Small picture of Donizetti




Donizetti's Francesca di Foix

Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, April 25 - May 21, 2013

Photographs by Clive Barda, courtesy of  Clive Barda and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama


A little late but here are some photographs from last year's Guildhall School of Music and Drama production of Donizetti's Francesca di Foix together with comments from the Society's treasurer, Alan Jackson, who saw the alternate cast to the ones shown in the photographs :-

Francesca di Foix may not be performed very often, but London has certainly been lucky with the two productions it has seen. In 1982 the Camden Festival revived it in an English version by Don White, coupled with La Romanziera, and that remains one of the most delightful evenings I have ever spent at the opera. It was starrily cast too, with Della Jones, Russell Smythe, Gillian Webster among others.

That the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s performance produced the same level of enchantment and well-being is a compliment to all involved. And this view was shared by everyone I spoke to. The period was updated to modern times: Francesca’s outing changes from a walk outside her castle to a visit to a designer clothes shop and the jousting tournament becomes a tennis competition Both settings worked perfectly, providing opportunities for Donizetti’s comedy to flower without slipping into farce or overdone camp. Stephen Barlow’s direction was faultless, and the acting of the chorus who were clearly enjoying themselves was infectious.

Under Dominic Wheeler’s experienced and sympathetic baton the musical side was also excellent. Of course these young singers couldn’t match those from 1982. Their voices are still maturing and experience will bring an extra layer of vocal confidence. But all were enjoyable and did justice to Donizetti’s music. The Guildhall performances were double-cast. On 6th November 2013 I heard Szymon Wach as The Count, Joseph Padfield as The King, Samuel Smith as The Duke and Marta Fontanals-Simmons as Edmondo (Francesca’s page, a breeches part). In the title role Lauren Zolezzi sparkled. The chorus and orchestra were fine. All in all, a delightful evening.

In March 2015 the Guildhall School are planning Donizetti's I pazzi per progetto.


The Team


Il Paggio - Elizabeth Desbruslais/Marta Fontanals-Simmons

Il Duca  - Joshua Mills/Sam Smith

Il Conte - Szymon Wach

Il Re - Piran Legg/Joseph Padfield

Francesca - Anna Gillingham/Lauren Zolezzi 


Conductor - Dominic Wheeler

Director - Stephen Barlow

Designer - Yannis Thavoris

Lighting - David Howe

Choreographer - Victoria Newlyn



Elizabeth Desbruslais as Il Paggio and Joshua Mills as Il Duca



Piran Legg as Il Re (with chorus)



Elizabeth Desbruslais as Il Paggio (with chorus)



Anna Gillingham as Francesca