Small picture of Donizetti




Donizetti's Maria di Rohan

Wexford Festival, Ireland,  October/November 2005

  Photographs by Derek Spiers, courtesy of the Wexford Festival of their recent production of Maria di Rohan.  

There was widespread agreement that this year's Wexford Festival under its new artistic director, David Agler, was a resounding success, despite the untimely loss of its chief executive, Jerome Hynes and a definite improvement on some recent years.   On  Maria di Rohan, Roderic Dunnett's review in the Independent was generally very positive about the production particularly singling out the trio of  "Cuban Eglise Gutiérrez as the tragic and pathetic Maria, the passionate Armenian tenor Yeghishe Manucharyan as the ill-fated Riccardo and, above all, the wonderful Canadian baritone James Westman as the long-suffering Enrico who triumphed in this vocally terrific first night".

Members who saw the production, which was the original Vienna version from the critical edition currently in preparation,  generally concurred with this endorsement, although Philip Gormley (see below) was rather disappointed in the staging.

The cast was:-

Maria, Countess of Rohan - Église Gutierrez

Riccardo, Count of Chalais - Yeghishe Manucharyan

Enrico, Duke of Chevreuse - James Westman

Armando of Gondi - Tyrone Landau

The Viscount of Suze - Darcy Bleiker

De Fiesque - Paul Reeves

Aubry  - Robert Gardiner

A Servant of Chevreuse - Jiří Prudič

Conductor - Roberto Polastri

Director & Set Designer - Charles Edwards



Maria di Rohan - Chevreuse and Maria

 Chevreuse and Maria



A somewhat El Greco like shot of Chalais and Chevreuse


Maria di Rohan - Chevreuse



  Armando and De Fiesque


Maria di Rohan - Maria

Maria and the chorus


 Wexford shows potential to do artistic justice to Donizetti

by Philip Gormley

Maria di Rohan at the Wexford Festival (attended Sunday 23 and Wednesday 26 October, 2005)

2005 saw significant change at the Wexford Festival with the arrival of the American conductor David Agler as Artistic Director – an arrival overdue, in this writer’s view, after the uninspiring quality of the performances seen under Luigi Ferrari both in Wexford and in Pesaro.

The proposal of Maria di Rohan was a challenging artistic visiting-card for Maestro Agler. A typical economical  Cammarano libretto, even more fined down to suit a foreign audience, is here set to a musical score which Donizetti gears to suit the tastes of a Viennese public.

We admired the cultured elegance of the costumes designed by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, perfectly in their historical period as the dramaturgy of these pieces demands. In the depressing context of a stage nearly all in black, we would have preferred to see greater variety in their colours, instead of that unhelpful black or grey.

The stage design and direction tonight was entrusted to Charles Edwards who was reluctant to stand back and let the music speak to us with that eloquence so much in its gift. Time and time again he failed to recognise the true plot core points, such as placing the action in the Court of Louis XIII while inexplicably emphasising peripheral aspects, such as Richelieu, who is here very much a background figure.  He had little sympathy for the ‘conventions’ of the Italian Opera of this period.  From redundant stage action during the overture, through vocally and artistically damaging deployment of the cast and chorus on stage, the ineptitude in staging the concerted finale, and so on – we suffered it all.

The Crakow Philharmonic Orchestra was here conducted by Roberto Polastri in two evenings of different artistic qualities. Sunday, 23 October, saw an unconvincing heavy-handed delivery of the score, sounding at times Verdian in its intensity but matters improved on 26 October, although greater directorial flair would have significantly improved matters. We would have liked to hear the cast really tested by more invitations to soft gentle singing, the better thereby to appreciate both the quality of the music and the rigour of their techniques.

On that latter evening, notable for its splendid Italian pronunciation, we could admire the elegant figura, both on stage and vocally, of our Maria (Eglise Gutierrez) and appreciate the range of vocal colours she has in her palette. Our Count of Chalais, Yeghishe Manucharyan gave most impressive confirmation of that glorious concert performance heard two days before. He has an instrument with a notable dark colour, ever well deployed so as to put its many fine points on display. He delivered his challengingly written part most convincingly, as did his rival in love Enrico, here sung by James Westman.  This role written for the ‘father of operatic baritones’ Giorgio Ronconi, is not one to be envied; we admired the authority in his fine instrument, mirrored in his impressive stage presence. The interpretation of the (tenor) Armando of Gondi by Tyrone Landau was a joy to hear both nights – it was ‘text-book’ singing in the most beautiful sense of that term – a voice splendidly placed and a role also beautifully interpreted.

The outcome might thus be summarised in that classic school report phrase, “Shows potential”, to which we  add “but needs serious professional commitment from all the production team”. The creative flair of both Cammarano and Donizetti deserve no less, Mr Agler.




Page initially published in  2005