I enjoyed this opera.  Visually it held my attention, even more so than Parsifal, which had me dozing between lines, as much as enjoyed Wagner’s music and story-telling.  Zandonai’s opera was an unexpected find.  It began with a first act with beautiful music in a setting that looked like it had been taken out of a painting by Alma-Tadema.  The scene in which Francesca and Paolo met and fall in love is done without words, which makes it a moment that speaks for itself.

The change to siege engines on a battle field is shocking in the second act, complete with bombastic music.  We meet the three Malatesta brothers.  Giovanni “the Lame” Malatesta is an emotional wreak of a brute with a warrior’s honour to protect.  Paolo “the Fair” has already fallen in love with his brother’s wife. Malastestino “the One-Eyed” Malatesta is a psychopath, having lost one eye in battle he’s willing to sight up and kill his enemies, and what he sees through his sighted eye is scary enough.  This family could be war-criminals.  I translated malatesta as ‘sick in the head’, not a bad translation for this family, and not one into which I would recommend marrying.

Is that an exploding Dalek!?

The final acts of the opera take place in the Malatestas’ stronghold.  Francesca’s pre-Raphaelite apartment alternates with the dark dungeons of the castle.  Again it is a shocking contrast.  The opera ends in dramatic tragedy.  Opera-lovers, and performers, love their tragic endings.  The ones with a comic ending, a eucatastrophe, or a wedding, are in the minority.

Never mind. It is an opera to watch out for any future adaptions.  That, and Parsifal too.  I hope Francesca da Rimini does not languish for another generation before it is played again.

The 2012-2013 season ends with Handel’s Giuglio Cesare, another opera I am looking forward to seeing.

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