✶ ✶ ✶

The Perth theatre is a pretty gem, but with more space available front of house than inside. There being no orchestra pit, English Touring Opera's musicians did a valiant job squeezing into an uncomfortably small space in front of the stalls, with brass players in the boxes, and conductor Michael Rosewell taking his position from a seat in the front row. All credit to them, they had no trouble conjuring up the warm yesteryear sound with which this dark opera opens.

The highlight of this production is the singing of Elizabeth Llewellyn (Amelia) in the only major female role. Her voice, with wisps of smoke and undercurrents of honey in it, is a sound to bathe in.

Loading article content

If touring opera companies can bring voices of such quality to be heard live in these roles by local audiences, their existence and value can't be questioned. Of the men that loom in menacing fashion around this opera, Craig Smith (Boccanegra) and Charne Rochford (Adorno) both stir the blood, though both also sound strained at times.

Presumably this production travels and packs up well – consisting of planks or grey oblongs, a small wooden boat and a chair. And hardly more than two light settings, with similarly flatpack movement. Perhaps given that the plot of this opera rivals the Sopranos, it's just as well not to be distracted. One is left to focus on keeping up, and enjoying Verdi's writing. The opera is coloured by striking orchestrations – double bass and bassoon, for example, are enjoyably murky as an uprising in the Council Chamber simmers down to a suspicious truce.