Ecuba by Nicola Manfroce @ Martina Franca

Nicola Manfroce was a man of talent. Born one year before Rossini in the Calabrian Palmi, he moved his first musical steps in Rome. Aged 19 he presented a cantata in honour of Napoleon (the reference to France is important) and an opera, Alzira, interpreted by the already famous Isabella Colbran, who would become a key figure in Naples for the operas Rossini would compose for her interpretative and vocals skills. Impresario Domenico Barbaja’s nose for excellent talents (he also “discovered” Rossini and Bellini) commissioned Ecuba for the San Carlo, which went on stage in December 1812. Manfroce died only a a few months later aged 21. His insight of the French style is evident from the ouverture, where he masterfully combines the French musical language with Italian melodic inspiration. Throughout, the tragédie lyrique of Spontini also comes to mind. A profound musical chiselling of the tormented characters is achieved with dramatic ariosi and accompanied recitatives in forms that run smoothly into the actual musical numbers.

I was looking forwar to hear Carmela Remigio but unfortunately she was indisposed. as was the conductor Fabio Luisi. Sesto Quatrini took over the musical direction and although he did well, I felt that precision was missing especially in the string section and a research in colours and details was absent. Lidia Fridman as replacement in the role of Ecuba was successful. A slightly tensed top register did not affect the overall musical rendition and dramatic interpretation of the tragic figure with a good technical baggage and a generous voice: I especially enjoyed Roberta Mantegna as Polissena, beautiful timbre and well projected voice. Norman Reinhardt interprets Achilles credibly with a bold vigor and tender reading in his duets with Polissena . Though the timbre of the second tenor is more agreable, the interpretation of Priamus by Mert Süngü needs to wait Act II to be fully convicing. Pizzi’s setting was credible and powerful, almost grand in its linear and static nature. The chorus was placed at the two outside corners while the main action happned in the central section. Movements are predictable but the whole works. Pizzi gets single boos at the courtain call, all others are applauded with enthusiasm.

Conductor-Sesto Quatrini; Direction-Pier Luigi Pizzi, Light design-Massimo Gasparon; Achille-Norman Reinhardt, Priamo-Mert Süngü, Ecuba-Lidia Fridman, Polissena-Roberta Mantegna; Teona-Martina Gresia; Antiloco-Lorenzo Izzo, Duce greco-Nile Senatore, 30th July; Photo by Clarissa Lapola

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