Les Vêpres Siciliennes review – an electrifying night at the Opéra

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Royal Opera House, London
Stefan Herheim’s take on Verdi is restless, lurid and saturated with the opulence of the 19th-century Parisian opera house to which the action is relocated

There is – to risk sounding obtuse – an awful lot of opera in Stefan Herheim’s take on Verdi’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes. First seen in 2013 at the Royal Opera House, where it is now being revived under the directorial stewardship of Daniel Dooner, Herheim’s production returns the opera to the historical coordinates of its premiere: Paris, 1855, at the Opéra, then the world’s most prestigious venue for the art form.

Gesine Völlm’s costume designs see the heroine Hélène in the vast crinolines and near-spherical sleeves of historical portraits of the Second Empire court (they were Opéra regulars, of course). Philipp Fürhofer’s sets, meanwhile, constitute a rotating sequence of floor-to-ceiling lurid backdrops (a fiery volcano scene alternates with something a little more pastoral), a slice of full-size gilded auditorium populated by an on-stage audience, and a wall of mirrors complete with a barre, invoking the Opéra’s notorious foyer de la danse – a hotspot of institutionalised ogling, immortalised in paintings by Degas.

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Source: Opera News from the UK Guardian