Rossini Opera Festival 2018 @ Pesaro

It’s always interesting to follow the Viaggio a Reims of the Accademia in Pesaro, one can hear interesting young voices which might be successful one day. Excellent, I thought, was the Lord Sidney of Nicolò Donini, with not only fluid coloratura but also the emphasis he put on pronunciation and interpretation. Milla Mihova’s Cortese was also quite good with a strong voice, fluid embellishments and a steady top register. I would have loved to hear her as Corinna. A tenor I also enjoyed was Anatoliy Pigrebnyy as Belfiore, with a nice extension and a ductile voice. Corinna, Folleville and Trombonok all simplify the quick coloratura, Sennikova is a bit mellifluous. I would have loved to see Carles Panchon, who sang the role of Antonio the 17th, sing the role of Sidney the 14th (the students of the accademia alternate roles in two different dates). His voice was quite beautiful and strong and convinced even in the small role of Antonio with a funny mimicry. The orchestra was adequately conducted by Hugo Carrio.

Ricciardo e Zoraide was one of the main events in Pesaro this year, the opera was composed in Naples in 1818 but was not, also in modern times, very lucky with revivals. Juan Diego Florez comes back for yet another role composed for Giovanni David, the tenore di grazia active in Naples at that time. (In fact most of Rossini’s Neapolitan operas have 2 tenor roles, one tenore di grazia and one baritenor. The latter was Andrea Nozzari, for whom Rossini composed the roles of Otello, Rinaldo (Armida), Pirro in Ermione, Rodrigo (La donna del lago), Antenore (Zelmira). Juan Diego Florez, after over 20 years of activity (he was “discovered” in Pesaro in 1996 when he had to replace the main tenore last minute to sing the murderous role of Corradino in Mathilde Di Shabran) still startles with the ease he reaches all the notes, his musical elegance, his impeccable coloratura. Romanovsky sang the role composed for Nozzari. Romanovsky has all the technical skills, the coloratura and the extension, and this is already quite impressive. However the voice sounds a bit muffled and does not expand. Pretty Yende is a credible Zoraida, the clear top notes flow with ease, the interpretation credible. Also Victoria Yarovaya convinces as Zomira in the difficult Pisaroni role. An incredible surprise was the third tenor, Xabier Anduaga, a very resounding voice with easy top notes and an incredible projection. I hope to hear him in more Rossini soon. Dull on the other hand the direction of Marshall Pynkoski. He moves the plot from Nubia to a very generic oriental place. The settings are pleasing and the colours beautiful, but except for a handful of ubiquitous ballet dancers who constantly accompany the plot, there is no action on stage except for minimal and very generic standard movements, the singers being mainly turned towards the audience. The excellent orchestra sinfonica nazionale della RAI was adequately conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti.

For the 150th anniversary of Rossini’s death this year, the ROF commissioned a new Barbiere di Siviglia, a choice much criticized on- and offline. The reason being Barbiere being one of the world’s most performed operas and the detractors wished a more rare opera. Nonetheless, in my view, it turned out to be a very good production. The setting is beautiful. In an atemporal Seville, Pizzi plays with the airy space and just a few touches of contrasts and colours. The singers’ movements are very generic, some good ideas but not everything convinces (Basilio’s stutter, Bartolo’s French R…). Very elegant the costumes.
What makes this Barbiere so special is the importance put on the text and this is thanks mainly to the 3 low male roles. I always was a big fan of Spagnoli and I was very happy to hear him sing in this Barbiere. Even happier I was to see a young singer I value, Davide Luciano. If the acting was good, it was mainly thanks to these two singers. (I liked the delicate rapper movements of Spagnoli, as if to underline the modernity of Rossini in his time, the rapid sillabato being our rap). Maybe Spagnoli is more delicate in the search of the right nuance, though I found his voice not always as round and soft especially in the higher register, but both have an excellent musicality, are wonderful actors, have wonderful body gestures. The phrasing is excellent, each word adapts to the flow of the music, the pronunciation impeccable. Two charismatic top singers. Mirinov is very good as count, not a big voice but he nimbly flies over all runs. Not very big isn’t Rosina’s voice either. I’m not sure why the ROF keeps choosing her in the mezzo or alto roles. The vocality does not suit her very much. The voice is placed high and one can hear that even in the recitatives which don’t have necessary weight in these low roles. In the rapid embellishments she’s not always audible. When she gets time she does reach the low notes, her coloratura is fluid, her pronunciation good and she moves well on stage. Elena Zilio is lovely as Berta and Pertusi a correct Basilio.

Adina is a little comic opera Rossini composed in the heights of his Neapolitan success in 1818, exactly 200 years ago, as was also Ricciardo e Zoraide. Written for a still unknown commissioner, the opera was composed using either own music from lesser known operas or composed by Rossini’s collaborators. Not even a handful of pieces were freshly composed for this work. Eventually the opera was first staged only 8 years later in Lisbon.
Pesaro’s direction by Miss Cucchi imagines the plot deploying from a nuptial cake being prepared. Loads of different characters move on stage with colourful clothes in front of a stage-filling cake. The main characters were all quite good. Lisette Oropesa was almost worshipped as an excellent newcomer, despite her success abroad. I found her timbre a bit cold and her coloratura a bit too much on the “di grazia” side, but she certainly has a full bodied voice also in the lower register and the top notes are propelled with no problem whatsoever. Very good Vito Priante as calif, from the rapid runs to the more lyric moments he is a fine singer. Both are also good actors and deliver excellent actorial skills in a libretto which mixes comic with semi dramatic moments. Although still able to mature I liked also the tenor, who is assimilating the bel canto style and has no problems with the tessitura of a tenore di grazia. Good all other roles with the lovely eunuch Ali who delivers his sorbet aria with elegance and Davide Giangregorio’s Mustafá.

Ricciardo e Zoraide: Direttore-Giacomo Sagripanti, Maestro del coro -Giovanni Farina, Regia-Marshall Pynkoski, Scene-Gerard Gauci, Costumi-Michael Gianfrancesco, Luci-Michelle Ramsay, Coreografie-Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Agorante-Sergey Romanovsky, Zoraide-Pretty Yende, Ricciardo-Juan Diego Flórez, Ircano-Nicola Ulivieri, Zomira Victoria Yarovaya, Ernesto-Xabier Anduaga, Fatima-Sofia Mchedlishvili, Elmira-Martiniana Antonie, Zamorre-Ruzil Gatin
Il viaggio a Reims: Direttore-Hugo Carrio, Corinna-Aleksandra Sennikova, Marchesa Melibea-Claudia Verrecchia, Contessa di Folleville-Larisa Stefan, Madama Cortese-Milla Mihova, Cavaliere Belfiore-Anatoliy Pigrebnyy, Conte di Libenskof-Shanul Sharma, Lord Sidney-Nicoló Donini, Don Profondo-Peter Sokolov, Barone di Trombonok-Igor Onishchenko, Don Alvaro-Alejandro Sanchez, Don Prudenzio-Gálvez, Don Luigino-Antonio Gares, Delia -Maria Laura Iacobellis, Maddalena-Anastasia Medvedeva, Modestina-Claudia Muschio, Gelsomino-Manuel Amati, Antonio-Carles Pachon
Adina: Conductor-Diego Matheuz, Director-Rosetta Cucchi, Set designer-Tiziano Santi, Costumes-Claudia Pernigotti, Adina-Lisette Oropesa, Semino-Levy Sekgapane, Califfo-Vito Priante, Ali-Matteo Macchioni, Mustafà-Davide Giangregorio
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Director-Yves Abel, Director, costumes, set designer-Pier Luigi Pizzi, Conte Almaviva-Maxim Mironov, Rosina-Aya Wakizono, Figaro-Davide Luciano, Dr. Bartolo-Pietro Spagnoli, Don Basilio-Michele Pertusi, Berta-Elena Zilio, Fiorello-William Corrò
Foto studio Amatio Bacciardi, performances of the 17th, 19th and 21st August 2018.

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Ricciardo e Zoraide in Bad Wildbad

Teatro_San_Carlo_-_Napoli (1)Ricciardo e Zoraide comes from this incredible pool of Rossini’s operas composed for Neaples between 1815 and 1822. When Domenico Barbaja summoned Rossini to Naples, the Real Teatro di San Carlo had everything a composer could hope for: a first class orchestra composed only of professionals (which was by no means the standard in Italy in those days, see for e.g. the clarinet solo in Ricciardo and especially the horn solo from Otello), some of the finest singers of that time, and one of Europe’s best choruses (although I’m sure Rossini was attracted as well by the excellent food and other Neapolitan beauties …..). This was Rossini’s fertile ground on which grew his masterpieces, in a time regarded as the zenith (and end) of belcanto. For Naples Rossini could draw all his stops, in fact, in Naples Rossini was more innovative and modern than ever.

From the mentioned singers one has to outline Isabella Colbran, Rossini’s lover-then-wife, a singer of a wide vocal range, smoothness and flexibility, praised all over Italy. Celletti analyzes Colbran’s voice as  sono più basse (the parts she sings), come tessitura delle parti di soprano “puro” e, anzi, hanno sovente il carattere di parti di mezzosoprano acuto… e improntate come sono ad un accentuato virtuosismo e ad una coloratura fittissima, sono quelle che più rispecchiano l’inventiva di Rossini in materia di diminuzioni, variazioni e fiorettature e la sua capacità di mettere in evidenza taluni pregi dell’esecutrice (la vocalità acrobatica, specie “di forza”, occultandone, insieme, taluni difetti: in particolare, sembra, la progressiva incapacità della Colbran di sostenere senza stonare le larghe frasi di canto spianato; da cui la tendenza ad una coloratura sempre più dettagliata e fastosa, con conseguente eliminazione dei cantabili veri e propri.. Giovanni David, the tenore contraltino, with an extravagant taste for decorating into extremes, and Andrea Nozzari, the more baritonal tenor. The fourth voice was the one of Rosmunda Pisaroni, one of the finest contralto’s of her time. At the time Rossini reached Neaples, Colbran’s singing abilities were declining and she lost pitch and flexibility. This might maybe the reason why Zoraida has no aria di sortita, and her final aria is built into the Finale II.

Ricciardo e ZoraideBad Wildbad is a small village in the Black Forest and Rossini seemingly enjoyed its curative waters in 1856. For the last 25 years opera’s by Rossini and his contemporaries are staged here. This year it was Ricciardo e Zoraide‘s turn in a concert version. Singers are a mix of the star system and lesser known artists. I remember Randall Bills from his cavalier Belfiore in the Viaggio a Reims in Pesaro last year. His coloratura is perfectionable and Agorante is a role too big for him, which is noticeable in his entrance aria. But withouth the screamed top notes and the non-existing lower notes I liked his nice timbre. Silvia Beltrami had no problems with the tessitura, mastering the contralto notes with ease, her voice running smoothly through the theatre although one wishes more fluid coloratura. No problems with the coloratura instead for Alessandra Marianelli, whom I also remember from Pesaro in a very questionable Turco in Italia. Her voice is pleasant but with unfortunate, near-scream upper notes. Best of the evening was Maxim Mironov, with clear coloratura and a spot-on top register. Di Pierro and Sargsyan sang well in the roles of Ircano and Ernesto, respectively. The director left the singers the time they needed and did a good job following them although one would have wished a slightly bigger unity between orchestra and singers. The orchestra was perfectionable, with some off-key notes and players not always playing together. The chorus on the other hand was superb.

Overall a very pleasant evening for an opera containing excellent music heard far too rarely, adequately cast by the Rossini in Wildbad-staff, who is doing an admirable work reviving forgotten opera’s.

Musical director-José Miguel Perez Sierra, Agorante-Randall Bills, Zoraide-Alessandra Marianelli, Ricciardo-Maxim Mironov, Ircano-Nahuel di Pierro, Zomira-Silvia Beltrami, Ernesto-Artavazd Sargsyan, Fatima-Diana Mian, Bach choir Poznan, Virtuosi Brunenses

Bad Wildbad, 20/07/2013