Small picture of Donizetti




Donizetti's La favorite

Theatre Royal, Toulouse, February 6 - 19, 2014

Photographs by Patrice Nin, courtesy of Le Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse


This was a new production by Le Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse.  Alan Jackson, the Society's treasurer, saw the production on February 11 and has provided the following report:-

If I were a newspaper critic I’d give the Toulouse production of La favorite 3 stars. Musically the performance was fine. Kate Aldrich as Léonor, who I remember with much pleasure from Zelmira in Pesaro in 2009, was very good. Impassioned and tasteful, though the single florid burst in the aria wasn’t quite as fluent as her Rossini credentials promised. The Fernand was Yijie Shi who I had reservations about as Count Ory at that same Pesaro festival. I think the voice has now filled out considerably and he did very well. The top C# in the first aria and the top C in the second were firmly in place. It is still quite a “slim” focussed voice, more Florez than Pavarotti, and I did want it to soften more of the time. But nonetheless I got a lot of enjoyment from his performance. It could have been more subtle, but there was nothing tasteless. Ludovic Tézier and Giovanni Furlanetto (a quick internet search suggests no relation to Ferrucio) were Alphonse and Balthazar respectively and both were good if not the last word in elegance. All the French sounded pretty good to me, though I did spot one deviation from the surtitle from Aldrich that made grammatical nonsense – the sort of thing a native speaker would not do even in a minor temporary memory lapse. 

So why only 3 stars? Well, alas, the production. It was not an imposed concept or impossible updating. And thankfully there were no tanks or army fatigues, fascists or nudes. The first set had cloister-like arches and the monks had cloaks and cowls. But … Fernand carried a suitcase illuminated from within, which appeared in several scenes, not always with him. I suppose it meant something, but I’m not very good with symbols. Perhaps something to do with seeing the light?? Then the women’s chorus came on. You know how after an awards evening (Oscars etc) the papers have photos of the outfits they thought good and those they thought disasters? Well these costumes reminded me of the latter. Afterwards I looked at the programme and discovered that the designer was none other than Christian Lacroix. So not exactly 14th century. Not that I would have minded if the colours had not been so garish. In Acts 2 and 3 the props (there was not much in the way of set) had the gaudy colours of sweaters in a Marks and Spencer’s sale. So the whole thing looked awful to my mind. And the acting was either non-existent or wildly over the top: too much crawling around on the floor, an absurdly aggressive kiss by Alphonse inflicted on Léonor to impress (?) Balthazar. And other “ideas”, like bringing down the curtain with the principals in front of it and then switching off the lights so the singers can walk offstage. Why? So, not bad enough to ruin the evening, but it did take the edge off a fine opera. I do not think we have the same concepts of honour these days, so to make those of La favorite convincing I think it would gain from being left more alone. The premonitions of Verdi still came through. There is an orchestral figure in the Act 2 finale that appears in the tenor recit in Luisa Miller, and the rest of that act brings to mind the Philip/Inquisitor battle in Don Carlos with its struggle between church and king. And of course a mezzo protagonist does remind one of Eboli and Amneris. For the record, there was no ballet, not that I missed one.


The Team

Léonor de Guzman - Kate Aldrich

Fernand - Yijie Shi

Alphonse XI, roi de Castille - Ludovic Tézier

Balthazar - Giovanni Furlanetto

Don Gaspar - Alain Gabriel

Inès - Marie-Bénédicte Souquet


Direction musicale - Antonello Allemandi

Mise en scène - Vincent Boussard

Décors - Vincent Lemaire

Costumes - Christian Lacroix

Lumières - Guido Levi


Orchestre national du Capitole

Chœur du Capitole




Balthazar and Fernand


Léonor and Fernand


Léonor and Fernand with Ines in the background






Fernand and Alphonse


Léonor and Fernand