stylish and amusing

The Daily Telegraph, 15 September 2011

There’s something fascinating about Cimarosa’s 1779 hit L’Italiana in Londra, but it’s purely academic. It embodies many of the opera buffa conventions which Mozart and da Ponte adopted a decade later in Così fan tutte: here is the same cynical Despina figure, running a hotel in Soho, here are the same confused lovers imagining infidelity, the innocently stereotyped foreigners, the extended ensemble finales.

The difference is one of genius. Cimarosa writes perkily vivacious music, but nothing in L’Italiana in Londra touches the heart or sticks in the memory. It’s all nicely seasoned and sweetened pap.

Bampton Classical Opera is an al fresco festival in Oxfordshire that makes a speciality of reviving such later 18th-century rarities. This summer’s programme presented L’Italiana in Londra in a briskly witty translation, imported to St John’s Smith Square for an end-of-season semi-staged performance. The five soloists were all stylish and amusing; I particularly enjoyed the singing of Caryl Hughes and Kim Sheehan. Thomas Blunt conducted an accomplished small orchestra with verve.

Rupert Christiansen