Friday 30 November 2007

ENO and bel canto

In the new issue of the ENO Friends magazine there is an interview with John Berry (ENO Artistic Director) about the forthcoming new production of Lucia di Lammermoor. ENO are not renowned for doing bel canto repertoire, they have never had a significant amount of Bellini or Rossini in their catalogue and Donizetti has mainly been represented by his two comedies.

Rather oddly, Berry says that Lucia is not categorised as core repertoire. Which seems a strange comment as it is surely a piece that appears regularly (if not frequently) in most opera houses. Berry goes on to say comment that the reason why the bel canto repertoire has been neglected is the translation issue, that it is difficult to find good translations and the singers to sing them. This seems a fair point, but in other areas of the repertoire, ENO has had no trouble finding singers to learn new translations of the operas. Surely casting Donizetti is no harder than casting Handelian opera seria?

Berry's comments are interesting and relevant, up to a point. But I can't help feeling that there is an additional unspoken point which ought to have been made, that in the past there has perhaps been a lack of sympathy with the bel canto repertoire.

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