Rarities in March (Paer’s Agnese and Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable)

A wonderful little rarity by Ferdinando Paer was staged by the Teatro Regio in Torino; Paer is one of many transition composers between Mozart and Rossini, who wrote excellent music, today unfortunately rarely performed. His Agnese was first performed in 1809 and then all over Italy and Europe until the 1820’s.  The plot revolves around Agnese who elopes with Ernesto, fact which drives her father into madness believing her dead. Hen Ernesto leaves Agnese she goes back to her father to ask for forgiveness (with her little daughter whom she gave birth to in the meantime). The plot has a happy ending with the father regaining his mind and Ernesto asking for forgiveness. Diego Fasolis kept the music exciting and crisp with an orchestra of the Regio at its best and beautifully played solos.
The director’s setting are huge old-style tin boxes which open and reveal the different interiours: the mental institute where Agnese’s father is treated, the forest, Pasquale’s cabinet etc.  Muscato’s direction is wonderful. The opera is semi serious and Muscato reflects it in the characters. Agnese and her father are heartbreaking, Ernesto with his over-dramatic movements hilarious. The doctor, Vespina the maid and Pasquale are well characterised and the chorus moves extremely well on stage.

The most impressive singers where Markus Werba as the father Uberto and Edgardo Rocha as Edgardo the repentant lover. Both brought a beautiful palette of colours to their interpretations. Markus Werba was incredibly touching as the father, elegant, never over the top, beautiful phrasing. Edgardo Rocha displayed a refined belcanto technique and on stage the over-the-top acting was irresistible. All other singers contributed also greatly to the success of this rarely staged opera. The musical direction, together with the heartwarming staging and the enthusiastic singers made this a rare and lovely opera experiences.

Another rarity was presented in Brussels, albeit in concert version, Robert le diable by Meyerbeer. I was very excited when I read about it as I think Meyerbeer composed wonderful music, melodic, dramatic, romantic. Less excited when I heard the names. Korchak (is he really up for the role?) Pidó (eye rolling) Auyanot (pouting with scepticism), Courjal (who?) Dral (who??). And who was the soprano again? But I must admit the performance was one of the best I’ve ever heard. Pidó conducted with incredible energy an orchestra that was in top shape, he also accompanied the singers very well. Korchak surprised me with a resounding voice, an admirable stamina, flexibility  and extension he kept from beginning to the end. It was the first time I heard Courjal but I find his warm voice very pleasant. He certainly is very good in the part of Bertram, though maybe not very diabolic. Another very good singer I really admired was Julien Dran in the role of Raimbaut. His voice light and flexible, he sang an impressive top note in his duet with Raimbaut. Yolanda Auyanet was very dramatic and well suited to the role of Alice. The soprano was of course Lisette Oropesa, who i remember well from her adina in Pesaro and even better from her Marguerite in Paris’ Les Huguenot. I thought she was stunning. Simply stunning. The timbre might not be as warm, but all notes, from the low to the high and top ones, all are there. The coloratura comes with apparent easy, the character of Isabelle well interpreted with beautiful colours and musicality. A very moving interpretation. A shame it did not come in a scenic version.

Direttore d’orchestra-Diego Fasolis, Regia-Leo Muscato, Scene-Federica Parolini, Costumi-Silvia Aymonino, Luci-Alessandro Verazzi, Agnese-María Rey-Joly, Uberto-Markus Werba, Ernesto-Edgardo Rocha, Don Pasquale-Filippo Morace, Don Girolamo-Andrea Giovannini, Carlotta-Lucia Cirillo, Vespina-Giulia Della Peruta, Il custode dei pazzi-Federico Benetti, 17/03/19, photos from Edoardo Piva@Teatro Regio

Conductor-Evelino Pidó, Chorus master-Martino Faggiani, Robert-Dmitry Korchak, Bertram-Nicolas Courjal, Raimbaut-Julien Dran, Alberti/Prêtre-Patrick Bolleire, Isabelle-Lisette Oropesa, Alice-Yolanda Auyanet, Héraut/Maître de cérémonie-Pierre Derhet, picture from Lisette Oropesa facebook page. 2/4/19

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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