Amsterdam, Il viaggio a Reims

New Picture - CopyIn 1825 Rossini was commissioned to compose an opera to celebrate the coronation of Charles X. Rossini ‘s music had taken Paris by storm in the 1820’s, the crème de la crème of Rossini singers were in Paris at that time and many of them sang in the premiere of Il viaggio a Reims ossia L’albergo del giglio d’oro. The insubstantial plot is basically only an excuse to hail Charles X and to deploy each singer’s musical skills: We are in the hotel “Il giglio d’oro” in Plobmbières-les-Bains, where a bunch of people are awaiting the carriages who will bring them to Reims for the coronation of Charles X. However they will wait in vain as the carriages will never arrive. Additional story lines make the plot quite confusing: the Spanish admiral and the Russian general fighting over the Polish widow, the English colonel secretly in love with Corinna, the Roman poetess, an overturned stagecoach which brings the fashionable French lady in distress etc.

The direction of this largely plotless opera is by Damiano Michieletto. A director who I admire much. In the Amsterdam version we are in the museum “Gallery Golden Lilium” under the direction of an anxious (read hysteric) Madama Cortese, and all characters are either people working in the museum or painted characters which come to life. The already complicated plot becomes even more intricate as the real and fictitious characters interact. I feel this particular direction is not Michieletto’s best but all in all it is cleverly conceived and put together. An intelligent creation and brilliantly thought through with remarkable effects.

And the music?

New Picture (1)There are many characters, and at least 10 of the singers need to be top performers (At the premiere they included Laure Cinti-Damoreau, Giuditta Pasta, Domenico Donzelli, Nicolas Levasseur and Ester Mombelli). Each of the numbers is a little gem and one of the highlights is a piece for 14 singers: the Gran Pezzo concertato a 14 voci. In Amsterdam I much liked Eleonora Buratto as Corinna, Juan Francisco Gatell as Belfiore and Bruno de Simone as Trombonok. I feel they are the only who do the music justice. In my opinion Gatell has improved a lot in the last years in terms of interpretation and diction and Buratto’s floating high notes are a pleasure to hear. Bruno de Simone is a stage lion, one of the few where words were understandable without harming the sung part. All have a good coloratura. Roberto Tagliavini as Lord Sidney, Anna Goryacheva as Melibea and Michael Spyres as Libenskof all displayed very fine singing. I liked Spyres less in the first act although I am not sure whether this was due to his voice or the vastness of the set (the museum). I would have liked a stronger voiced Sidney and Melibea but this might be the conductor’s fault, as we will see. Nino Machaidze as Contessa di Folleville manages the musical part adequately, as does Carmen Giannattasio as Madama Cortese. None of them are musically truly convincing. Nicola Ulivieri lacks the low notes and goes through what could be one of the funniest aria (Madaglie incomparabili) trivially and unconcerned. Mario Cassi as Don Alvaro is very mediocre, his entry (Questa vaga e amabil dama) is smudged and the Spanish song at the end was not really “Dell’Iberia il dolce canto“.

New Picture (2)In an interview the conductor Mr. Montanari stated that the most difficult part is to find the balance between the orchestra and the stage (oh really?) but he certainly was not a bit able to achieve this. I sometimes could barely hear the voices, let alone understand a word they were saying. The problem here is not one bad singer that spoils his aria. The problem here is that Mr Montanari reminds us throughout the evening of his vision, namely Rossini music as not light, brilliant and graceful but loud and heavy. No need for the singer to interpret, to sing the embellishments, to pronounce properly, because one can hardly hear them anyway. Add to this the following catalogue of absurdities: He adds glissandi, embellishments or chords with the cembalo during sung pieces (not only during recitativi)! He abruptly changes tempi to his liking, he even changes the rhythm (for e.g. in the accompaniment of the stretta in the duet Oh! Quanto ingannasi between Corinna and Belfiore, he puts accents on the 4th beat!! He also stomps his feet during Don Alvaro’s “Omaggio all’augusto duce” in a Spanish manner!!! And if he doesn’t have time to synchronize all these tasks, he sticks the baton between back and shirt by the backside of his collar. I hope I won’t have the sadness to see him wave at noise again.

Muzikale leiding-Stefano Montanari, Regie-Damiano Michieletto, Decor-Paolo Fantin, Kostuums-Carla Teti, Licht-Alessandro Carletti, Corinna-Eleonora Buratto, La Marchesa Melibea-Anna Goryachova, La Contessa di Folleville-Nino Machaidze, Madama Cortese-Carmen Giannattasio, Il Cavaliere Belfiore-Juan Francisco Gatell, Il Conte di Libenskof-Michael Spyres, Lord Sidney-Roberto Tagliavini, Don Profondo-Nicola Ulivieri, Il Barone di Trombonok-Bruno De Simone, Don Alvaro-Mario Cassi, Don Prudenzio-Biaggio Pizzuti, Don Luigino-Carlos Cardoso, Delia-Maria Fiselier, Maddalena-Teresa Iervolino, Modestina-Florieke Beelen, Zefirino / Gelsomino-Jeroen de Vaal, Antonio-Tomeu Bibiloni

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La Cenerentola in Liège or Un’acqua senza sale

c2Lovely start of the Liège season with Rossini’s La Cenerentola. For the mise en scene, the Opera Royal relied on Cécile Roussat et Julien Lubek, the same duo that tackled Die Zauberflöte in Liège 4 years ago. In both cases one notices the effort that is put behind the creative concept. In the case of La Cenerentola the opera opens with Don Magnifico’s palazzo in agonia split in 3 parts on a rotating platform (Don Magnifico’s bedroom, the outside space, and an all-purpose room. The rooms change to the throne chamber in Act II). The singers move freely from one space to another and the platform follows them rotating from room to room. The style and clothes are those of a fairy tale (or children’s book) and everything is enjoyable to look at and satisfying as far as the scenery goes. What was fully lacking was a choreography. Everything was very static, with minimum interactions. Emotions were conveyed only by the libretto’s words and Rossini’s music. Very disappointing.

 

c1 (1)The singers are overall very good, though. I especially enjoyed Bruno de Simone as Don Magnifico with an important stage presence, an excellent diction and a smooth voice. An excellent fit for the egomaniac social climber. Enrico Marabelli was an amusing Dandini with convincing voice and fairly sure in the coloratura. Dmitry Korchak is an excellent tenor who mastered the prince’s part with ease although the acuti of “Dentro al mio cuo—RE“ had to be prepared with enough time…. Laurent Kubla as Alidoro started very convincingly in his key entrances in Act I [as a beggar and with his “book of spinsters” or Codice delle zitelle), with an admirable pronunciation. Pity that the aria with which he brings Cenerentola to the ball shows his limits. The sisters Julie Bailly and Sarah Defries (from the latter, one could understand every single word that was said), sing well. Now Marianna Pizzolato is surprisingly the weakest link. Not only does she move less than all the others [which is quite something with such a static choreography] but her voice is not at all what I remember her for her previous Rossini, in Liege and Pesaro. It’s a singer who until very recently showed a deep, warm, pleasant voice, with admirable coloratura, capable of filling a theatre twice as large as the Liege house. Throughout the performance however I barely heard her, her coloratura only approximate, the acuti strained and almost screamed, the low notes gone. She was, I unhappily must say – quoting Tisbe describing her sister – un’ acqua senza sale.

Paolo Arrivabeni directs satisfactorily an orchestra that improved much in the Italian repertoire.