Magic Flute by Castellucci @ Brussels

The season at the Munt opened with Mozart’s Magic Flute. A season which, for a change, includes two 19th century Italian staged opera’s which are neither Verdi nor Puccini and has a mere 30% of contemporary operas. Unfortunately, Meyerbeer’s grand opera is not staged (though we are still waiting for the coproduced-but-never-staged Muette de Portici, or a re-staging of the wonderful Py/Minkowsky Huguenots with a excellent 2nd cast headed by John Osborn).

Magic flute, then, a very traditional title, directed by an unconventional director. Magic flute is one opera, which, in my opinion, HAS to be re-interpreted. The sun against the darkness, Pamino in search of Pamina, Monostatos, are the symbols of the progressive/active patriarchy against the evil/passive matriarchy, the manipulation of the natural for its own good, with a hint of racism and misogyny. An odious text, which got an enlightening new vest in last year’s Gent production by David Herman. On another planet we are with Castelluci’s view on the subject. While the overture stands for the darkness (all in black, a neon tube light is shattered etc), Act I is all in white. And when I say all, I mean everything. The people, the clothing, the shoes, the background, the props, the floor, everything. All singers and all dancers act with small and slow movements. The singers have doubles, which mirror their movements and even lip sync, the dancers behind them dance slowly, creating intertwined choreographic forms which are enhanced by the use of feathers and of slowly rotating platforms. No spoken dialogue, just one musical piece after the other. At the end of act one bizarre shapes (architectural forms designed by algorithms by Swiss architect Michael Hansmeyer) move together with the singers, dancers and the doubles creating a huge, white, barock cathedral.

Act two is totally different in that the setting has contemporary features. It starts with eerie music while pregnant women pump their milk from both breasts. I was too busy looking at the technicality of the process to read the text projected above them so i missed the philosophical point. However, with these ladies the mother figure started to get its recognition (the Mother/Queen of the night was also the only figure which was not doubled). The setting was not white anymore but all-beige, the floor, a separating wall, the clothes even the hair. The music starts, but while Act I was played without text, in act two newly created text is interposed into the musical pieces and recited. First by five women, later by five men. The women, one by one, tell us, within 1 minute each, about the moment they became blind, who at a small age, who suddenly while on a plane etc. They tell about the world they see, a world made of shadows and darkness. The men on the other hand tell about the moment in their lives when their skin was burnt, who through scalding oil, who through fire, an explosion etc, a world made of desperation, scarring skin and the moment of “too much light”. Latest by then it becomes clear that Castellucci opposes the moment of lights to those of shadows and pulls a parallel to the darkness and light of the Queen and Sarastro.

Castellucci certainly finds a way to make us think and breaks with conventions, but the message is so overwhelming that the music and the libretto lose all connection with their creators. The orchestra, which includes 18th century brass and timpani, has not much life, I heard Manacorda direct much better. None of the singers have any particular flaws but none are really memorable or touched me in any way.

Muzikale Leiding-Antonello Manacorda, Regie, Decor, Kostuums, Belichting-Romeo Castellucci, Choreografie-Cindy Van Acker, Algoritmische Architectuur-Michael Hansmeyer, Artistieke Medewerking-Silvia Costa, Dramaturgie-Piersandra Di Matteo, Antonio Cuenca Ruiz, Koorleider-Martino Faggiani, Sarastro-Tijl Faveyts, Tamino -Reinoud Van Mechelen, Sprecher-Dietrich Henschel , Königin Der Nacht-Jodie Devos, Pamina-Ilse Eerens , Erste Dame-Tineke Van Ingelgem, Zweite Dame-Angélique Noldus, Dritte Dame-Esther Kuiper, Papageno-Georg Nigl, Papagena-Elena Galitskaya, Monostatos/Ein Mohr-Elmar Gilbertsson, Erster Priester/Zweiter Geharnischter Mann- Guillaume Antoine, Zweiter Priester / Erster Geharnischter Mann-Yves Saelens, 20/09/18, pictures from movie-stills published on demunt.be

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Rossini Opera Festival 2018 @ Pesaro

It’s always interesting to follow the Viaggio a Reims of the Accademia in Pesaro, one can hear interesting young voices which might be successful one day. Excellent, I thought, was the Lord Sidney of Nicolò Donini, with not only fluid coloratura but also the emphasis he put on pronunciation and interpretation. Milla Mihova’s Cortese was also quite good with a strong voice, fluid embellishments and a steady top register. I would have loved to hear her as Corinna. A tenor I also enjoyed was Anatoliy Pigrebnyy as Belfiore, with a nice extension and a ductile voice. Corinna, Folleville and Trombonok all simplify the quick coloratura, Sennikova is a bit mellifluous. I would have loved to see Carles Panchon, who sang the role of Antonio the 17th, sing the role of Sidney the 14th (the students of the accademia alternate roles in two different dates). His voice was quite beautiful and strong and convinced even in the small role of Antonio with a funny mimicry. The orchestra was adequately conducted by Hugo Carrio.

Ricciardo e Zoraide was one of the main events in Pesaro this year, the opera was composed in Naples in 1818 but was not, also in modern times, very lucky with revivals. Juan Diego Florez comes back for yet another role composed for Giovanni David, the tenore di grazia active in Naples at that time. (In fact most of Rossini’s Neapolitan operas have 2 tenor roles, one tenore di grazia and one baritenor. The latter was Andrea Nozzari, for whom Rossini composed the roles of Otello, Rinaldo (Armida), Pirro in Ermione, Rodrigo (La donna del lago), Antenore (Zelmira). Juan Diego Florez, after over 20 years of activity (he was “discovered” in Pesaro in 1996 when he had to replace the main tenore last minute to sing the murderous role of Corradino in Mathilde Di Shabran) still startles with the ease he reaches all the notes, his musical elegance, his impeccable coloratura. Romanovsky sang the role composed for Nozzari. Romanovsky has all the technical skills, the coloratura and the extension, and this is already quite impressive. However the voice sounds a bit muffled and does not expand. Pretty Yende is a credible Zoraida, the clear top notes flow with ease, the interpretation credible. Also Victoria Yarovaya convinces as Zomira in the difficult Pisaroni role. An incredible surprise was the third tenor, Xabier Anduaga, a very resounding voice with easy top notes and an incredible projection. I hope to hear him in more Rossini soon. Dull on the other hand the direction of Marshall Pynkoski. He moves the plot from Nubia to a very generic oriental place. The settings are pleasing and the colours beautiful, but except for a handful of ubiquitous ballet dancers who constantly accompany the plot, there is no action on stage except for minimal and very generic standard movements, the singers being mainly turned towards the audience. The excellent orchestra sinfonica nazionale della RAI was adequately conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti.

For the 150th anniversary of Rossini’s death this year, the ROF commissioned a new Barbiere di Siviglia, a choice much criticized on- and offline. The reason being Barbiere being one of the world’s most performed operas and the detractors wished a more rare opera. Nonetheless, in my view, it turned out to be a very good production. The setting is beautiful. In an atemporal Seville, Pizzi plays with the airy space and just a few touches of contrasts and colours. The singers’ movements are very generic, some good ideas but not everything convinces (Basilio’s stutter, Bartolo’s French R…). Very elegant the costumes.
What makes this Barbiere so special is the importance put on the text and this is thanks mainly to the 3 low male roles. I always was a big fan of Spagnoli and I was very happy to hear him sing in this Barbiere. Even happier I was to see a young singer I value, Davide Luciano. If the acting was good, it was mainly thanks to these two singers. (I liked the delicate rapper movements of Spagnoli, as if to underline the modernity of Rossini in his time, the rapid sillabato being our rap). Maybe Spagnoli is more delicate in the search of the right nuance, though I found his voice not always as round and soft especially in the higher register, but both have an excellent musicality, are wonderful actors, have wonderful body gestures. The phrasing is excellent, each word adapts to the flow of the music, the pronunciation impeccable. Two charismatic top singers. Mirinov is very good as count, not a big voice but he nimbly flies over all runs. Not very big isn’t Rosina’s voice either. I’m not sure why the ROF keeps choosing her in the mezzo or alto roles. The vocality does not suit her very much. The voice is placed high and one can hear that even in the recitatives which don’t have necessary weight in these low roles. In the rapid embellishments she’s not always audible. When she gets time she does reach the low notes, her coloratura is fluid, her pronunciation good and she moves well on stage. Elena Zilio is lovely as Berta and Pertusi a correct Basilio.

Adina is a little comic opera Rossini composed in the heights of his Neapolitan success in 1818, exactly 200 years ago, as was also Ricciardo e Zoraide. Written for a still unknown commissioner, the opera was composed using either own music from lesser known operas or composed by Rossini’s collaborators. Not even a handful of pieces were freshly composed for this work. Eventually the opera was first staged only 8 years later in Lisbon.
Pesaro’s direction by Miss Cucchi imagines the plot deploying from a nuptial cake being prepared. Loads of different characters move on stage with colourful clothes in front of a stage-filling cake. The main characters were all quite good. Lisette Oropesa was almost worshipped as an excellent newcomer, despite her success abroad. I found her timbre a bit cold and her coloratura a bit too much on the “di grazia” side, but she certainly has a full bodied voice also in the lower register and the top notes are propelled with no problem whatsoever. Very good Vito Priante as calif, from the rapid runs to the more lyric moments he is a fine singer. Both are also good actors and deliver excellent actorial skills in a libretto which mixes comic with semi dramatic moments. Although still able to mature I liked also the tenor, who is assimilating the bel canto style and has no problems with the tessitura of a tenore di grazia. Good all other roles with the lovely eunuch Ali who delivers his sorbet aria with elegance and Davide Giangregorio’s Mustafá.

Ricciardo e Zoraide: Direttore-Giacomo Sagripanti, Maestro del coro -Giovanni Farina, Regia-Marshall Pynkoski, Scene-Gerard Gauci, Costumi-Michael Gianfrancesco, Luci-Michelle Ramsay, Coreografie-Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Agorante-Sergey Romanovsky, Zoraide-Pretty Yende, Ricciardo-Juan Diego Flórez, Ircano-Nicola Ulivieri, Zomira Victoria Yarovaya, Ernesto-Xabier Anduaga, Fatima-Sofia Mchedlishvili, Elmira-Martiniana Antonie, Zamorre-Ruzil Gatin
Il viaggio a Reims: Direttore-Hugo Carrio, Corinna-Aleksandra Sennikova, Marchesa Melibea-Claudia Verrecchia, Contessa di Folleville-Larisa Stefan, Madama Cortese-Milla Mihova, Cavaliere Belfiore-Anatoliy Pigrebnyy, Conte di Libenskof-Shanul Sharma, Lord Sidney-Nicoló Donini, Don Profondo-Peter Sokolov, Barone di Trombonok-Igor Onishchenko, Don Alvaro-Alejandro Sanchez, Don Prudenzio-Gálvez, Don Luigino-Antonio Gares, Delia -Maria Laura Iacobellis, Maddalena-Anastasia Medvedeva, Modestina-Claudia Muschio, Gelsomino-Manuel Amati, Antonio-Carles Pachon
Adina: Conductor-Diego Matheuz, Director-Rosetta Cucchi, Set designer-Tiziano Santi, Costumes-Claudia Pernigotti, Adina-Lisette Oropesa, Semino-Levy Sekgapane, Califfo-Vito Priante, Ali-Matteo Macchioni, Mustafà-Davide Giangregorio
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Director-Yves Abel, Director, costumes, set designer-Pier Luigi Pizzi, Conte Almaviva-Maxim Mironov, Rosina-Aya Wakizono, Figaro-Davide Luciano, Dr. Bartolo-Pietro Spagnoli, Don Basilio-Michele Pertusi, Berta-Elena Zilio, Fiorello-William Corrò
Foto studio Amatio Bacciardi, performances of the 17th, 19th and 21st August 2018.

Mercadante’s Didone abbandonata @ Innsbrucker Festwochen der alten Musik

Saverio Mercadante’s Didone abbandonata contains beautiful music. The opera has magnificent melodies (the ouverture, both Enea’s entrance and second at aria, the act I finale and the act II terzetto, Didone’s final aria are all beautiful), gripping ensembles and a refined orchestration and it is easy to believe the success it had after its premiere in Turin being played in Naples, Paris, and London. I would love to see it staged again.

Jarba’s role was composed for one of the leading tenors of the time, Nicola Tacchinardi. Carlo Allemanno has all the required notes and acceptable coloratura but sings with a dry timbre and a voice which sounds a little veiled. Viktorija Miškunaité has a rigid voice without legato, and smudges over the embellishments, the dramatic and beautiful final aria is negatively affected by the screechy top notes, which are usually in tune. Wonderful on the other hand Katrin Wundsam in the trouser role of Enea. Flexible and warm, the voice ascends with ease to the high register just to leap down with equal ease. She does her best to properly pronounce and her embellishments are sung clearly but delicately. The three remaining cast members all have sorbet arias. Selene’s one is beautifully rendered by Emilie Renard. The male singers have quite challenging arias for Araspe and Osmida but except for some beautiful top notes from Piero Godoy there is room for improvement.

The set by Magdalena Gut works well. A rotating top floor of a concrete building-in-making with iron rods sticking out from the floor make for an unfinished carthagean palace. Cringy however the direction by Jürgen Flimm. Not sure a grotesque psychopath Jarba who rapes and strangles Selene, slaughters Araspe ans stabs Osmida is what Didone’s final aria needed. For the rest singers were left to their fate as it seems they didn’t always know what to do onstage and characters were rendered only superficially. Better Alessandro De Marchi who keeps things going swiftly and directs energetically. Remarkable and excellently prepared the Coro Maghini.

Musikalische leitung-Alessandro De Marchi, Regie-Jürgen Flimm, Bühnenbild-Magdalena Gut, Kostüme-Kristina Bell, Licht-Irene Selka, Didone-Viktorija Miškunaité, Enea-Katrin Wundsam, Jarba-Carlo Allemano, Osmida-Pietro Di Bianco, Araspe-Piero Godoy, Selene-Emilie Renard. Photos Rupert Larl.

 

Vaccaj’s Giulietta e Romeo in Martina Franca

Nicola Vaccaj is now mainly famous for his didactic singing method for opera singers but in his time he was an accomplished composer albeit in the shadow of Rossini. His Giulietta e Romeo  (1825) was very well received and often performed until Bellini wrote his own version in 1830. And even then, Maria Malibran, when singing Bellini’s opera, chose to sing Vaccaj’s finale instead of the original one, a practice frequently copied. Personally I find the music extremely pleasing with some excellent pieces such as the love duet in act I, the father’s touching aria in act II, the whole finale just to mention a few.

The delicate Giulietta was extraordinarily interpreted by Leonor Bonilla. Her beautiful voice rose to the top, ethereal notes very easily. Raffaella Lupinacci as Romeo perfectly rendered the energy of young Romeo. Vocally she did an excellent job in the chiselling of colours but her voice is not strong enough in the low notes and at times she was not very audible. Christian Senn’s Lorenzo was also very good with an equal register everywhere and a very good pronunciation. Leonardo Cortellazzi was an excellent Capellio, good pronunciation, vivid top register, beautiful timbre and fine impersonation of the compelling character the librettist Felice Romani makes of the father. I was less impressed by Vasa Stajkic’s Tebaldo who’s interpretation was a bit monochrome. The excellent Paoletta Marrocu could only make a stage-wise impressive and vocally expressive loving mother. 

The slightly gothic staging was simple but effective. A lateral transversal wall with medieval touches (representing first the Capulets’ palace with the balcony, and then the walls of the cemetery), a tomb and impressive lighting was enough to put us straight into the plot. The movement of the masses was excellent and also the single characters were admirably guided and thanks to Cecilia Ligorio’s direction the show had basically no drops in tension. In my opinion the only disagreeableness came from the conductor. He got loads of applause but in my personal view he directed too much on the slow side, so much as to sometimes lose the arch of the musical line. Directing in an open space he also did not balance the volume enough and some of the beautiful accompaniment got lost in the…open air.

Direttore-Sesto Quatrini, Regis-Cecilia Ligorio, Scène-Alessia Colosso, Costumi-Giuseppe Palella, Luci/Luciano Novello, Capellio-Leonardo Cortellazzi, Giulietta-Leonor Bonilla, Romeo-Raffaella Lupinacci, Adele-Paoletta Marrocu, Tebaldo-Vasa Stajkic, Lorenzo-Christian Senn, pictures from backtrack.com by Fabrizio Sansoni and Paolo Conserva, and provincia.mc.it, 31/07/18

Bozar programme 18/19

I always wondered, in Belgium’s cultural life, what Belgians were most interested in. And as listener to concertgoers’ comments and to various concerts, I’m coming to the conclusion that not the music is the most important thing but the artist. Looking at the previous years’ Bozar printed programs, it almost bothered me how the orchestra or the main artist not only had the biggest font, but were in bold AND underlined. The performers were just below, the font slightly smaller but still in bold, and listed one by one, each performer deserved a single line of course. The composers came afterwards, not bold anymore, and the  actual composition came in an even (slightlty) smaller font. Funnily enough sometimes even not listed separately, as if to save space. But hey, who was I to complain, all the info was there.Since nobody really seems to care what is actually played, Bozar this year decided to go a step further with the 2018/19 printed program of Bozar. The first pages are dedicated to the highlights – orchestras, artists etc. For a handful of them we see the full program of the evening. Next we 

have a calendar that spans over the whole season with a day by day listing and brief descritpion of orchestra and the composer. And that’s it! Nowhere are we told the actual composition. The somewhat startled lady behind the ticket counter advised me to look into the subscription folder, as almost everything is there. Of course it isn’t. Belgian surrealism got a small revival.

An excellent Clemenza di Tito in Gent

Many were the beautiful things in this Clemenza di Tito given in Gent. What struck me most was the beautiful ending of act one with the changes of moods and tempi. That’s Mozarts merit of course, but the opera was well conducted, sung and directed. Michael Hampe’s setting is traditional, with classical structures mixed with 18th/19th century costumes. The movements on stage are very well directed, which is quite difficult for such an opera with a classical aria/recitativo structure and the chorus added drama during the key moments. Montanari conducts well what is more lyrical and shows sensitivity for the slower parts, but some pieces such as the ouverture or the March are too fast for my liking and are at the expense of details.

The Sesto of Anna Goryachova is wonderful, her range equal in all registers, her coloratura exact and she is fully immersed in the character. Her  recitativo accompagnato that opens the finale of act one (O dei che smania è questa) is very dramatic and shows her also an excellent actress, but the highlight for me was the aria Deh, per questo istante solo (Sesto’s confrontation with the emperor) where acting, singing and directing were just excellent. Lothar Odinius as Tito has a strong voice and sings delicately but it is not light enough to sing the runs accurately and he sinks in intonation in more than one occasion. Vitella is Agneta Eichenholz, her upper and lower register are not fully convincing and sometimes she pushes the notes from below but she sings acceptably well, her notes being satisfactorily steady to pass unharmed the trio (Vengo! Aspettate!) and the final aria. Cecilia Molinari is an impeccable Annio with an excellent phrasing. Very good also the Servilia of Anat Edri. This wonderful production was completed by the Publio of Markus Suihkonen and the chorus of the Flemish Opera.

Dirigent-Stefano Montanari, Regie- Michael Hampe, Décor- Germán Droghetti, Kostuums-Germán Droghetti, Belichting-Hans Toelstede, , Tito-Lothar Odinius, Vitellia Agneta Eichenholz, Sesto-Anna Goryachova, Annio-Cecilia Molinari, Servilia Anat Edri, Publio-Markus Suihkonen, 11/5/15, pics from https://operaballet.be

Mariotti & Co in Liege: Rossini’s La donna del lago and Stabat Mater

It was a pleasure to to see this production a second time, if only to see how well Michieletto can tell a touching story and only minimally interfere with the libretto. In this Donna del lago he tells the story with the eyes of old Elena and her secret love to the king. Elena and Malcolm have aged and they witness their own plot, discovering secrets they most likely didn’t tell each other. There were some very touching moments and I loved to see the show in the intimacy of the theatre rather than the huge space of the Adriatic Arena. Mariotti loves the score I feel. The rubati, the small plays with tempi and dynamics bring the score to life and it’s such a joy to hear him direct. The orchestra is far from impeccable but I never heard it play so well (bravo the clarinet). Rodvnanovsky had parts of his voice that sometimes sounded «unclean» (a cold?) but he masters his difficult role with relative ease. It’s more technical mastery, as where Pizzolato, although she lost some of the creaminess of her voice, has not only still impeccable coloratura but plays wonderfully with the colours, and her clear pronunciation makes poor Malcolm become a true romantic lover. Salome Jicia is less convincing than in Pesaro, she attacks her high notes a bit harshly at times, her pronunciation could also be improved but she makes a fine Elena nonetheless with a powerful coloratura and a beautiful closing aria. The small house of Liège is advantageous to Mironov’s voice, not large, but beautiful, light and flexible, sings excellently and in understandable Italian, his second act aria (whose melodic line I always found somewhat strange). Very well also Simón Orfila as Douglas. Barbaric the choir.

A couple of days later, with the same singers (Pizzolato, Jicia, Romanovsky, Orfila), Mariotti directed the Stabat Mater. I was not convinced. They all sounded a bit tired I thought. I much enjoyed Orfila, and next to him Pizzolato was the most balanced although with a fatigued upper register. Romanovsky was covered by the orchestra during much of his Cujus animam, but then shouted his cadenza. Salome Jicia did not convince in the upper register. I don’t know what it is, maybe all these roles are too high for her. I much enjoy her lower and middle register, but the runs in premuniri of the Morte Christi premuniri were very unrefined und with little legato. Mariotti pursues his play with dynamics and tempi, but rather unconvincigly this time, in slow movements he slows down even more, in loud parts he is exceedingly loud. A bit disappointing.

Direction Musicale-Michele Mariotti, Mise En Scène-Damiano Michieletto, Décors-Paolo Fantin, Costumes-Klaus Bruns, Lumières-Alessandro Carletti, Chef Des Chœurs-Pierre Iodice, , Elena-Salome Jicia, Malcolm-Marianna Pizzolato, Giacomo V-Maxim Mironov, Rodrigo-Sergey Romanovsky, Douglas-Simón Orfila, Serano & Bertram-Stefan Cifolelli, Albina-Julie Bailly, Elena Âgée-Giusi Merli, Malcolm Âgé-Alessandro Baldinotti, 8/05/12 and 12/05/18. Pic from Mr Mariotti’s facebook.

Lucio Silla @ Brussels

Mozart was 16 when he composed Lucio Silla but it remained the last opera he wrote for Italy for after the opera premiered during the Carneval season of 1773, the Regio Ducal Teatro (for whom Mozart wrote Mitridate and Ascanio in Alba) did not commission any more operas to Mozart. The opera has no easy or proper plot, which is not uncommon in operas of that period. Although the librettist Giovanni de Gamerra went on to play a small role in the development of what was to become romantic opera, the characters in Lucio Silla are very static. Mozart composed a varied palette of music, some conventional pieces, others remarkably deep, using some new and elaborate forms, a considerable amout of recitativi accompagnati-a more dramatic form than the recitativo secco-and expanding the orchestra with trumpets, giving the orchestra more elaborate writings then relegate it to a standard accompaniment. Recitivi were written when still in Salzburg while the arias were composed tailormaid to the strengths of the singers. They all turned up in Milan between end of November and beginning of December 1772. The first Cecilio was the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, while the first Giunia was Anna de Amicis, equally famous. De Amicis “was very satisfied with the arias, and Mozart introduced in them passages which are very unusual, unique and extremely difficult and which she sings amazingly well…” father Mozart reported, who was in Milan with his son. Giunia and Cecilio each sing in 7 pieces. And Mozart gives them a wonderful duet to close Act I. Lucio Silla himself sings only in 3 pieces, which is either due to his text written to be conveyed dramatically by the recitativo or by the fact that the originally intended star had to be replaced last minute with a lesser known singer, or both. The new tenor arrived December 17th and the next day Mozart had composed the two arias for him. Cinna has also only 3 arias but has the privilege to sing the first, while Celia’s role lightens the atmosphere, seen that she is not included in the political plot. The full orchestra rehearsals were done the 18, 20 and 22 December, the dress rehearsal the 23rd and the opera was performed the 26th and run for 26 performance, a considerable amount. Mozart was pleased with both Anna de Amicis and Venanzio Rauzzini, and for the latter, around the 15th January, he composed the famous motet Exultate, jubilate.

The director sets the story in modern days and when the curtain rises, one sees a modern house (which later revolves) and tress around it, very much like in Pizzi’s Pietra del paragone, but less stylish. But the plot is quite thin, the da capo arias very long and Tobias Kratzer really only asks for very conventional movements (except for much cutting of veins and a dog running around) and the little action on stage starts boring very soon. The orchestra played the ouverture swiftly and nervously (maybe a bit too nervously?) but Manacorda directed and accompanied very well. I thought Jeremy Ovenden was just acceptable. His lower register weak, his interpretation extremely thin. Much better Lenneke Ruiten. Her role has extreme demands and she manages well with a beautiful and bright top register. In one of the most difficult arias ever written Ah se il crudel periglio she convinces much less (drops a note every now and then to breath). Anna Bonitatinus gave a lovely recital of Rossini songs a couple of weeks back. A forgotten repertoire that she rendered beautifully. But her Cecilio was not as convincing. Her tight vibrato is a bit unpleasant and it seems to me Cecilio is a size too big for her. Her 2nd entrance aria was sung with much transport and fury and was a joy to hear, as was her last aria, but there are constant struggles with pitch. Marvellous Simona Saturova as Celia. She sings  her four arias wonderfully and with great taste. I had big hopes for the opening aria but i had to wait for Ilse Eerens to sing her other two arias which allows her to show her bravura. I like her beatiful timbre and clear top notes. Good also Carlo Allemano but untidy roulades.

Conductor-Antonello Manacorda, Director-Tobias Kratzer, Set And Costume Design-Rainer Sellmaier, Lighting-Reinhard Traub, Video–Manuel Braun, Dramaturgy-Krystian Lada, Lucio Silla-Jeremy Ovenden, Giunia-Lenneke Ruiten, Cecilio-Anna Bonitatibus, Celia-Simona Šaturová, Cinna-Ilse Eerens, Aufidio-Carlo Allemano. 7/11/17, pictures by  www.demunt.be

Norma @ Liège

An pleasing enough Norma was given at Liege this week. I did not like everything of Davide Garattini-Raimondi’s direction. It had the merit of being on 3 levels which allowed to play with movements of the single versus the masses, but I found the paper mache-looking setting a bit unrefined, although I guess deliberate. Personally I did not see the necessity of the overly made-up faces and neither of the dancers who hopped also in the most inappropriate scenes. To me it looked a bit silly.

It was clear even before hearing her, that Patrizia Ciofi would be too light for Norma, “In mia mano alfin tu sei” for eg and all the lower passages was musically not very pleasing and at the end of the several evenings the voice sounded very tired. Having said that I found much dedication to the role, wonderfully floating acuti and a profound rendering. With her on stage was José Marina Lo Monaco who sang a beautiful and compassionate Adalgisa, and the two voices merged wonderfully in the duet of Act II. As Pollione we had Gregory Kunde who the role seemed to fit like a glove and the notes came out in apparent effortlessness from the lowest to highest, always a pleasure to hear. Andrea Concetti was a noble Oroveso, his second aria convinced more than the first. All were accompanied by the very capable hands of Massimo Zanetti; He kept the music going swiftly although the orchestra’s playing was not always neat and clean.

Conductor-Massimo Zanetti, Director-Davide Garattini Raimondi, Choreography & Director’s Assistant -Barbara Palumbo, Set And Lighting Design-Paolo Vitale, Costume Design-Giada Masi, Choirmaster-Pierre Iodice, Norma-Patrizia Ciofi, Pollione-Gregory Kunde, Adalgisa-Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Oroveso-Andrea Concetti *, Flavio-Zeno Popescu, Clotilde-Réjane Soldano, 25/10/17, Fotos: http://www.operaliege.be

Pia de Tolomei & Fra Diavolo – Pisa & Rome

Verdi-centered fans told me they heard so much Verdi in Donizetti’s Pia di Tolomei, but Pia was composed 3 years before Verdi even started composing operas. Nonetheless it contains some beautiful music and in the recent past Pia de Tolomei got already some attention: staged several times at the end of the 60’s, beginning of the 70’s, under the vibrant direction of Rigacci (with a wonderfully sympathetic Lella Cuberli), in 2005 la Fenice presented it with Patrizia Ciofi, the Opera Rara label recorded it, and now in Pisa it sees the light again. It was however a Pia de Tolomei without Pia. The main singer started badly with an entrance aria that revealed vocal problems as soon as the voice had to rise even a slight bit. No legato, wobbly line, and one awfully squeaked top note did the rest. Not to talk about the interpretation, which was totally absent in the desperate but unsuccessful attempt to get at least the notes right. The rest of the cast was quite enjoyable. Marina Comparato knows how to sing, one could enjoy the beautiful lower register, in the cavatine more than in the cabaletta. Her contribution to the beautiful duet with Pia was touching. The tenor was a lovely surprise: Giulio Pelligra in the role of Ghino mastered the difficult leaps with apparent ease and Valdis Jansons as Nello was especially moving in Lei perduta in core ascondo, where he utters his hate for Pia…but still loves her. The music is flowing brightly under the baton of Christopher Franklin while the setting and lights are lovely. Questionable some of the stage directions by Andrea Cigni.

A charming Fra Diavolo was given in Rome. The points of interest were for me John Osborne as Fra Diavolo and Barberio-Corsetti’s stage settings. The latter’s love for video projections are known, and he mixes them masterfully with the scenery which resulted in a sparkly and light interpretation. Musically the opera is very French with couplets and songs typical for French light opera. When Fra Diavolo was translated into Italian for the Italian stages, Auber composed new arias for the main characters in a more Italian style in order to show off their vocal qualities and it was in the Italian translation that the opera was most successful.  The cast reunited for the Roman staging was very satisfying, and quite enjoyable were the crystal clear voiced Anna Maria Sarra, the funny Sonia Ganassi as Lady Pamela, Giorgio Misseri was a touching Lorenzo and John Osborne as Fra Diavolo. Rory MacDonald conducted swiftly although I found he sometimes covered the voices.

Pia de Tolomei: Pia-Francesca Tiburzi, Ghino degli Armieri-Giulio Pelligra, Nello della Pietra-Valdis Jansons, Rodrigo-Marina Comparato, Piero, eremita-Andrea Comelli, Ubaldo, servitore di Nello-Christian Collia, Bice-Silvia Regazzo, Lamberto-Claudio Mannino, Custode-Nicola Vocaturo, direttore-Christopher Franklin, regia-Andrea Cigni, scene-Dario Gessati, costumi-Tommaso Lagattolla, luci-Fiammetta Baldiserri, 14/10/17, foto: http://www.teatrodelgiglio.it. Fra Diavolo: Direttore-Rory MacDonald, Regia-Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, Scene-Giorgio Barberio Corsetti e Massimo Troncanetti, Costumi-Francesco Esposito, Video-Igor Renzetti, Alessandra Solimene, Lorenzo Bruno, Coreografia-Roberto Zappalà, Luci-Marco Giusti, Fra Diavolo-John Osborn, Lord Rocburg-Roberto De Candia, Lady Pamela-Sonia Ganassi, Lorenzo-Giorgio Misseri, Matteo-Alessio Verna, ZerlinaAnna Maria Sarra, Giacomo-Jean Luc Ballestra, Beppo-Nicola Pamio, 15/10/17, foto: http://www.operaroma.it/