L’isola Disabitata, conducted by Kevin Mallon, transported the audience to an unimaginably lonely island filled with love, betrayal and misunderstanding. As an opera-in-concert, this performance combined the physical simplicity of traditional orchestral stage design with the spiritual grandeur of music and voice.
L’isola Disabitata told the story of Costanza (Marjorie Maltais), wife of Gernando (Asitha Tennekoon), who was abandoned on the deserted island with her young sister Silvia (Valérie Bélanger). Costanza, who felt betrayed by Gernando’s sudden disappearance seven years prior, was drowning in her sorrows through beautiful arias and melodious conversations with Silvia. Little did she know, Gernando and his trusty companion Enrico (Alexander Dobson) were hastily sailing towards the island. Enrico meets the young Silvia, and instantly falls in love. Costanza discovers that Gernando has returned and is angry at first, but upon learning about his unfortunate fate of being kidnapped by pirates years prior, she forgives him. Long story short, everyone finds love. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.
The casting for this performance was phenomenal – with powerful voices, Maltais, Bélanger, and Dobson drowned out all other sound and kept me captivated and thirsty for more. Most impressive was Dobson with his meticulous manipulation between tenor and bass. Throwing his voice from one end of the scale to the other, Dobson perfectly depicted Enrico’s passion for proving himself as a man, while carefully crooning his soft and gentle side to Silvia.
Unfortunately, I must express my disappointment with Tennekoon’s depiction of Gernando. Although by itself, his voice was magnificent, I felt that its timidness was overpowered by the rest of the cast – this especially became noticeable toward the end of Act 2. Additionally, Gernando, as a character of immense power and bravery, required more vigour and strength in his voice – Tennekoon, unfortunately did not meet this bar.
In this opera-in-concert, the set, lighting and costume designs were minimalistic. The majority of the stage was devoted to a live orchestra, where the Aradia Ensemble gave life to L’isola Disabitata in their performance of Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece.
Although L’isola Disabitata was performed as a one-night event, I greatly encourage attending the final show of the opera-in-concert season, Khovanshchina, which will be performed on Mar. 26. For more information, please visit www.stlc.com.