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La scala di seta (Royal Opera House)

Rossini's 'Silken Ladder' showcases the Jette Parker Young Artists in the Linbury Studio

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

There are opportunities aplenty at the moment to catch rare Rossinis, with WNO taking Mosè in Egitto and Guillaume Tell on the road and a production of the latter looming at Covent Garden. While awaiting that highlight of the 2015 season, the Royal Opera House gave its Young Artists a chance to please audiences with a Linbury staging of one of the early one-acters, La scala di seta (The Silken Ladder).

Lauren Fagan as Giulia in La scala di seta (ROH)
© Mark Douet

These short pieces, the so-called farse written when the composer was between the ages of 18 and 20, are comic gems but difficult to fit into the schedule. As a showcase for singers in training they are perfect for honing singing and acting skills, although here the coloratura proved tricky for undeveloped voices.

Just as the six singers of the Jette Parker programme struggled at times with the gymnastic tongue-twisting, Greg Eldridge's production slowed a little at a crucial stage, faltering in the second half of the evening just as the comedy of errors needed to speed to a conclusion.

It was a minor blip, though, as Eldridge steered his performers skilfully through the convoluted plotting, helping them with detailed characterisations and considered through lines. There weren't any big ideas from the director but plenty of small ones that amounted to a satisfying whole. The plot may be as flimsy as the ladder that the leading lady lets down for her secret husband, but Eldridge had clearly helped his actors where they needed it.

Jonathan Santagada in the pit also supported the cast well and the Southbank Sinfonia was characteristically polished. Holly Pigott's 18th Century designs overcame the challenges of internal and external locations stylishly.

Luis Gomes, small of frame but big of voice, has a shiny tenor that suited the frustrated young husband Dorvil down to the ground and his spouse, the formidable Giulia, a girl who certainly knows her mind, was well-served by Lauren Fagan's commanding soprano. Samuel Dale Johnson was impressive too as Dormont, the fiery tutor with sadly all too little to do.

It was maybe a mistake to kit the seducer Blansac out as a whitefaced fop, the one diversion from an otherwise astute exploration of character, but British bass James Platt was strong in the role and well matched by Anush Hovhannisyan's feisty Lucilla. Yuriy Yurchuk played the slow-witted servant Germano to good comic effect.

The evening was a great endorsement of the Jette Parker scheme and it's a shame there wasn't a longer run so more people could enjoy a strong performance of a delightful work.

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