giubba’ (Put on the costume and powder your face). Anile has incredible stage presence with little need for movement. He arrested the assembled with his sustained passionate singing and earned resounding applause.
Part 2, ‘Side Dishes’, opened with the young Lithuanian baritone, Modestas Sedlevicius, describing ‘Come un’ape di giorni’ (Like a bee that on April days), Dandini’s patter-aria from Rossini’s comic opera, “La Cenerentola” with amusing expression and long ornamented passages, beloved in Rossini. Valeria again took to the stage with Margherita’s melodramatic Aria from Act 3 of Boito’s “Mefistofele”, ‘L’altra notte in fondo al mare’ with a more expressive, dramatic style in her perfectly-placed, strong, high range. Again the applause was rapturous as she won many hearts with her sad imploring quality. In contrast was Modestas’ lyrical, heart-felt rendition of Tosti’s popular ‘L’Ultima Canzone’ with a more weighty, beautiful tone. Marco Voleri’s interpretation of Donizetti’s ‘Una Furtiva Lagrima’ was just slightly nasal in his sustained high register, and was followed by Giuseppe Altomare in Verdi’s lengthy, ‘Renato’s Aria’ from Act 3 “Un Ballo in Maschera”. His voice was brilliantly well-placed in this declamatory song, and the timbre rich and velvety for all to indulge in. Francesco Anile returned with a stunning ‘Ch’ella mi Creda’ from Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West”, only further emphasising his incredible persona in a short but poignant, iconic Pavarotti Aria.
The Finale gradually reintroduced baritone Giuseppe Altomare, tenor Francesco Anile from off-stage and the superb soprano, Valeria Sepe in ‘Tace La Notte’ from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”. The climax was highly dramatic in this Trio, only to be out-done by the full company in that all-time favourite, ‘O Sole Mio’ with incredible high notes from Ms Sepe.
Some audience members expressed concern that the arctic temperatures simulated by the over-zealous air-conditioning system did not mirror the warm welcome provided at each event. However, there will be no more Lunch Music to imbibe until September, but that will make it all the more delicious and worth waiting for during the long, hot summer. So bring a rug or fleece, and join the gourmet concerts next Autumn.