Semiramide @ La Fenice

Semiramide comes back to La Fenice, for which it was composed in 1823. It was Rossini’s last opera for Italy. The setting by Ms Ligorio is quite interesting as it changes from a superficial all-golden all-beautiful in the first act to a dark and black in the second, when all mysteries are unveiled. The dark represents, I imagine, the bleak future and dark emotions of almost all characters starting from Idreno who sees his throne snatched away by Arsace, Azema who is forced by the tenor to love him, Arsace discovering the awful truth and Semiramide brought to justice. The dancers are unconnected but bring some movement to the otherwise static plot.

The title role is adequately sung by Jessica Pratt. In the second act she brings a wider pallet of colours to the part and her top register shines but I felt the first act was less emotional and the variations in the repeats were of dubious taste. Enea Scala has some dryness in the high register, I think Idreno is more suited to a tenore di grazia and his push in the upper register make him lack colours but the boldness he approaches the role with is stunning. Esposito is excellent as actor and singer though the character of Assur- I guess-allows him to pull only a limited amount of registers. Teresa Iervolino has a strange enthusiams to attack some notes from below instead of straight on, but except for this she was my overall favourite. Arsace allows for a whole range of emotions and I was touched throughout, the low range of her voice is warm and generous and her coloratura comes with enviable ease. Smaller roles are adequately cast and they all sing well, I especially enjoyed the clear voice of lovely Azema. Frizza directs.

Direttore-Riccardo Frizza, Regia-Cecilia Ligorio, Scene-Nicolas Bovey, Costumi-Marco Piemontese, movimenti coreografici e ballerina-Daisy Phillips, Semiramide-Jessica Pratt, Arsace-Teresa Iervolino, Assur-Alex Esposito, Idreno-Enea Scala, Oroe-Simon Lim, Azema-Marta Mari, Mitrane-Enrico Iviglia, L’ombra di Nino-Francesco Milanese, 27/10/18, photos by Michele Crosera

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Meyerbeer’s l’Africaine @ La Fenice or The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

IMG-20131126-00153La Fenice, Venice: Everything is perfect, the theatre is wonderful, the ceiling is stunning in its fabulous blue. One is about to hear a very rarely performed title and one can but congratulate the courageous artistic choice of choosing Meyerbeer’s l’Africaine, a Grand Opéra infrequently staged nowadays. The curtain rises. The first thing one notices, [or doesn’t notice, more likely] is the minimalist staging, which indeed might seem a perfect choice for a very unlogic plot [very low-cost-looking, I might add]. The ship- and the following “Pays merveilleux”-scene are quite beautiful with the blue floor, the colourful dresses and the golden lamps. [Crappy old carpet, though, did the 70’s not call to get it back??] The singers, they are all wonderful and give their best: Gregory Kunde, one of the great baritenors of our time, although 60 years old, has a powerful voice, acts well and pulls off the incredibly difficult part of Vasco da Gama with relative ease. Jessica Pratt has bright, full-bodied high notes and is a sweet and delicate Inés. [Who the hell composed the cadenza that closes her entrance aria? It’s just a bunch of embarrassing high notes, incoherently screamed together]. Veronica Simeoni’s part, Selika, is a monster role which requires stamina and overall Simeoni reaches all the required notes without too many problems and even has audible low notes. [Barely sufficient to be a great Selika]. The director not only gives the singers time to sing their lines but accompanies wonderfully pulling all the stops of the Fenice orchestra, which plays flawlessly, to display a whole array of human emotions.

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Especially the exciting finale of act I is well balanced [He can be quite long-winded and a bit heavy at times]. Veccia has the physique du role for a credible Nélusko. [That’s hardly enough to properly sing a role which requires sonorous and rich low notes and master the leaps to the high notes, all of which is lacking, sadly].

The chorus sings acceptably the beautiful melodies forged by Meyerbeer (Dieu que le monde révère…. Téméraire, téméraire etc) and moves fluidly across the stage conferring credibility to the choral passages. [Wanna talk about the useless video projections shown during the introduction and the entr’actes, which depict the themes touched by the librettist (slavery, conquests etc) in a 20th century gravy?]

Although I had mixed feelings (and overall Les Huguenots is musically more convincing) I praise La Fenice’s choice. Nice touch also, to commemorate two Rossinian farse, ~200 years after they have been composed-in Venice (although not for the same theatre).

Direttore-Emmanuel Villaume, Regia-Leo Muscato, Scene-Massimo Checchetto, Costumi-Carlos Tieppo, Light designer-Alessandro Verazzi, Video designer-Fabio Iaquone, Inès-Jessica Pratt, Sélika-Veronica Simeoni, Vasco de Gama-Gregory Kunde, Don Alvar-Emanuele Giannino, Nélusko-Angelo Veccia, Don Pédro-Luca dall’Amico, Don Diego-Davide Ruberti, Le grand inquisiteur de Lisbonne-Mattia Denti, Le grand-prêtre de Brahma-Ruben Amoretti, Anna-Anna Bordignon, Coro e orchestra del Teatro La Fenice, 26-11-13