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

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