Pia de Tolomei & Fra Diavolo – Pisa & Rome

Verdi-centered fans told me they heard so much Verdi in Donizetti’s Pia di Tolomei, but Pia was composed 3 years before Verdi even started composing operas. Nonetheless it contains some beautiful music and in the recent past Pia de Tolomei got already some attention: staged several times at the end of the 60’s, beginning of the 70’s, under the vibrant direction of Rigacci (with a wonderfully sympathetic Lella Cuberli), in 2005 la Fenice presented it with Patrizia Ciofi, the Opera Rara label recorded it, and now in Pisa it sees the light again. It was however a Pia de Tolomei without Pia. The main singer started badly with an entrance aria that revealed vocal problems as soon as the voice had to rise even a slight bit. No legato, wobbly line, and one awfully squeaked top note did the rest. Not to talk about the interpretation, which was totally absent in the desperate but unsuccessful attempt to get at least the notes right. The rest of the cast was quite enjoyable. Marina Comparato knows how to sing, one could enjoy the beautiful lower register, in the cavatine more than in the cabaletta. Her contribution to the beautiful duet with Pia was touching. The tenor was a lovely surprise: Giulio Pelligra in the role of Ghino mastered the difficult leaps with apparent ease and Valdis Jansons as Nello was especially moving in Lei perduta in core ascondo, where he utters his hate for Pia…but still loves her. The music is flowing brightly under the baton of Christopher Franklin while the setting and lights are lovely. Questionable some of the stage directions by Andrea Cigni.

A charming Fra Diavolo was given in Rome. The points of interest were for me John Osborne as Fra Diavolo and Barberio-Corsetti’s stage settings. The latter’s love for video projections are known, and he mixes them masterfully with the scenery which resulted in a sparkly and light interpretation. Musically the opera is very French with couplets and songs typical for French light opera. When Fra Diavolo was translated into Italian for the Italian stages, Auber composed new arias for the main characters in a more Italian style in order to show off their vocal qualities and it was in the Italian translation that the opera was most successful.  The cast reunited for the Roman staging was very satisfying, and quite enjoyable were the crystal clear voiced Anna Maria Sarra, the funny Sonia Ganassi as Lady Pamela, Giorgio Misseri was a touching Lorenzo and John Osborne as Fra Diavolo. Rory MacDonald conducted swiftly although I found he sometimes covered the voices.

Pia de Tolomei: Pia-Francesca Tiburzi, Ghino degli Armieri-Giulio Pelligra, Nello della Pietra-Valdis Jansons, Rodrigo-Marina Comparato, Piero, eremita-Andrea Comelli, Ubaldo, servitore di Nello-Christian Collia, Bice-Silvia Regazzo, Lamberto-Claudio Mannino, Custode-Nicola Vocaturo, direttore-Christopher Franklin, regia-Andrea Cigni, scene-Dario Gessati, costumi-Tommaso Lagattolla, luci-Fiammetta Baldiserri, 14/10/17, foto: http://www.teatrodelgiglio.it. Fra Diavolo: Direttore-Rory MacDonald, Regia-Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, Scene-Giorgio Barberio Corsetti e Massimo Troncanetti, Costumi-Francesco Esposito, Video-Igor Renzetti, Alessandra Solimene, Lorenzo Bruno, Coreografia-Roberto Zappalà, Luci-Marco Giusti, Fra Diavolo-John Osborn, Lord Rocburg-Roberto De Candia, Lady Pamela-Sonia Ganassi, Lorenzo-Giorgio Misseri, Matteo-Alessio Verna, ZerlinaAnna Maria Sarra, Giacomo-Jean Luc Ballestra, Beppo-Nicola Pamio, 15/10/17, foto: http://www.operaroma.it/

 

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Manon Lescaut by Auber @ Liège

manon_lescautYes, not Puccini, not Massenet. By Auber is this Manon Lescaut, altogether set on a lighter note by the simplified libretto by Scribe and by Auber’s sparkling melodies. Meyebeer attended the premiere at the Opera Comique and wrote about it…”full of freshness and invention, melodious and witty…the opera gave me much pleasure”. By the way the opera’s first Manon was Marie Cabel, a Belgian soprano and Manon Lescaut was played in Liège as early as February 1875.

manon_lescautdFourny’s setting starts from a university library (!), part of which is seen throughout. The clothings are 17-18th century and all move well on stage. Cyril Englebert supports the singers well but when the orchestra is alone I would have wished a bit more sparkle and more rubato as the musical language comes over metronomic. Sumi Jo needed most of the conductor’s support. Her voice has lost almost all glitter and sparkle which the role requires. Sumi Jo has to walk on eggs to reach all the right notes. She certainly does, and her singing is still very elegant, but this Manon is a bit unexciting. Wiard Withold on the other hand surprises with a beautiful warm timbre and excellent singing, which make the couplets and the duet of Act 2 the most interesting part of the evening. A singer with potential is also Enrico Casari with bold top notes. All other singers sang also very well.

Conductor-Cyril Englebert, Director-Paul-Émile Fourny, Set designs-Benoît Dugardyn, Costume designs-Giovanna Fiorentini, Lighting designs-Patrick Méeüs, Manon Lescaut-Sumi Jo, Marquis d’Hérigny-Wiard Witholt, Des Grieux-Enrico Casari, Lescaut-Roger Joakim, Marguerite-Sabine Conzen, Madame Bancelin-Laura Balidemaj, Gervais-Denzil Delaere, Renaud-Patrick Delcour