Pesaro – Rossini Opera Festival 2015

IMG_3420Every year, The Accademia Rossiniana of Pesaro teaches young singers about the interpretation of Rossini who then all give their best in Il viaggio a Reims. Famous singers have passed through this Viaggio and it is delightful to hear young and motivated voices. This year there were those who sing well but whose voice is too weak to be properly heard, those who pronounce miserably and have a shrill voice, those who just sing well and you imagine them grow artistically. This year I thought Sunnyboy Dladia, Rubén Pérez Rodriguez and Federica di Trapani were promising. My personal favourite was Leslie Visco, who I thought sang very well with a clear pronunciation the role of Madama Cortese. The Filarmonica G. Rossini orchestra didn’t play well at all, at times out of tune and unsynchronized once or twice. The director also lacked in Rossinian spirit.

messaThe Messa di Gloria was created by a Rossini who was worried of the public opinion. This might explain the careful composition, the “borrowing” of a theme from an opera by Mayr and the help of a fellow composer, Pietro Raimondi. One of the most important witnesses of the Messa di Gloria, which was first heard in the church of San Ferdinando in Naples in March 1820, was Carl Borromäus von Miltitz, a minor composer present in Naples who hoped to be staged by Rossini on one of the Neapolitan theatres. Not entirely adverse towards Italian music first, his tone became more and more aggressive when realizing that his opera would not be staged (For the highly amusing article I refer to Reto Müller in La Gazzetta nr 22 of the Deutsche Rossini Gesellschaft). Florez sang very well and has a beautiful voice though I slightly raised my eyebrow on the troublesome and hard sounding florid passages of qui sedes ad dexteram patris. The radiant looking Jessica Pratt sang extremely well with a stronger middle register, soft pianissimi, marvellous crescendo, clean vocalises and a dramatic interpretation of the cantata in both recitive and aria. I didn’t hear the mezzosoprano until her solo part in the terzetto and then only until she was joined by bass and soprano. Her coloratura was sometimes so quick she arrived at the end before the phrase actually ended. The voice is not particularly beautiful. The comparison with the soprano, who sang the same phrase, in the terzetto was quite pitiless, repeating the impression I had in Wildbad. Mirco Palazzi sang with a splendid and noble timbre and Dempsey Rivera was a good second tenor in the Kyrie with Florez. Not much personality emerged from Donato Renzetti, neither in the Messa nor in the Gazza. Heavy direction and little or no nuances.

Inganno_Pesaro1L’inganno felice is a farsa composed for the Teatro San Moisé in Venice in 1812 and was one of the more successful of Rossini’s farse being frequently staged also outside Italy. Mariangela Sicilia and Carlo Lepore are both excellent. Beautiful voices, both convince with technical skills. Carlo Lepore is also perfect in action and pronunciation and achieves a tender and dramatic Tarabotto. If Mariangela Sicilia will make the right choices I am sure she will mature to an excellent career. UntitledVassilis Kavayas was slightly unripe in voice and didn’t convince much while Giulio Mastrototaro was only adequate as Ormondo. I found Davide Luciano as Batone simply superb: easy coloratura, beautiful voice, splendid acting and excellent pronunciation.  I certainly hope I will hear this promising young singer again. Graham Vick’s staging of 1994 has lost nothing of its freshness while the director Denis Vlasenko gives attention to details, and accompanies with elegance and grace.

gazza150815_640xLa gazza ladra was presented this year in the 2007 staging by Damiano Michieletto, who won the premio Abbiati in 2007 for best director. The staging is a transposition of the Gazza ladra plot into a modern version where the magpie is interpreted by a child who dreams the whole story. A touching staging, one of my favourite by the Venetian director, who, in most cases (in my eyes) fully grasps the spirit of the operas. From the original cast only Alex Esposito is present. And what a loss if he wouldn’t be. He sings and acts with talent interpreting a stirringly emotional father figure. René Barbera charms with a beautiful voice and adequate coloratura. Nino Machaidze sings with easy top notes and light coloratura but with a shrill-ish voice. Teresa Iervolino’s creamy voice fits the character of Lucia, and her gradual conversion from shrew to accepting mother-in-law, well. Marko Mimica gave the impression he is too concentrated to sing everything right, which slightly affected both musical and actorial performance, lacking in grandeur, but he contributed to the overall success of the opera. Peculiar choice was Lena Belkina, or whoever offered her the role of Pippo (and why did she ever accept it). Her voice shows clear difficulty in the first act where she struggles to reach the lower notes, which are hardly heard. Worse even, she “acts” funny to sing towards higher notes, which are sometimes screamed, sometimes out of tune because not able to descend. Very disappointing. She sang better in the duet of the second act. Orchestra and chorus were wonderful. Of Renzetti I have already spoken.

gazzetta150815_640xLa Gazzetta needs a entertaining show, able to grasp the Neapolitan humour, especially of Don Pomponio. And in Pesaro something went terribly wrong. Although glimpses of Naples were present with Don Pomponio’s dialect and the excellent mute role of Tommasí, the direction of Marco Carniti, although it had the benefit of making a rather confuse plot understandable, was nowhere near being amusing. The set follows the recent money-saving trend consisting mainly of tables and chairs, which do not much except rotating. Which is fine if the director had imagination and originality…. Big disappointment for me, who remembers the superlative staging of Dario Fo, which, although not being over-Neapolitan either, matched the whirling humour of the libretto. Musically on the other hand things went quite well with a cast which lived up to expectations. The recently found Act I quintet is charming. Enrique Mazzola directs a wonderful Orchestra del Comunale di Bologna. Hasmik Torosyan has a luscious voice, lovely pianissimi and an easy coloratura but I wish she didn’t force too much her higher notes. Maxim Mironov is a wonderful tenor, agile and mature, a delight to hear and see. Vito Priante took the role of Filippo and he did it with verve and musicality though the florid passages of his Act II aria are not all too fluid. Nicola Alaimo proved to be as convincing in dramatic as in comic opera. Doralice was finely sung by Raffaella Lupinacci and all other characters were also well interpreted.

Il viaggio a Reims (17/8/15) Direzione-Manuel Lopez-Gomez, Elementi scenic-Emilio Sagi, Costumi-Pepa Ojanguren, Corinna -Federica di Trapani, La marchesa Melibea-Shirin Eskandani, La contessa di Folleville-Kaori Nagamachi, Madama Cortese-Leslie Visco, Il cavaliere Belfiore-Sunnyboy Dladia, Il conte di Libenskof-Rubén Pérez Rodrìguez, Lord Sidney-Alessandro Abis, Don Profondo-Pablo Ruiz, Barone di Trombonok-Vincenzo Nizzardo, Don Alvaro/Antonio-Carlo Checchi, Don Prudenzio-Shi Zong, Don Luigino/Zeffirino/Gelsomino-Dangelo Fernando Dìaz, Maddalena-Cecilia Molinari, Delia-Carmen Buendia, Modestina-Salome Jicia

Messa di Gloria, Il pianto d’Armonia sulla morte d’Orfeo, La morte di Didone (18/8/15) Donato Renzetti, Jessica Pratt, Victoria Yarovaya, Juan Diego Florez, Mirco Palazzi, Dempsey Rivera

L’inganno felice (18/8/15) Direttore-Denis Vlasenko, Regia-Graham Vick, Scene e costumi-Richard Hudson, Progetto luci-Matthew Richardson, Isabella-Mariangela Sicilia, Bertrando-Vassilis Kavayas, Ormondo-Giulio Mastrototaro, Tarabotto-Carlo Lepore, Batone-Davide Luciano

La gazza ladra (19/8/15) Direttore-Donato Renzetti, Regia-Damiano Michieletto, Scene-Paolo Fantin, Costumi-Carla Teti, Progetto luci-Alessandro Carletti, Fabrizio Vingradito-Simone Alberghini, Lucia-Teresa Iervolino, Giannetto-René Barbera, Ninetta-Nino Machaidze, Fernando Villabella-Alex Esposito, Gottardo-Marko Mimica, Pippo-Lena Belkina, Isacco-Matteo Macchioni, Antonio-Alessandro Luciano, Giorgio-Riccardo Fioratti, Ernesto/Il Pretore-Claudio Levantino, Una Gazza-Sandhya Nagaraja

La gazzetta (20/8/15) Direttore-Enrique Mazzola, Regia e Costumi-Marco Carniti, Scene-Manuela Gasperoni, Progetto luci-Fabio Rossi, Don Pomponio Storione-Nicola Alaimo, Lisetta-Hasmik Torosyan, Filippo-Vito Priante, Doralice-Raffaella Lupinacci, Anselmo-Dario Shikhmiri, Alberto-Maxim Mironov, Madama La Rose-Josè Maria Lo Monaco, Monsù Traversen-Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore, Tommasino-Ernesto Lama

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Une folie organisée o Guillaume Tell, L’occasione fa il ladro and L’italiana in Algeri at the Rossini Opera Festival 2013

imagesThe ROF or Rossini Opera Festival: The yearly festival dedicated to the opera’s of that tornado that revolutionized the musical world in 1810-1820. Pesaro is a small and pretty town on sunny adriatic, one eats well, enjoys the sea, in the evening one saunters well dressed in the centro storico or along the lungomare. There is also much music to be enjoyed and the happenings are semi-chique considering that one can sip Prosecco next to Alfred Brendel, be seated in a box next to Raina Kabaivanska or ask Patsy (aka Joanna Lumley) to light one’s sigarette during the break.
The 3 opera’s of the ROF 2013 are Guillaume Tell, L’occasione fa il ladro and L’italiana in Algeri.

tellThis year’s big attraction was meant to be Guillaume Tell. “Un’opera strana” was a comment from two well-read opera aficionado’s behind me. And one of the first Grand operà’s is indeed a little strange, with strikes of genius but also with long choral passages and little action. One can try to explain this with a mediocre libretto, or Rossini’s difficulty to adapt to the French style. The opera is undeniably quite long and includes the women’s terzetto in Act 4 and Jemmy’s aria in act 3, two often cut pieces.
Much has been written and discussed about Florez’s interpretation of Arnold, as the role is long and difficult, and his vocality does not seem fit for this heavier role. But he gets through the role and the first 3 acts without major problems. He sings a very moving Asile hereditaire in Act 4 but a mechanical Amis, amis in a discrete French. Big personal success and much applause of course, but Florez is an absolute star in Pesaro. I felt that Marina Rebeka’s voice was less controlled than in Amsterdam a couple of months back, with slightly screamed high notes and less precise coloratura (Mariotti’s tempi did not help) but she sang with a strong and steady voice. Like in Amsterdam, I did not like Nicola Alaimo as Tell, his stage presence and voice were not important enough to interpret the Swiss hero, neither in the heroic, nor in the more lyrical moments. In this Guillaume Tell, Jemmy’s aria, which is often cut, is re-introduced, but the game isn’t worth the candle neither for the piece on its own nor for the interpreter. Amanda Forsythe, whom I vividly remember as a spirited and sparkling Rosalia in L’equivoco stravagante in 2008 (Pesaro) sings well and with a good stage presence but with little voice and reducing the aria to a coloratura showpiece. The other singers were adequately cast although some of them had an execrable pronunciation.
tell5The musical director Michele Mariotti starts with a well directed Ouverture, playing with well placed rubati, but as already said, the opera is long and needs a director who is able to keep the suspense down to the wire. Although undeniably a good director, Mariotti had some odd choices of tempi and was not able to span the musical arch to the end.
Graham Vick’s direction is all based on socialist symbolism and a repeated display of the Habsburgs’ violence and humiliation over the Swiss. It’s a bit repetitive at times but it does not necessarily disturb the action. It is in fact quite conventional, occasionally even trivial (the stairs at the end; the soppy movie of Arnold’s father…) but the ballabili were very moving and well danced, although part of the public did not appreciate them, booing the dancers (shouldn’t they boo the director instead??). All in all, nothing to get overly excited or overly disappointed about. Just a bit too much.

occasione160813_640xL’occasione fa il ladro: One of the loveliest of the farse written for the Venetian teatro San Moisé, if you ask me. It is clear from the music Rossini forges for this short opera (eg the elaborate aria for Berenice and intricate second finale, which comprises several different musical structures) that the short form of farsa (a comic opera usually in one act, originating in Venice or Naples) was too tight to Rossini’s musical fecundity and inventiveness.
The production is the one Jean-Pierre Ponnelle created for Pesaro in 1987. It is based on simple and traditional acting with painted scenes and few props. The group of singers reunited is a mix of young newcomers like Enea Scala and Victoria Yarovaya, and more recurrent ROF singers like Roberto de Candia and Paolo Bordogna. The cast is good although one could pick about the insufficient coloratura di forza of one, the strained voice in the higher register of the other, the slight backwards voice of a third or the somewhat stiffness in acting of a fourth. But the group effort made it a very enjoyable musical evening.
occsI would like to mention Elena Tsallagova in the role of Berenice. She sang the loveliest Arpa gentil I ever heard life, in the 2011 Viaggio a Reims production in Pesaro (the yearly performance given after the seminar dedicated to interpretation of Rossini’s music). Unfortunately she made a bad choice with Contessa di Folleville of the same opera in Ghent in 2012. With her Berenice I found again the beautiful and pure voice I heard in 2011. Her coloratura can be impeccable if she finds a director who gives her the time to deploy it properly. Given a wise selection of adequate roles (belcanto, mostly, I hope) I wish Ms Tsallagova a very fruitful career.
The (female) musical director was Yi-Chen Lin, who directed with precision and supported the singers .

The third opera was L’Italiana in Algeri, which Rossini, already a small celebrity now, after the successes of Tancredi and La pietra del paragone composed for the Venetian Teatro San Benedetto in May 1813.
italiana150813_640xAlex esposito as Mustafà sings with impeccable pronunciation and nice, fullbodied voice. Which is a bit short in the deeper register but this does not lessen the overall respectable performance which he sings with precise enough coloratura in the florid passages. Mario Cassi as Taddeo and Mariangela Sicilia as Elvira sang admirable and Davide Luciano (as always accompanied by his good friend the eunuch…) gave a good interpretation of his aria, which btw, was not composed by Rossini but by an unknown collaborator. Yijie Shi does not have Florez’s smooth voice but he is a fine singer and comes across the difficult part of Lindoro quite well. The Isabella of Goryachova, on the other hand, was a questionable point. Clearly at ease with the coloratura, with a velvety voice, she is, however, a clear mezzosoprano, which makes it easy for her to fling to the higher, but gives her some trouble in the lower notes, which are barely audible (I had the same impressions when she sang Matilde di Shabran‘s Edoardo in Pesaro last year). Why she keeps singing contralto roles is unclear to me, which, if satisfactory when heard on radio, is unacceptable in a theatre, as her voice does not expand or spread well (She was a nice, velvet-voice Zerlina in Zurich, though)
Unfortunately the musical direction of this Italiana was given to José Ramon Encinar who directs in an unimaginative, lifeless, tedious and vigor-less manner. Never have i heard the Comunale di Bologna play so mechanically and with so little energy.
Where this Italiana scores brilliantly, in my opinion, is the 60’s-inspired direction by the always inventive Davide Livermore. It is quite difficult to list all the actions that are happening on stage. But Livermore’s interpretation is probably encouraged by the nonsense-inspired libretto (din-din, bum bum, pappataci etc); What we see on stage is a constant movement, a flow of people and animation, a non-stop of gags, a sophisticated machinery who brings us from Rome to Algiers, which shows us a plane crash on stage and an aquarium with a shark. From this point of view the singers were also fantastic actors, Alex Esposito jumps, dances, hops and leaps with astonishing energy, Goryachova showed us an enviable figure as the seducing Italian lady, and the innumerable variety of supporting characters like tourists, stewardesses and housemaids fill the stage with action; What I liked most is the dancing on stage, especially during the concertati and the strette, which accentuates so well Rossini’s musical sparkle and energy. Too much? De gustibus…

Guillaume Tell: Direttore-Michele Mariotti, Regia-Graham Vick, Scene e costumi-Paul Brown, Coreografie-Ron Howell, Progetto luci-Giuseppe di Iorio, Guillaume Tell- Nicola Alaima, Arnold Melchtal-Juan Diego Florez, Walter Furst-Simon Orfila, Melchtal-Simone Alberghini, Jemmy-Amanda Forsythe, Gesler-Luca Tittoto, Rodolphe-Alessandro Luciano, Ruodi Pêcheur-Celso Albelo, Leuthold / Un Chasseur-Wojtek Gierlach, Mathilde-Marina Rebeka, Hedwige-Veronica Simenoni, 20 august 2013

L’occasione fa il ladro: Direttore-Yi-Chen Lin, Regia, scene e costumi-Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Ripresa della regia-Sonja Frisell, Don Eusebio-Giorgio Misseri, Berenice-Elena Tsallagova, Conte Alberto-Enea Scala, Don Parmenione-Roberto de Candia, Ernestina-Viktoria Yarovaya, Martino-Paolo Bordogna, 21 august 2013

L’italiana in Algeri: Direttore-José Ramon Encinar, Regia-Davide Livermore, Scene e Progetto luci-Nicolas Bovey, Costumi-Gianluca Falaschi, Mustafà Alex Esposito, Elvira-Mariangela Sicilia, Zulma-Raffaella Lupinacci, Haly-Davide Luciano, Lindoro-Yijie Shi, Isabella-Anna Goryachova, Taddeo-Mario Cassi, 22 august 2013; Pictures from http://www.rossinioperafestival.it/