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

Terry Gilliam’s Benvenuto Cellini in Amsterdam

celliniI assisted at a wonderful performance of Benvenuto Cellini in Amsterdam. Personally I was attracted by the direction of Terry Gilliam and John Osborne as Cellini. The sets, the costumes, the choreography and the acting are an exuberant whirl of ideas, energetic and humorous, a wink to Monty Python and expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in black and white, with dooming video projections in the background. It is mainly thanks to Gilliam’s direction that this opera, considered difficult, is able to enthuse, as it did with the Amsterdam audience.

The singers were in superb shape, starting from Teresa, Benvenuto and Fieramosca. I have a predilection for John Osborn in almost everything he sings, the delicate lyrical pages, the heroic energy and the range. Mariangela Sicilia was a delightful surprise, she delivers a charming Teresa with a nice timbre and a beautiful voice. Naouri and all the rest of the cast are well chosen and deliver outstanding (or almost) performances. The thing I liked less was the direction of Mark Elder who, I found, directed on the slow side without the bite that the score requires. The chorus and the orchestra sang and played very well.

Conductor-Sir Mark Elder, direction-Terry Gilliam, choreography-Leah Hausman, decor-Terry Gilliam and Aaron Marsden, costumes-Katrina Lindsay, lighting-Paule Constable, Video-Finn Ross, Benvenuto Cellini-John Osborn, Giacomo Balducci-Maurizio Muraro, Fieramosca-Laurent Naouri, Le Pape Clement VII-Orlin Anastassov, Francesco-Nicky Spence, Bernardino-Scott Conner, Pompeo-André Morsch, Le Cabaretier-Marcel Beekman, Teresa-Mariangela Sicilia, Ascanio-Michèle Losier