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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Rossini in Bad Wildbad 2015

Lindpaintner wikiPeter Joseph von Lindpaintner is one of many composers that have fallen into oblivion. Born in Koblenz 8th December 1791 he studied under Peter von Winter. As music director he worked first in Munich and then as Hofkapellmeister in Stuttgart. In the latter position Lindpaintner was appreciated by Schumann and Berlioz, and Mendelssohn wrote in a letter: “Der Lindpaintner ist, glaub’ ich, jetzt der beste Orchesterdirigent in Deutschland; es ist, als wenn er mit seinem Tactstöckchen die ganze Musik spielte” (Lindpaintner is now, I believe, the best director in Germany; it’s as if, with his batons, it’s him who plays the entire music). Almost forgotten nowadays, in his time he was held in high regard. The few things one can hear from Lindpaintner on youtube show a fertile talent, without the originality of other composers. The pieces are not memorable, but worth hearing. Regarding the opera presented in Bad Wildbad, Lindpaintner chose a historic/romantic/exotic subjects, as they were very fashionable at the time and the libretto of Die sizilianische Vesper by Heribert Rau makes no exception. It tells the story of the rebellion that broke out in Sicily during Easter of 1282 against the rule of the French king Charles I. Lindpaintner’s Die sizilianische Vesper (in Wildbad played as Il vespro siciliano, a version prepared by the composer) follows the trend of upcoming German grand opéra in the likes of Wagner’s Rienzi or some of the Marschner operas, while the musical model for the opera was clearly the grand opéra of Guillaume Tell, La muette de Portici, but mostly Meyerbeer.

Hearing a new piece of music for the first time is always a treat, just pity that two numbers were not played (choir and ballet in act III and Eleonora’s aria in act IV). Musically the opera in its entirety did not satisfy. It’s never very clear where the plot is going. Only the 4th act, which begins with a jailer being fooled and ends with the rebellion of the Sicilians, is very convincing. Although there are many lovely melodies, the musical inventions are without the dramatic depth one is accustomed to in Meyerbeer. Also the closing of the acts seem to come out of nowhere without a proper build-up. Nonetheless it remains a highly enjoyable evening just for the sake of hearing a musical novelty.

bianca_e_falliero_Forte-Tarver-Bad-Wildbad-2015 der neue merkerThe main Rossini opera given in Bad Widlbad was Bianca e Falliero, which was composed by Rossini in a hectic period for the Scala of Milan. Criticised by the contemporary press, it run for 39 evenings, a considerable number even for the time. About Bianca e Falliero Stendhal, in his Vie de Rossini, writes: Quant a la partition de Rossini, tout était reminiscence. If anything, the opposite is true. Rossini only uses the final rondo from the recently composed Donna del lago, but, except for a few hints, the music is original from the beginning to the end. In fact, Rossini will use some of the music for Moïse, Maometto II and Siège de Corinthe. The wonderful Act II quartet was inserted in a 1824 Parisian staging of La donna del lago. Except for the already mentioned Act II quartet, I personally think the Act I quartet Cielo il mio labbro ispira is equally beautiful as are the two duets of soprano and contralto (duets between soprano and contralto are always a treat in every Rossini opera).

L’inganno felice is a farsa, a short comic opera, the third staged opera composed for Venice when Rossini was not even 20 years old. L’inganno felice was quite successful in Italy and beyond. The Bad Wildbad staging is again simple and altogether satisfactory. Music-wise very good with a cast that was pleasing throughout the opera.

220px-Manuel_Garcia_as_Otello_in_Paris_from_Gallica A little unknown gem was proposed this year: Le cinesi, a one act opera composed by Manuel Garcia, a world class tenor in Rossini’s time (the first Almaviva in the Roman Il barbiere di Siviglia), composer, renowned teacher and partially famous for being the father of two famous primadonnas of the 19th century: Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot. The plot of Le cinesi was used by several composers including Gluck. The voices were not perfect but some of them were very promising. The young singers all sang passionately and charmed with their enthusiasm. This 1hour and 15 minute long opera was a sheer delight to hear and watch.

Untitled The singers reunited this year in Bad Wildbad were mostly good. Bianca’s role was sung by Cinzia Forte, a soprano I heard several times lately, not from her best side, though, I must say. In Wildbad the approach was very cautious but with the help of the director Forte was utterly convincing in a very difficult role. Kenneth Tarver sang well but from the moment the singing line rose to higher notes, all coloratura was flattened and the voice sounded forced. I am unsure on what to say about the Falliero of Victoria Yarovaya. She certainly was appreciated by the public who loved the rapid coloratura, the house came down after each of her solo aria’s. Her voice is a typical Slavic voice with a slight vibrato, not a warm voice and a times a bit dry; Her coloratura was quick but not always di forza and a bit uneven. I’d certainly like to hear her again. Baurzhan Anderzhov, who was the 4th of the quartet and who sang also the villain in L’inganno felice, sang with a steady and beautiful voice and credible acting. The setting in Bianca e Falliero by Primo Antonio Petris was minimal but effective. A few huge golden frames gave partition to the stage and the pictures of Venice in the background immediately defined the location. Artavazd Sargsyan always convinced me in previous years but Bertrando’s entrance aria in Untitled2L’inganno felice was slightly nasal and quite unclean in the coloratura. Something I hope is an exception in this young singer’s career. Tiziano Bracci and Lorenzo Regazzo were superb in singing and acting. In fact what made the opera a delight was the comic verve of Lorenzo Regazzo. The “teneste la promessa”-joke was hilarious for who got it. A real actor who brought this lovely farsa to life. I personally prefer Della Benetta much more as Eleonora in Il vespro siciliano, where she is able to display her dramatic interpretation, than as Isabella, where she sounded a bit rigid. She has a strong and beautiful voice and I would like to hear her again, maybe in an unknown, dramatic Mercadanta, Pacini, Carafa, Coccia, or Manfroce. Danilo Formaggia as Conte di Fondi has a worn out voice, and it’s quite painful to hear him especially in the first act where his role is quite present. Cesar Arrieta is a charming Siveno and a fresh-voiced Drouet. Matija Meic sings well but I would have wished a king with more authority. Authority which Russo doesn’t lack, who also sings well. I much enjoyed Ana Victoria Pitts’ singing and acting as Tangìa.

Antonino Fogliani directs lightly with verve and vivacity (at times a tad too quick). Federico Longo directs well and brings the forgotten Vespro to life with a big sense of musicality. The Virtuosi Brunensis orchestra didn’t play well: many mistakes, smudged notes, wrong entries ecc. The Bach Choir Poznan sang adequately though with a miserable pronunciation.

All in all a wonderful program, which I much enjoyed although I would prefer Italian (-style) composers to German (after all it’s called “Belcanto Festival”)

To close with a minor note: This year in Bad Wildbad my hotel was close to the new parking lot. A slab of concrete close to the festival area. And I started to realized how much of it was present in Bad Wildbad: The concrete roofing of the shops just below the café Melange, the building just next to the Palais thermal, several houses in the shopping street, many of the small bridges that cross the Enz in the village centre just to name a few, which are just too many for an 11000 souls’ village.

23/7: Il vespro siciliano: Conductor-Federico Longo, Carlo d’Anjou-Matija Meic, Alphonse Drouet-César Arrieta, Il conte di Fondi-Danilo Formaggia, Eleonora-Silvia della Benetta, Celinda-Sara Baneras, Aurelia-Sara Blanch, Albino-Ana Victoria Pitts, Guillaume l’Etendard-Carlos Natale, Il conte di Marche/Francesco Ruffo/il carceriere-Damian Whiteley, De Bellecour-Daniele Caputo, Giovanni da Procida-Dario Russo, Visconte Vernazzo-Carlos Natale, il conte di Sanseverino-Gheroghe Vlad, Albergio da Barbiano-Marco Simonelli, Virtuosi brunensis, Bach Choir Poznan,
26/7: Bianca e Falliero: Contareno-Kenneth Tarver, Capellio-Baurzhan Anderzhanov, Bianca-Cinzia Forte, Falliero-Victoria Yarovaya, Priuli-Laurent Kubla, Loredano-Marconi Banaś, Costanza-Marina Viotti, Cancelliere e ufficiale-Artavazd Sargsyan, Conductor-Antonino Fogliani, Virtuosi brunensis, Bach Choir Poznan, Direction-Primo Antonio Petris
23/7: L’inganno felice: Bertrando-Artavazd Sargsyan, Isabella-Silvia Dalla Benetta, Ormondo-Baurzhan Anderzhanov, Batone-Tiziano Bracci, Tarabotto-Lorenzo Regazzo, Virtuosi brunensis
25/7: Le cinesi: Piano-Michele d’Elia, Regie-Jürgen Schönleber, Lisinga-Sara Baneras, Sivene-Silvia Aurea De Stefano, Tangia-Ana Victoria Pitts, Silango-César Arrieta

Rossini in Bad Wildbad 2014

kktbwI was convinced i would hear Adelaide di Borgogna life for the first time when i ordered tickets in Bad Wildbad for the yearly festival dedicated to Rossini. A quick glance at my list of visited performances told me i saw the Pesaro performances as well. The cast at the time was “stellar”: Jessica Pratt and Daniela Barcellona. But I must admit I rarely listen to the CD with the wonderful Mariella Devia and Martine Dupuy either as the music has little appeal to me and the libretto is very insipid. The Bad Wildbad performance is enjoyable enough, Margarita Gritskova as Ottone has a smooth voice over the whole range, a clear enough diction and a fair coloratura. Ekaterina Sadovnikova as Adelaide and Baurzhan Anderzhanov as Berengario are also convincing. Luciano Acocella directs well. Antonio Petris is responsible for the mise en scene and he follows Schönleber’s bad taste.

morlacchiThis year the operatic rarity (which is analways welcome project) was Tebaldo e Isolina by Francesco Morlacchi. Tebaldo e Isolina premiered 1822 in Venice and was one of the major successes of the Perugia-born composer. Morlacchi’s score clearly assimilates the Rossinian writing, made evident by the structures of the musical numbers (for e.g. Isolina’s aria in the first act has several sections, cello introduction, the reading of a letter, pertichini and choir) and the fine orchestration. It is not a masterpiece if we compare it with the operas by Rossini of the same period, but the composition has beautiful pieces like the finale of the 1st act and the romance for Tebaldo “Caro suono lusinghiero”.
Sandra Pastrana is Isolina. Her voice is a clean and clear but at times one wishes more dramatic weight. Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani’s Boemondo was a very positive surprise to me. He has a naturally clear diction, (even for Italians this is not that evident) and a very pleasant voice. The coloratura is very fluid and the high notes clear and sure. Tebaldo’s role (which was written for the castrato Giovanni Battista Velluti, for whom Rossini composed the role of Arsace in Aureliano in Palmira and Meyerbeer the role of Armando in Il crociato in Egitto) was interpreted by Laura Polverelli. Polverelli has slightly worn high notes but a full and warm middle and lower register and the coloratura is fluid. The orchestra plays well and the director gives the singer time to develop the musical phrases.

Bad Wildbad-20140725-00947For the belcanto recitals, young singers perform in the recently renovated royal theatre (which seats 200 people). Some of the singers, which are students of Lorenzo Regazzo’s masterclasses (who joins in a terzetto from l’inganno felice), sing also minor roles in the opera’s in Bad Wildbad, many of them can be heard in the Viaggio a Reims, also performed in Bad Wildbad this year. They are all young and beautiful, they are all motivated and they all fully give themselves also in acting out their respective roles (I must say i was rarely moved so much during a recital). Some are very nervous and the heartily applause and cheering after each piece brings a clear relief and joy. The young artists are Cornelius Lewenberg, Guiomar Cantò, Baurzhan Anderzhanov, Matija Meic, Yasushi Watanabe, Artavazd Sargsyan, Olesya Chuprinova, Sofia Mchedlishvili, Silvia Aurea De Stefano, Carlos Cardoso, Lucas Somoza Osterc, Graziano Dallavalle, Anna Werle, Muriel Frankhauser, Alessandra Contaldo, Gheorghe Vlad, Miriam Zubieta. They were well accompanied on the piano by Michele D’Elia and Marco Simionato, Nicola Pascoli, Dimitri Candoni and Rossella Fracaros.

But if one thing is to enjoy their voices in carefully selected pieces, another is to endure a whole opera. Il viaggio a Reims’ score has been re-discovered only in 1984, and since then the opera serves as showcase for professionals and students alike.  But with singers which are not able to satisfy Rossini’s writing (it was composed for the best singers of the time, reunited in Paris for the coronation festivities of Charles X) a music director who hastily runs through the score and a scene director who fills the scenes with slap-sticks and buffoonery and clearly struggles with the amount of people on the stage, boredom and anger come up quickly. I will not describe the musical interpretation as the singers are young and full of enthusiasm (and some of them have remarkable qualities). But could another, easier opera not be chosen? This kind of operations are not in the interest of Rossini’s music, or the arts, or the singers themselves (among which I’d only single out Bruno Praticò and his experience). How difficult it is to cope with the Rossinian style was also recently shown in a scandalously poor performance of La gazzetta, given on a professional stage like the Liege Opera (Opéra Royal de Wallonie). I would, however, very gladly welcome the help of a film or drama school to take over the staging of operas.