The Rossini Opera Festival 2016 @ Pesaro

_12A3935SchrottPeretyatkoAlaimo_640xWhat a pity that il Turco in Italia was such a disappointment this year. Davide Livermore, director of several operas in Pesaro for several years now, transports the opera into a Fellinian movie. Similarly  L’Italiana in Algeri of last year was transported into the 60’s, where Livermore had to be careful on keeping the decade’s style. Differently, in Il turco in Italia, by sticking to the fellinian idea, he transforms the Turco-characters into Fellini-characters, adds several characters from the movies and has to match all the different characters among each other and with the libretto. And this sometimes leads to a boring confusion and forced situations that annoy on the long run. The set is beautiful, as are the costumes designed by Gianluca Falaschi. Musically the things don’t enthuse either. Speranza Scappucci does her best to underline the details of the score but directed the singers and orchestra without vivacity. Completely! Erwin Schrott as Selim is more interested in the setting than looking to sing in Rossini’s style…another disappointment. DSCF5635_640xRene Barbera has all the notes but leaves a bit cold. Olga Peretyatko, who is gorgeous on stage, could have been a good Fiorilla but she does not convince in the first act, let alone in her big aria Squallida veste bruna, which she finishes (badly) with big effort (partially excused by a note she issued saying that this was due to an allergy). Excellent, on the other hand, Pietro Spagnoli and Nicola Alaimo, who, except for an amazingly clear diction, vital for a comic opera, and the only two main characters that care pronouncing properly, understand how to sing Rossini, but alone cannot save the show from a sense of averageness.

 

_12A3131_640xCiro in Babilonia was given with a set, also by Davide Livermore, conceived for the ROF in 2012. The setting is created around the slient movie theme, with spectators in liberty style, projected intertitles, simplistic acting with emphasized body language and facial expression, and intentionally unrefined projections. it is a very clever direction which is easy to follow and extremely pleasant to watch. Musically Jader Benjamini gives a dramatic though airy and light imprint to this score of the young Rossini and accompanies the singers well. It would be very interesting to hear him in a more mature Rossini. The big star is Ewa Podles. The voice has still an amazing range, I am always impressed to hear both the almost manly-deep and the almost soprano-like high notes  in one single voice. Podles is expressive and a very good actress and impersonates not only a Persian prince but a loving father and husband. _C2A8163_1_640xThis is singing with a capital S and shows that Podles has, with over 60 years, still many strings in her bow and she received the ovation she deserved. Siragusa is always quite good with his luminous timbre, fluency in the colorature and attentive to diction. Petty Yende was a nice surprise. The quick florid passages were not as articulated, but she showed a good control in the extreme high register and was overall convining in the Rossinian style. A bigger attention to intonation would have completed her interpretation.

 

_MG_4549BritoSpyresJiciaMimicaAbrahamyan_1_640xLa donna del lago was, in my eyes, the most refined of Mariotti s conductions so far. From the first bars of the  introduction it is clear that he pays much care to the  details of the score, giving much attention to soli’s and accompaniment, uncovering the sounds of gurgling water, “morning dawns”, etc. etc. His tempi are perfect, dynamic and swift, without indulging in  superfluous oversentimentality, still tender and warm where  required, with an incredible play of rubati and attention to  details as rarely heard.  It is true what one says about Florez and the coloratura  that it is less fluid, but what is lost in flexibility is  gained in the search of softness and phrasing, colours  and accents. Unmatched. Michael Spyres  interprets the extremely difficult role of Ridrigo, cockily shooting high and baritonal notes and leaping over the pentagram as if there was no tomorrow.  _12A8691_640xVery good also Salome Jica in the role of Elena, good  coloratura and good range. Varduhi Abrahamyan is very good, though  lacks, in my eye, these Podles-like fullness in the lowest part of the range. Very good also the  minor parts. Michieletto sets the action as flashback. The opera begins with Malcolm and Elena living together in old age, with Elena thinking  with regret to the times she met the king. And Michieletto shows what Tottola and Rossini only hint at, a  loving relationship between the two, so the whole  direction centres around a love that could have been  and is (maybe) still there. In the world of subject matter experts a well known theory but Michieletto makes it visible with the  attention to details and coherence that is his trademark.

 

Il turco in Italia: Direttore-Speranza Scappucci, Regia e Scene-Davide Livermore, Videodesign-D-WOK, Costumi-Gianluca Falaschi, Progetto luci-Nicolas Bovey, Selim-Erwin Schrott, Fiorilla-Olga Peretyatko, Geronio-Nicola Alaimo, Narciso-René Barbera, Prosdocimo-Pietro Spagnoli, Zaida-Cecilia Molinari, Albazar-Pietro Adaini

Ciro in Babilonia: Direttore-Jader Bignamini, Regia-Davide Livermore, Videodesign-D-WOK, Scene e Progetto luci-Nicolas Bovey, Costumi-Gianluca Falaschi, Baldassare-Antonino Siragusa, Ciro-Ewa Podles, Amira-Pretty Yende, Argene-Isabella Gaudí, Zambri-Oleg Tsybulko, Arbace-Alessandro Luciano, Daniello-Dimitri Pkhaladze

La donna del lago: Direttore-Michele Mariotti, Regia-Damiano Michieletto, Scene-Paolo Fantin, Costumi-Klaus Bruns, Progetto luci-Alessandro Carletti, Giacomo V/Uberto-Juan Diego Flórez, Douglas-Marko Mimica, Rodrigo-Michael Spyres, Elena-Salome Jicia, Malcom-Varduhi Abrahamyan, Albina-Ruth Iniesta, Serano/Bertram-Francisco Brito, Elena anziana-Giusi Merli, Malcom anziano-Alessandro Baldinotti

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L’elisir d’amore @ De Munt/La Monnaie

InleidingThe lovely light opera L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti was recently given at the awful Cirque Royal in Brussels. Having a round stage there is no optimum place, not for the orchestra and not for the singers: acoustically speaking, one will inevitably be in the way or unbalanced. The setting was redesigned for a round stage, however and together with the direction is absolutely worth seeing. This is by the talented Damiano Michieletto and has travelled much in the last few years (Madrid, Palermo, Graz, Valencia). Traditional-setting-aficionados will be disappointed as there are no Basque countries, no farms, no washerwomen, no garrison sergeants etc, instead we see the beach, a lifeguard (Nemorino), a beach kiosk, beach vendors etc. The skilfully transposed setting however works well due to a setting that everybody can relate to, a sparkling and funny direction and an astonishing work on the personalities and traits of the characters. Characters that Donizetti puts also in music. The sighs, the laughs, it’s all in the score. The conductor  keeps the music going, but very little chiselling is done in terms of getting the details out of the score. Also, in a period of increasing musical phylology, the elimination of the repetition of strettas and cabalettas is unacceptable.

elisirThe cast is mostly doubled. Anne-Catherine Gillet is an artist with discontinuous results. But I found her Adina good, her lower register is strong enough to avoid a soubrette-like voice and her coloratura fluid. Her Achilles heel is the top register which is hard and at the verge of shrill so “Vieni, per me sei libero” is sung like walking on eggs instead of being a sparkling outbreak of joy for the found love. But throughout the performances her confidence grew and Gillet displayed a very convincing Adina. On stage her Adina is a bit shrew-ish with an angry body language. Olga Peretyatko on the other hand is charmingly fickle and whimsical. Vocally she is more at ease with the belcanto style. About pronunciation I will refer to Donizetti; When L’elisir d’amore had its premiere in 1832, he wrote about his primadonna something that fits like a glove also to the two ladies here: La donna ha bella voce ma cio che dice lo sa lei (The primadonna has a beautiful voice but only she knows what she is saying). Antonio Poli and  Dmitry Korchak both offer a very compelling Nemorino, melancholic or strong as required, their phrasing varied, and their acting credible as clumsy and melancholic admirer. Armando Noguera and Riccardo Novaro are both very convincing on stage and sing well although the voices are sometimes lost in the space of the Cirque Royal. Aris Argiris acts very well but has some difficulty with the higher register and his vocalises are not fluid. Simon Orfila is an excellent Dulcamara, a fine actor and his voice uniform over the whole range. Giannetta is vocally and scenically well embodied by Maria Savastano.

Music director-Thomas Rösner, Director-Damiano Michieletto, Set design-Paolo Fantin, Costumes-Silvia Aymonino, Lighting-Alessandro Carletti, Adina-Anne-Catherine Gillet, Olga Peretyatko, Nemorino-Antonio Poli, Dmitry Korchak, Belcore-Armando Noguera, Aris Argiris, Dulcamara-Riccardo Novaro, Simon Orfila, Giannetta-Maria Savastano

De Munt/La Monnaie season 2015/2016

MM_Home_EM_VruchtvleesjpgAn excellent 2015/2016 season was recently presented at De Munt/La Monnaie with a balanced choice in styles and good casts. The season starts off with a belcanto gem by Donizetti, L’elisir d’amore, under the direction of Damiano Michieletto, whom I admire much, and conducted by Thomas Rösner, who, if my memory serves me right, I enjoyed hearing in a lively Cosi fan tutte in Winterthur two years ago. The loving couple, Olga Peretyatko and Dmitry Korchak, are belcanto experts and the evening promises, at least on paper, to be a success.After L’elisir d’amore the operahouse will close to undergo renovation works.

Powder her face is an appreciated new entry. Composed in 1995 by Thomas Ades on a libretto by Philip Hensher, it tells the story of the “dirty duchess”  (I refer to the guardians article for details http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/mar/27/thomas-ades-powder-her-face-sex-selfie). Musically it is an individual mix of different styles written for a small orchestra with a large  percussion section.

I am especially happy about the choice of La Vestale by Gaspare Spontini. Although an Italian, he perfectly merged the French declamatory and the Italian style, writing a milestone in French music which soon was extremely successful also outside France. Performed only rarely, Maria Callas was one of the great Giulias.

The Christmas spirit is brought by Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck, which is also a lovely opera. Pity it is given at the Bozar in a semi-staged version.

To be sung was created in 1994 on music by Pascal Dusapin, a composer who will present a world creation in April this year in De Munt/La Monnaie (Penthesilea). I am not fan of Dusapin and I would have preferred any of the cancelled proposals (Some of the pages in the program are grayed out, showing that these operas had to be cut due to the government’s financial change in subsidy policy. These opera’s are Die Dreigroschenoper by Weill, L’incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi and Die tote Stadt by Erich Korngold.

A Russian is also present this year, and a rare surprise with that, with Anton Rubinstein’s The demon. One of the last Russian Romantics, Rubinstein was mainly known as pianist and The demon, his only opera, has become a rarity. Such a pity it is a concert version. Another concert version is presented with another Italian, this time a verismo opera (the reason for the concert version is, according to the program, that it “is difficult to present onstage”…): Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Not heard very often in these latitudes. A welcome composition. Pity again, it is in concert form (Why are the Dusapins never in concert form?)

A florian_leopold_gassmannreal jewel is L’opera seria by Florian Leopold Gassmann; After having heard this opera in 1997 in Innsbruck under the direction of Rene Jacobs, I am extremely happy to see it again in Brussels. The plot is a mockery of opera habits in the 18th century, an opera in the opera, where an opera troup is rehearsing an opera seria, with its whimsical singers, it’s egomaniac dancers, its greedy impresari.

An original, and welcome, choice is Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedicte, a far too rarely performed opera: “Je fis…l’opéra-comique Beatrix et Benedict (!). Il fut joué avec un grand succsès et sous ma direction, sur le nouveau théâtre de Bade, le 9 août 1862” writes Berlioz in his autobiography.

Mozart is always welcome, and although Mitridate, re di Ponto was given with Carsen’s direction in 2007, the opera, written by a 14-year old Mozart, will be a treat seen the chosen cast which includes Lenneke Ruiten, Myrtò Papatanasiu and the excellent Michael Spyres and Simona Saturova under the direction of Christophe Rousset.

The umpteenth world creation for the Munt/Monnaie is Frankenstein by Mark Grey. The idea came from La fura dels Baus, who will also take care of the direction, which, personally, is the reason to see the opera.

Picture1However, I can not refrain from some additional comments.

First-Belgium is a small country with 3 opera institutions. From Brussels, opera lovers travel to Gent or Antwerp and Liege. Why they sometimes give the same opera’s within the same season or the same year is a mystery to me. Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni are in the 2014/2015 season at Vlaanders Opera  while both operas were also given in the years 2013/2014 in Brussels. And this year we have L’elisir d’amore, in June in Liege and in September in Brussels.

Another thought I would like to share is about the Cirque Royal, a highly inappropriate venue for operas. The theatre is round and this poses problems on where to put the orchestra. Furthermore the singers sing in any direction, which results in a very peculiar sound. This is partially due to the renovation works and Peter de Caluwe “…takes this opportunity…to play with locations…matching them with the appropriate projects”. I hope he takes this opportunity only during the renovation works.

However, I must congratulate the Munt/Monnaie for an overall marvelous season, varied and with many rarities to look forward to. The absence of the various Joosten, Tcherniakov et similia  is also reassuring. The chief conductor Ludovic Morlot has resigned at the end of December. I am not sure this is such good news. Issues between the conductor the orchestra are a recurring thing and the orchestra could benefit (read: improve) from a stable baton. The concerts are also interesting and varied. These include recitals by Anna Caterina Antonacci, Simon Keenlyside, Matthias Goerne and Christophe Prégardien and concerts such as the Grande Messe de morts by Berlioz,

http://www.lamonnaie.be/en/502/Programme