Zanetto / Gianni Schicchi - Opera Holland Park, 22 June 2012 (opening night)
Kudos to Opera Holland Park for continuing, year after year, to revive long-forgotten Italian operas. But in the case of Mascagni's one act Zanetto, I wonder if it was worth the effort. The ruminative non-plot and politely anonymous music make its 40 minutes pass like four hours.
At least the shortness of the work permits an extended interval - a whole half an hour - before the second half of the double bill. Nice to have the opportunity to both 'use the facilities' and queue for crisps instead of making the usual tough choice.
Gianni Schicchi was a thousand times better. The main purpose Zanetto served on this occasion was to demonstrate by contrast the wit, economy and variety of Puccini's score - a point underlined by using the same set for both.
Martin Lloyd-Evans made one mistake, an extended dumb-show prologue before the music started. From then on his 1940s update was solid comic gold, based on detailed characterisations and a sprinkling of corpse-based sight gags. Alan Opie in the title role was the heart of the well-matched ensemble of venal opportunists.
Anna Patalong delivered the showstopping O mio babbino caro with winning sweetness, and conductor Manlio Benzi kept the music just the right side of manic, propelling it forward with relentless energy. Not a second flagged. While the main purpose of seeing Zanetto is no more than curiosity value, this Gianni Schicchi is worth a second visit.