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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Lucrezia Borgia (Athenaeum Theatre) - 2 hours 30 minutes, including a 20-minute interval

Soaring vocals and a bravura performance by Soprano Helena Dix are among the many highlights of Lucrezia Borgia, in which subterfuge and skulduggery abound.

The melodramatic opera by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti hasn’t been performed in Melbourne for more than 30 years.

Director Gary Abrahams has chosen to set the story in a world of power, corruption, debauchery and excess.

His contemporary reference point is euro-trash fashionistas.

Photos by Robin Halls

He has also played around with mafioso tropes to help make sense of the gangs and political machinations of the story.

The production is freely plagiarised from Victor Hugo’s play that came before it.

It explores the humanity in a supposed monster. I speak of Lucrezia and motherhood.

She is onto her fourth husband, Don Alfonso, who believes his wife is having an affair with Gennaro and plots to murder him.

There is no love lost for Lucrezia Borgia among Gennaro and his friends. She is said to have perpetrated some heinous crimes against their loved ones.

But she has a soft spot for Gennaro, who deeply loves the mother he has never met, having been brought up by “a lowly fisherman” in Naples.

In a mesmerising display, Helena Dix captivates with her peerless vocal talent. It is not only the emotion in her voice that impresses. The expressions on her face also quickly win us over. I found her truly inspiring.

It takes a lot to stand tall alongside her, but tenor James Egglestone does a fine job, showing conviction and strength as Gennaro, a man pulled from pillar to post.

In a suitably edifying, if frightening, display Baritone Christopher Hillier revels in the villainy required of Don Alfonso.

He lives the adage revenge is a dish best served cold, although his intent was other than that.

Mezzo-Soprano Dimity Shepherd does much of the heavy lifting in the second act.

She plays Maffio Orsini – Gennaro’s friend – who convinces Gennaro to stay with her, rather than flee immediately, which is his want.

I relished the music, the sets, the settings, the lighting and the costuming, all of which come together to produce a delicious melting pot of decadence.

The over-the-top histrionics perfectly suit the narrative.

Complete with the 50-piece Melbourne Opera Orchestra and 30-person Melbourne Opera Chorus, the leads triumph in this tale of indulgence turned sour.

Two and a half hours, including a 20-minute interval, Lucrezia Borgia is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until 6th September, 2022.


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