I Due Foscari

1/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari)

2/8
© Catherine Ashmore
3/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Maria Agresta (Lucrezia Contarini)

4/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Maria Agresta (Lucrezia Contarini)

5/8
© Catherine Ashmore
6/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari) and Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari)

7/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari) and Francesco Meli (Jacopo Foscari)

8/8
© Catherine Ashmore

Placido Domingo (Francesco Foscari)

There is a reason why you probably haven’t heard of Verdi’s opera ‘The Two Foscari’, and that’s because it’s a complete turkey. Based on a poem by Byron, it offers a tedious, undeveloped plot, lacking twists or turns and consequently any drama.

The once glorious tenor Plácido Domingo, banking his career on a now weak baritone, comes and goes, as the Doge of Venice, whose son Jacopo has been condemned to exile for treason. The father can’t help out of a sense of duty; the condemned’s wife cries a lot. Everyone dies of unspecified causes.

Apparently, it is set in 1457 in the Doge’s palace in Venice, which is fine if designer Kevin Knight thinks that aforesaid building resembled a cement factory in modern Ukraine. The set is ugly, as is Bruno Poet’s ineffective lighting; Thaddeus Strassberger’s direction is both clunky and vulgar, the cast comprising leather-clad torturers, red-robed senators and, inexplicably, white-clad nuns, have nothing to do but watch each other sing or stand about striking poses in the gloom.

The other principals are strong singers. As Jacopo Foscari, the tenor Francesco Meli is in good voice but can only display it in a succession of unmemorable arias, while soprano Maria Agresta, as his wife Lucrezia Contarini, holds the shambles together, sailing over the orchestra and chorus with a succession of unspecific vowel sounds, while wearing most of the production budget in at least five unnecessary costume changes. Bass Maurizio Muraro also has a fine voice but nowhere to demonstrate it here.

The only moments of relief from this dismal torture are those featuring the chorus, on great form as ever. Antonio Pappano conducts as robustly as one might expect; but as music director, does he really think this half-baked mess is a worthy addition to the ROH calendar?

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