Jerusalem @ Opera de Liège

Like many other Italian composers before him (Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti just to mention the main contemporary ones), Verdi was invited to compose for the Parisian stages. It was decided to stage a grand opéra as it was fashionable since the 1830’s. But instead of composing a brand new opera, Verdi adapted one of his earlier operas, I lombardi alla prima crociata. The writers of the libretto Royer et Vaëz  rewrote the plot (which makes more sense than the Lombardi one) while Verdi re-adapted and rewrote bits and pieces. The result is not really a grand opéra in the sense of Meyerbeer, Halevy et al. It sounds like any contemporary Verdi with all his characteristics and flaws. So if you like Verdi you probably liked this one as well, if you were expecting a grand opéra you probably were disappointed. Mazzonis di Pralafera and Jean-Guy Lecat provide red-bricked columns on each side, a wall at the back and a painted decor with an otherwise empty stage (except cushions for Gaston’s aria in act III, hastily removed for the ballet). Beautiful the costumes shaped as idealized and colourful Middle Ages apparel. The ballet was the only modern bit in an otherwise traditional setting and although i liked some parts, the performers danced in a modern, hectic, nervous kind of style.

Speranza Scappucci does her best to keep it going though I again miss the extra bit to make the music sparkle. Marc Laho’s voice expands well, his registers equally even; a fine interpretation. Elain Alvarez and Roberto Scandiuzzi both had some issues with very low or high notes in act I. Maybe not warm enough? But in the following acts Scandiuzzi developed his beautiful bass voice and was a delight as Roger (and hermit). Elain Alvarez has a somewhat “slow” voice, her embellishments not very light and and the interpretation lacked the punch of the Verdi heroines. Overall i preferred her Hélène to her Elvira 2 years ago, but was not fully convinced either.

Director-Stefano Mazzonis Di Pralafera, Conductor-Speranza Scappucci, Set Designs-Jean-Guy Lecat, Costume Designs-Fernand Ruiz, Lighting Designs-Franco Marri, , Gaston–Marc Laho, Hélène–Elaine Alvarez, Roger–Roberto Scandiuzzi, Comte De Toulouse-Ivan Thirion, Raymond-Pietro Picone, Isaure–Natacha Kowalski, Adémar De Montheil-Patrick Delcour, A Soldier-Victor Cousu, A Herald-Benoît Delvaux, Emir Of Ramla-Alexei Gorbatchev, An Officer-Xavier Petithan; 21/03/17

Macbeth against the rain in the Munt/Monnaie’s new production

de-munt-photo-de-production-mty3mja5mdixnaThe actual main character of this production of Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi was the rain. As soon as the director lifted his baton under the tent where now the Monnaie is located, there was a light drizzling noise. A delicate crescendo brought it to mezzoforte, and between the first duet and the end of act II it changed in dynamics between forte and fortissimo.
Both Banco and Macbeth lacked subtlety in their first duet. Whether this was due to the rain and a louder singing was not entirely clear. Also, the whole duet sounded like an emerging and immersing from and into the sound of rain. By the time Lady Macbeth had to sing the entrance aria the rain allowed to hear only the higher part of the melody: “Vieni! t’affretta… … … … … …. … … … … L’audace impresa… … … …” It was all a bit surreal.

de-munt-photo-de-production-mjc1otywnju0mwI am not very sure whether I liked the direction. Everything is set in a hotel in the 40s (approx). The rooms, the hall hall, the kitchen, everything is certainly pleasant to watch. What lacks is a proper direction of the singers. The chorus “Chi osó mandarvi a noi?” reminded me of Vizioli’s setting of Don Pasquale and the Witches’ introduction were models and men in drag dancing a (not too) extravagant dance. I probably missed the point as I left at the interval.

Muzikale leiding-Paolo Carignani, regie-Olivier Fredj, Grafisch art director-Jean Lecointre, Scenografie-Olivier Fredj, Gaspard Pinta, Massimo Troncanetti
Kostuums-Fréderic Llinares, Belichting-David Debrinay, Choreografie-Dominique Boivin, Macbeth-Scott Hendricks, Banco-Carlo Colombara, Lady Macbeth-Béatrice Uria Monzon
Dama di Lady Macbeth-Janny Zomer, Macduff-Andrew Richards, Malcolm-Julian Hubbard, Medico, Servo, Araldo-Justin Hopkins, Sicario-Gerard Lavalle, 15/09/2016

Ernani at the Liege Opera

ernani-alexise-yerna-et-elaine-alvarez-c-opera-royal-de-wallonie-lorraine-wauters-3Some things just seem strange and I’d love somebody to explain me a few things. Take the last Ernani at the Opera Royal de Wallonie. This institution has many interesting titles this season, such as Manon Lescaut (the Auber one), a Mascagni mass, Il segreto di Susanna etc. There are also many public favourites such as Lucia di Lammermoor, Traviata, Boheme, Il barbiere di Siviglia. Additional titles include La scala di seta, Ernani, La Voix humaine, the Requiem by Mozart and two solo concerts, Olga Peretyatko and Elina Garanca. A rich programme. Many performers are world class stars, such as Annick Massis, Celso Abelo, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Sumi Jo, Patrizia Ciofi etc. Maybe not in their prime, but certainly able to move. So then… Why would we need additional titles with performers who are not able to reach similar standards? I understand the need to attract paying public, but does the public really need to swallow everything? Take yesterday’s Ernani. I thought the director was excellent in his swift and energetic direction. But then we have a soprano who doesn’t force her voice, has an appreciable range but a questionable timbre and a dubious legato, the tenor is on the verge of breaking any second and screams rather than sing, and baritone and bass are so little convincing that I leave the theatre after the interval disappointed and sad. An opening of the opera season could have been done with most of the titles: 9 (counting Susanna/voix humaine as one) for the entire season but I would be happy with eight titles if this means to have better performers.

Conductor-Paolo Arrivabeni, Director-Jean-Louis Grinda, Set designs-Isabelle Partiot, Pieri, Costume designs-Teresa Acone, Lighting designs-Laurent Castaingt, Ernani-Gustavo Porta, Elvira-Elaine Alvarez, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva-Orlin Anastassov, Don Carlo-Lionel Lhote, Giovanna-Alexise Yerna

Un ballo in maschera @ De Munt/La Monnaie

ballo_maschera_091-1024x614In an interview Alex Ollé from La Fura dels Baus declares that he expected a more political dimension in the libretto of Un ballo in maschera. He sees conspiracy and political intriguing in it. He states that if Verdi would have been able to write the plot as he wished the libretto would contain more politcis. Ehmmm, really?…. In a letter to his librettist Antonio Somma we find him describing the subject for his new opera: Un soggetto bello, originale, interessante, con bellissime situazioni ed appassionato: passioni sopra tutto!…». So passions above all. In a subsequent letter he requires a libretto which is: «quieto, semplice, tenero: una specie di Sonnambula senz’essere un’imitazione della Sonnambula», “calm, simple and sweet: like a Sonnambula withouth being an imitation of Sonnambula“. No politics. However what Alex Ollé does well is to add a dramaturgic parallel without deranging the plot. Sure, Orwell’s 1984 isn’t a complete mismatch, under the totalitarian government of Riccardo (but then I tend to disagree, didn’t Verdi want to picture him as wise and enlightened?), just a bit monotone with its mask, its grey concrete slabs etc.

The singers were all honest professionals with adequate voices and Carlo Rizzi directed with insight as much as the score allowed. All in all a satisfactory evening on which I have to agree with the two ladies next to me, which stated “..not too bad this Ballo, compared to the things we usually see in Brussels” 🙂

Concept-Alex Ollé, Music direction-Carlo Rizzi, Staging collaboration-Valentina Carrasco, Set design-Alfons Flores, Costumes-Lluc Castells, Lighting-Urs Schönebaum, Video-Emmanuel Carlier, Gustav III-Stefano Secco, René Ankarström-George Petean, Amelia-Maria José Siri, Ulrica-Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Oscar-Kathleen Kim, Cristiano-Roberto Accurso, Ribbing-Tijl Faveyts, Horn-Carlo Cigni, Un giudice-Zeno Popescu, Un servo-Pierre Derhet

Attila in Liege

IMG-20130922-00116Verdi is not one of my favourite composers. There was, however, one point of big interest in Liege’s production of Attila: the singer who impersonated the title role. What a pleasure it was to hear the wonderful timbre of Michele Pertusi. His ability to articulate each syllable within a steady singing line and warm, smooth voice is reason of real pleasure of this afternoon. Odabella is Makvala Aspanidze, who, given the difficulty of her entrance aria, gets acceptably through the aria, though not flawlessly. Her “Oh, nel fuggente nuovolo” on the other hand confirms the somewhat strained high notes, heavy fiorettature and lack of legato, though she has an agreeable voice in the middle register.
I liked Giovanni Meoni. His Ezio lacked the required grandiosity but his voice is nice and he sings with taste and musicality.

Giuseppe Gipali’s Foresto has a light-bodied and a bit colourless voice but he sings correctly, as do the last two members of the cast, Papuna Tchuradze as Uldino and Pierre Gathier as bishop Leone.

Ruggero Raimondi, one of the world’s most famous singers, is here the scene director. His historical settings are simple and functional, based on a vertical-moving two-level scene depicting once the Roman setting with horizontally colum-pedestals and Attila’s tents.
As the score does not contain particular difficulties, the orchestra plays well under the plausible but impersonal baton of Renato Palumbo.

Direction musicale-Reanato Palumbo, mise en scene-Ruggero Raimondi, Decors-Daniel Bianco, Costumes-Laura Lo Surdo, Lumieres-Albert Faura, Attila, Michele Pertusi, Odabella-Makvala Aspanidze, Ezio-Giovanni Meoni, Foresto-Giuseppe Gipali, Uldino-Papuna Tchuradze, Leone-Pierre Gathier, 22/9/13