Rarities (Macbeth Underworld and Silence des ombres@Brussels, Donizetti festival@Bergamo, Ercole amante@Versailles, Ermione@Naples

A disappointing start of the season, this 19/20 opera season in Belgium. In Brussels the first 2 operas were from the 21st century, none of which will leave any mark. Macbeth Underworld was quite gripping stage-wise but musically superficial, I felt that this opéra had not much to add to opera literature. Le silence des ombres played in the KVS to a house empty by a third. Musically for me it all merges into the same really so nothing visionary or exciting in any of those pieces. Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice in Liège had a very interesting setting by Aurélien Bory with a mirror against the back wall which, dimly lit, allowed for some interesting effects, but the direction of van Waas was lethargic. Varduhi Abrahamyan sang Orfeo with no involvement and conviction. So I left there disappointed as well. Much better was the Don Carlos in Gent. The setting was a mix of computer-generated background sets, landscapes creeping into sight, and geometric design objects wheeled in and out and used by an almost childish Don Carlos. Vocally I much admired Leonardo Capalbo as Don Carlos and Kartal Karagedik as Posa and their voices merged beautifully in the famous duet Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes. The opera was very well directed by Alejo Pérez. I am no Verdi fan but i didn’t get bored, that’s a touchstone. Macbeth in Gent on the other hand…

Luckily travelling has gotten easy, and refreshing productions are in fast reach, such as the Fernand Cortez in Florence and Rameau’s Les indes galantes in Paris. Why Brussels gives no barock opera is another mystery yet to be cracked. Something marvelous i saw in Bergamo, which hosts the annual Donizetti festival and this year it was the very first time in modern times that L’ange de Nisida was given a stage performance. Donizetti got the commission from Anténor Joly for performances at the Salle Ventadour in Paris in 1940. But when the theatre went into bankruptcy, Donizetti used parts of the score for La Favorite. Musically, though parts of it are known, the opera stands fully on its own legs and I’d love it to be part of a standard repertoire. A concert performance was given in London last year. Bergamo planned the absolute first staging in the renovated Donizetti theatre this year. However, unforeseen circumstances delayed the completion of the works so the staging took place in the stalls with the public looking down arena-like all around from the boxes. What made the Bergamo production a top of the art evening was the energy and emotion of all the parties. One will always find small smudges in an opus with so many players, but for the combination of operatic novelty, musical unity, singer involvement, setting, direction, costume design and lighting, this was one of the most interesting and moving opera production I’ve seen in years.

Difficult to trump such an evening and indeed Pietro il grande and Lucrezia Borgia were both a nudge less interesting. If Pietro il Grande saw a somewhat weird staging in bright colours and overly-charged 80’s design, the music was not very inspired. Clearly Donizetti tried to emulate Rossini but in the quest to find his own style a not very coherent patchwork was the result. Much better Lucrezia Borgia, at least vocally. The staging was (again) an all black setting (even most of the costumes were, except Lucrezia’s yellow) and included some very unpleasant manhandling of Lucrezia (who was pushed around like a scally, though a pope’s daughter and noblewoman). Though not the most beautiful of timbres, Carmela Remigio sings correctly, with fluid embellishments and a great stage presence. Xavier Anduaga fills the space easily with a beautiful voice. Very good all others, directed with some lengths by Riccardo Frizza.

The San Carlo in Naples gave Rossini’s Ermione. The opera had its premiere on this very same stage exactly 200 years ago. The setting was in a clean and linear white but the direction was a bit flat, with people just walking in and out and the chorus static. De Marchi’s conducted metronomically. Vocally there was really only John Irving who i found weak for Pirro’s part, and this mainly because he was inaudible. Teresa Iervolino was not as convincing as I found her in Semiramide but she has a beautiful, flexible voice and a stage presence which gave Andromaca an almost title-importance. Siragusa and Venditelli were almost excellent, radiant and charismatic voices, who portrayed the love-blind Oreste and the somewhat manipulative Ermione excellently, especially Ermiones final aria which jumps from one state of mind to another. If anything, the Naples staging confirmed Rossini’s visonary genius.

Another rarity i had the joy of seeing was Cavalli’s Ercole amante. Valérie Lesort and Christian Hecq have staged a wonderful Domino noir by Auber (one of those must-see stagings), and Ercole amante confirmed their gift of staging complicated plots with technically astonishing ideas making it charming and entertaining. They recreated the fascination of barock staging with magnificent costumes, machinery flying in and out, hatches opening, palms growing onstage, flowers becoming human, appearances, disappearances, phantastic creatures etc etc. A feast for the eye. And musically exceptionally directed by Raphael Pichon and sung by a string of baroque specialists.

Ercole amante, Direction musicale-Raphaël Pichon, Mise en scene-Valérie Lesort, Christian Hecq, Decors-Laurent Peduzzi, Costumes et machines-Vanessa Sannino, Lumieres-Christian Pinaud, Collaboration aux mouvements-Rémi Boissy, Realisation des marionettes-Carole Allemand, Sophie Coeffic, Valérie Lesort, Ercole-Nahuel di Pierro, Giunone-Anna Bonitatibus, Dejanira-Giuseppina Bridelli, Iole-Francesca Aspromonte, Hyllo-Krystian Adam, Pasithea, Clerica, Terza Grazia, Secondo Pianeta-Eugénie Lefebvre, Venere, Bellezza, Cinthia-Giulia Semenzato, Nettuno, Eutyro-Luca Tittoto, Il paggio-Ray Chenez, Licco-Dominique Visse, Prima grazia-Marie Planinsek, Seconda grazia, Primo pianeta-Perrine Devillers, Terzo pianeta-Corinne Bahuaud, Prima aura-Olivier Coiffet, Seconda aura, un sacrificatore-Renaud Bres, Ruscello, Busiride, un sacrificatore-Nicolas Brooymans, foto Stefan Brion

Pietro il grande, G. Donizetti, Bergamo, 23 novembre 2019, Teatro Sociale , Conductor-Rinaldo Alessandrini, Direction, machines and scenery by-Ondadurto Teatro – Marco Paciotti e Lorenzo Pasquali, Costumes-K.B. Project, Lighting design-Marco Alba, Pietro il Grande-Roberto De Candia, Caterina-Loriana Castellano, Madama Fritz-Paola Gardina, Annetta Mazepa-Nina Solodovnikova, Carlo Scavronski-Francisco Brito, Ser Cuccupis-Marco Filippo Romano, Hondedisky-Marcello Nardis, Firman Trombest-Tommaso Barea,

Lucrezia Borgia, G. Donizetti, Bergamo, 22 novembre 2019, Teatro Sociale, Conductor-Riccardo Frizza, Directed-Andrea Bernard, Scenery-Alberto Beltrame, Costumes-Elena Beccaro-, Lighting design-Marco Alba-, Don Alfonso-Marko Mimica, Donna Lucrezia Borgia-Carmela Remigio, Gennaro-Xabier Anduaga, Maffio Orsini-Varduhi Abrahamyan, Jeppo Liverotto-Manuel Pierattelli, Don Apostolo Gazella-Alex Martini, Ascanio Petrucci-Roberto Maietta, Oloferno Vitellozzo-Daniele Lettieri, Gubetta-Rocco Cavalluzzi, Rustighello-Edoardo Milletti, Astolfo-Federico Benetti

L’ange de Nisida, G. Donizetti, Bergamo, 21 novembre 2019, Teatro Donizetti, Direttore -Jean–Luc Tingaud, Regia -Francesco Micheli, Scene -Angelo Sala, Costumi -Margherita Baldoni, Lighting design -Alessandro Andreoli, Don Fernand d’Aragon-Florian Sempey, Don Gaspar-Roberto Lorenzi, Leone de Casaldi-Konu Kim, La comtesse Sylvia de Linarès-Lidia Fridman, Le Moine-Federico Benetti, foto di Gianfranco Rota

Ermione, G. Rossini, Napoli, 10 novembre 2019, San Carlo, Direttore-Alessandro De Marchi, Maestro del Coro-Gea Garatti Ansini, Regia-Jacopo Spirei, Scene-Nikolaus Webern, Costumi-Giusi Giustino, Luci-Giuseppe Di Iorio, Ermione-Arianna Vendittelli, Andromaca-Teresa Iervolino, Pirro-John Irvin , Oreste-Antonino Siragusa, Pilade-Julian Henao, Fenicio-Ugo Guagliardo, Cleone-Gaia Petrone , Cefisa-Chiara Tirotta, Attalo-Cristiano Olivieri, foto Francesco Squeglia

Don Carlos, G. Verdi, Gent, 25 october 2019, De Vlaamse Opera, Conductor-Alejo Pérez, Direction-Johan Simons, Set and video-Hans Op de Beeck, Costumes-Greta Goiris, Lighting-Dennis Diels, Dramaturgy-Jeroen Versteele, Jan Vandenhouwe, Don Carlos, infant d’Espagne-Leonardo Capalbo, Élisabeth de Valois-Mary Elizabeth Williams, Philippe II, roi d’Espagne-Andreas Bauer Kanabas, Rodrigue, marquis de Posa-Kartal Karagedik, La princesse d’Eboli-Raehann Bryce-Davis, Le Grand Inquisiteur-Werner Van Mechelen, Un moine (Charles V)-Justin Hopkins, Thibault, page d’Élisabeth, une voix céleste-Annelies Van Gramberen, Le comte de Lerme-Stephan Adriaens, Un héraut royal-Stephan Adriaens, photos by Annemie Augustijns

Orphée et Eurydice, C. W. Gluck, Liege, 20 octobre 2019, Opera de liege, Direction musicale-Guy van Waas, Mise en scene et decors-Aurélien Bory, Dramaturgie-Taïcyr Fadel, Décors-Pierre Dequivre, Costumes-Manuela Agnesini, Lumières-Arno Veyrat, Orphée-Varduhi Abrahamyan, Eurydice-Melissa Petit, Amour-Julie Gebhart,

Les Indes galantes, J. P.. Rameau, Paris, 8 October 2019, Bastille, Conductor -Leonardo García Alarcón, Director-Clément Cogitore, Choreography-Bintou Dembélé, Set design-Alban Ho Van, Ariane Bromberger-Costume design, Wojciech Dziedzic, Lighting design-Sylvain Verdet, Musical dramaturgy-Katherina Lindekens, Dramaturgy-Simon Hatab, Orchestre Cappella Mediterranea, Chœur de chambre de Namur, Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine / Chœur d’enfants de l’Opéra national de Paris, Compagnie Rualité, Hébé, Phani, Zima-Sabine Devieilhe, Bellone, Adario-Florian Sempey, L’amour, Zaire, -Jodie Devos, Osman, Ali-Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Émilie, Fatime-Julie Fuchs, Valère, Tacmas-Mathias Vidal, Huascar, Don Alvar-Alexandre Duhamel, Don Carlos, Damon-Stanislas de Barbeyrac,

Le silence de l’ombre, B. Attahir , Brussel, 29 september 2019, KVS , Muzikale Leiding-Benjamin Attahir, Regie-Olivier Lexa, Decor En Kostuum-Milena Forest, Clémentine Gomez Geil, Charlotte Hermant, Arnaud Mathieu, Léa Pelletier, Gabrielle Ritz, Marco Sanchis, Lynn Scheidweiler, Charlotte Seegmüller – Studenten Van De Afdeling Scenografie Van École Nationale Supérieure Des Arts Visuels De La Cambre, Begeleid Door Véronique Leyens & Simon Siegmann, Belichting-Alexander Koppelmann, Tintagiles/Aladin-Julia Szproch, Astolain/Ygraine/Marie-Raquel Camarinha, Sœurs/Bellangère/Marthe-Clémence Poussin, Ablamo/Aglovale-Renaud Delaigue, Sœurs/Servantes-Morgane Heyse, Gwendoline Blondeel, Sarah Théry, Palomides/Un Paysan-Pierre Derhet•, Medecin/L’étranger-Sébastien Dutrieux, Le Vieillard-Luc Van Grunderbeeck

Macbeth Underworld, P. Dusapin, Brussel, 25 September 2019, De Munt, Muzikale Leiding -Alain Altinoglu, Regie -Thomas Jolly , Medewerking Regie -Alexandre Dain , Decor Bruno -De Lavenère , Belichting -Antoine Travert , Kostuums -Sylvette Dequest , Dramaturgie -Katja Krüger , Lady Macbeth -Magdalena Kožená, Macbeth -Georg Nigl , Three Weird Sisters -Ekaterina Lekhina, Lilly Jørstad, Christel Loetzsch , Ghost -Kristinn Sigmundsson , Porter -Graham Clark , Archiluth -Christian Rivet , Child -Elyne Maillard, Naomi Tapiola,

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