Goldenplec Review: Griselda

Monday, 14 October, 2019
Gris 0082

By Michael Lee

4.5 Stars

'this production may well leave audiences eager for more'

Tonight, nearly 280 years after his death, composer Antonio Vivaldi makes his operatic debut in Ireland with Irish National Opera’s production of Griselda. That in itself is not so exceptional—much theatrical material from his time still awaits rediscovery—but it certainly lends an air of mystery. What can we expect?

The medieval tale of Patient Griselda, a woman tested by her controlling husband to near breaking-point, has been re-told many times (including versions by Chaucer and Shakespeare). In Vivaldi’s opera, this becomes a study in the politics of power and identity played out in a society riven with instability. Tom Creed’s televisual production places the story in the present day: while the overture is playing a bank of screens on one side of the set shows footage from recent gilets jaunes protests in Paris. The set is split level: upstairs is a TV studio/meeting/throne room, all bland corporate minimalism, while downstairs is an off-screen corridor, backed with chip-board and scaffolding joists, plus a security box.

King Gualtiero (tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado) deals with the risk of public breakdown by divorcing lower-class Queen Griselda (mezzo-soprano Katie Bray). Maybe a younger, more upmarket bride will improve the national mood? If this sounds like a nightmare for Griselda, her problems are only just beginning. It is a toxic and provocative setup, yet surprisingly the only major changes to the original scenario are that the two mezzo roles of Corrado (Raphaela Mangan) and Ottone (Sinéad O’Kelly), originally male (one of them sung by a castrato, the other cross-dressed), are now female characters, matching gender to voice-type and adding a further twist to the play of identity.

Read the full review here.