Boito's 'Mefistifele'

reviewed by HUGH CANNING in The Sunday Times 31.03.2019

The Chelsea Opera Group operates on a more modest scale, with regular London concert performances of undeservedly neglected work — including an admirable Forza in 2012, when neither London opera house staged it — since its foundation in 1950.

The account of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele, unstaged in London since English National Opera’s 1999 production, was one of COG’s finest. It was conducted with missionary zeal by an alumnus of the RO’s young artists’ programme, Matthew Scott Rogers, who galvanised both the amateur orchestra and chorus (including the Capital Arts Children’s Choir) to reveal a more than also-ran work by a Verdi contemporary (the masterly librettist of his Otello and Falstaff).

The principals were terrifically convincing: Elizabeth Llewellyn, lavishing her warm, near-spinto soprano on the dual roles of Faust’s conquests, Margherita/Elena; and Pablo Bemsch, a stylish, unusually lyrical tenor with immaculate diction. Best of all was the Armenian-German bass Vazgen Gazaryan in the title role: he already has a substantial CV of important parts in small German theatres. I’ll be surprised if we don’t hear him soon at Covent Garden.

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