WORKS: Le toréador
PERFORMER: Michel Trempont, Sumi Jo, John Aler; Welsh National Opera Orchestra/Richard Bonynge
CATALOGUE NO: 455 664-2
Le toréador is something of a misnomer for this frivolous, transparently accessible and little-known French opéra comique first heard in 1849, and anyone expecting a proto-Carmen full of bullfighting machismo will be disappointed. Instead it’s the old, old story of a young wife, her lover and her cuckolded elderly husband (a retired toreador, for no clear reason), all resolved ‘more harmoniously than morally’, as the synopsis puts it, when they finally set up as a ménage à trois.
There’s nothing discernibly Spanish about the score either. Indeed its big tune is better known as ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’. But this is an exuberant performance, beautifully sung, and acted with wit and engaging ardour. Sumi Jo is on top form, her sparkling coloratura diamond bright and effortlessly fluent, especially effective in the arias with flute obbligato. With effervescent playing from the WNO Orchestra and engaging, idiomatic singing from John Aler and Michel Trempont, this is a delightful confection, all spun sugar and froth, but a treat all the same.
Le toréador may never have enjoyed the popularity of Adam’s best-loved ballets, Giselle and Le corsaire, but sung this well, it’s just the kind of piece – a tale of compromise motivated by the need for money, with only three singers and one set – that our beleaguered opera houses should be looking to revive. Claire Wrathall