Review: Wonderful music, bizarre plot in Tamerlano at Buxton Festival

Robert Davies as Leone in Tamerlano.
Robert Davies as Leone in Tamerlano.
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Early 18th century opera Tamerlano consists of recitative and arias with no chorus and few duets, which gives ample opportunity to display the musical talents of the soloists and the orchestra.

The cast of this production at Buxton Opera House seized these opportunities for excellent solo performances. The music is beautiful and fits the characters and the developing plot. The English Concert really did it justice.

The two countertenors, Rupert Enticknap as Tamerlano and Owen Willets as Andronico, were excellent. Marie Lys, soprano, gave a powerful performance as the heroine, Asteria; as did Paul Nillon in the role of her father, the hero, Bajazet. Musically, this was an excellent production.

The set looked more like an abandoned museum than an eastern potentate’s palace. The strange array of items on stage were presumably to symbolise the tyrant’s power and acquisitiveness, but no tyrant would dress himself in fine brocade and have course brick walls inside his palace.

The plot is bizarre: with a Tartar emperor who manipulates his prisoners and his allies for his own amusement. In the end the honourable Bajazet lies dead having poisoned himself. His daughter and her lover are reunited, but at the whim of the tyrant.The only person who really achieves their aim is Irene, the princess who for inexplicable reasons wanted to marry Tamerlano.

Throughout this weird plot, the music is wonderful.

Tamerlano continues its run tonight (Thursday, July 14), July 17 and July 21.