Cathy Desmond enjoyed the combination of Rossini and an Irish composer at Wexford Festival Opera
The third night of Wexford Festival was a cakewalk. A rarely heard comic gem by Rossini paired with a hot-off-the-press work by a living Irish composer made for a highly entertaining Italian double bill. La Cucina, with a score by Louth native Andrew Synnott, was conceived as a curtain opener for the farce, Adina.
Director Rosetta Cucchi concocts a gaudy pantomime world for the Rossini work, with plenty of camp fun and sprinkles of high wire jinks adding zest to the proceedings. The fun starts in the foyer with the troupe of actors clowning around among patrons before taking up their
positions on a stage largely consumed by a giant tiered wedding cake.
The plot unfolds with the usual tropes of young love thwarted and mistaken identities reminiscent of Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio and Rossini’s own Italian Girl in
Algiers. Mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly sparkles in the title role as the slave girl. There was a warm response too for South African lyric tenor Levy Sekgapane as her suitor Selimo. We also had terrific patter work by Italian bass-baritone Daniele Antonangeli. Well executed solos from wind principals and fortepiano added lustre from the pit under Michele Spotti.
In contrast the mood of the short divertissement, La Cucina is more mundane but sets the panto mode and dovetails nicely into the more flamboyant main work. The action is set in a monochrome kitchen where a kitchen crew struggle to produce a wedding cake in time for the ceremony.
Soprano Máire Flavin is splendid as the sous chef Bianca with excellent work too from Mexican baritone Emmanuel Franco. There is plenty of colour in Synnott’s expansive score which sounds fresh and appealing. A nicely balanced mix of ingredients in an operatic confection drew sustained applause from the Wexford audience.