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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Mariotti & Co in Liege: Rossini’s La donna del lago and Stabat Mater

It was a pleasure to to see this production a second time, if only to see how well Michieletto can tell a touching story and only minimally interfere with the libretto. In this Donna del lago he tells the story with the eyes of old Elena and her secret love to the king. Elena and Malcolm have aged and they witness their own plot, discovering secrets they most likely didn’t tell each other. There were some very touching moments and I loved to see the show in the intimacy of the theatre rather than the huge space of the Adriatic Arena. Mariotti loves the score I feel. The rubati, the small plays with tempi and dynamics bring the score to life and it’s such a joy to hear him direct. The orchestra is far from impeccable but I never heard it play so well (bravo the clarinet). Rodvnanovsky had parts of his voice that sometimes sounded «unclean» (a cold?) but he masters his difficult role with relative ease. It’s more technical mastery, as where Pizzolato, although she lost some of the creaminess of her voice, has not only still impeccable coloratura but plays wonderfully with the colours, and her clear pronunciation makes poor Malcolm become a true romantic lover. Salome Jicia is less convincing than in Pesaro, she attacks her high notes a bit harshly at times, her pronunciation could also be improved but she makes a fine Elena nonetheless with a powerful coloratura and a beautiful closing aria. The small house of Liège is advantageous to Mironov’s voice, not large, but beautiful, light and flexible, sings excellently and in understandable Italian, his second act aria (whose melodic line I always found somewhat strange). Very well also Simón Orfila as Douglas. Barbaric the choir.

A couple of days later, with the same singers (Pizzolato, Jicia, Romanovsky, Orfila), Mariotti directed the Stabat Mater. I was not convinced. They all sounded a bit tired I thought. I much enjoyed Orfila, and next to him Pizzolato was the most balanced although with a fatigued upper register. Romanovsky was covered by the orchestra during much of his Cujus animam, but then shouted his cadenza. Salome Jicia did not convince in the upper register. I don’t know what it is, maybe all these roles are too high for her. I much enjoy her lower and middle register, but the runs in premuniri of the Morte Christi premuniri were very unrefined und with little legato. Mariotti pursues his play with dynamics and tempi, but rather unconvincigly this time, in slow movements he slows down even more, in loud parts he is exceedingly loud. A bit disappointing.

Direction Musicale-Michele Mariotti, Mise En Scène-Damiano Michieletto, Décors-Paolo Fantin, Costumes-Klaus Bruns, Lumières-Alessandro Carletti, Chef Des Chœurs-Pierre Iodice, , Elena-Salome Jicia, Malcolm-Marianna Pizzolato, Giacomo V-Maxim Mironov, Rodrigo-Sergey Romanovsky, Douglas-Simón Orfila, Serano & Bertram-Stefan Cifolelli, Albina-Julie Bailly, Elena Âgée-Giusi Merli, Malcolm Âgé-Alessandro Baldinotti, 8/05/12 and 12/05/18. Pic from Mr Mariotti’s facebook.

Rossini Opera Festival 2017

The only person who really impressed me this year at the Viaggio a Reims was Roberto Lorenzi with a true bass voice and a fluid coloratura. Others were also enjoyable such as Oscar Oré as Belfiore or Noluvuyiso Mpofu as Cortese. Corinna and Folleville lacked substance and were a bit thin. Good all others. The conductor Michele Spotti was hugely applauded but I found his direction a bit flat, colours missing and not much variation. The mise en scene was the very effective one by Emilio Sagi and as always this Viaggio by the students of the Rossini Academy is a pleasure to watch, almost touching in the enthusiasm the young singers put into their singing and acting.

Torvaldo e Dorliska was this year’s most balanced opera I thought. Both the visual and musical side were satisfactory. The stage is nicely designed by Mario Martone, a forest behind a iron gate impress with the versatility it offers to move around it, and the delightful costumes by Ursula Patzak put us into the narrative immediately. Very well the young director Francesco Lanzillotta. He plays with colours, dynamics, and tempi to give the music the lightheartedness and tension it deserves. Salome Jicia, seemingly the Semiramide of the 2019 ROF, started on a wobbly foot with her first aria but her performance grew over time into a well performed Dorliska, though I felt her lower and middle register were not as strong as I remember them in Elena in last year’s Donna del lago. Very well Dmitry Korchak as her lover with a bright ringing voice he also had no difficulty to find his way through the rapid vocalisms, and the top notes were poured out with ease. Of Carlo Lepore I especially liked both the comic and tragic characterization of the character. Nicola Alaimo has not a huge voice but sings with great taste. Great fun was Filippo Fontana in his small aria Sopra quell’albero vedo un bel pero while I thought Raffaella Lupinacci was marvellous in the small role of Carlotta, her aria very well sung. Since i could not see the subtitles from where I was sitting, I especially appreciated how everybody put extra effort in the pronunciation as the plot was easily followed even without subtitles.

Le siège de Corinthe was a huge disappointment. The direction was given to La Fura dels Baus, who have created many memorable productions, but this opera did not tickle they inspiration at all I feel. They de-contextualized the plot, and the struggle for independence of the Greek from the Ottomans is interpreted by La Fura with the struggle for water. Although I get their point and can imagine the parallel somewhere, the show did not convince me in the least for the absence of a real storytelling, and boredom came up pretty soon. Furthermore 20L-water-bottles strung together into walls was visually not very pleasing. The costumes looked like there were paint stains on them. Furthermore, instead of the ballet one could read poems by Lord Byron projected on the wall. They certainly were congruent (and I rediscovered Byron’s touching “Darkness”) but it’s not a ballet, and the dancers came in only very late into the orchestral intermezzo. Abbado did not direct badly but I felt he was accompanying well (which is still a great achievement) rather than looking for exciting ways to interpret the newly edited score, and overall he was not able to lift the musical part above the abominable visual disaster. Nino Machaidze’s voice is well projected and she has a good enough coloratura, but she impressed me much more in her Neapolitan Desdemona. My issue with Luca Pisaroni is that he is not a real bass voice and that makes him lose credibility as Mahomet altogether, especially when he awkwardly tries to reach the lower notes. Much better the two tenors. Sergey Romanovsky has a beautiful and strong tenor voice and his last aria is sung very well. I hope he choses his repertoire well and doesn’t push too much on the top notes as it would be a pleasure to hear him in the Neapolitan Rossini in future. Convincing was also John Irvin as Pamyra’s father, in fact more convincing that the day before at the the 3 Tenors’ concert. Cecilia Molinari was barely audible but Carlo Cigni, Xabier Anduaga, and Omar-Iurii were all convincing.

La pietra del paragone’s conductor Daniele Rustioni is precies but not as light as needed. Margheri has the right physique du role for Count Asdrubale and a nice voice but he is somewhat flat in colours and a little clumsy with the agilities. Even worse Aya Wakizono, she is almost inaudible in the grave and center even with the orchestra playing pp. It is a disaster for a role that urges for the low notes of the voice. The coloratura is good but her pronunciation a bit scholarly and she really shines only when the variations bring her to the higher notes. Very good Paolo Bordogna who, though with a slight tight vibrato, is a great singer who’s Pacuvio does not find obstacles in the range, his agilities good and much fun on stage. Wonderful Davide Luciano, who I gladly saw again after the very positive impression he had made on me in the Inganno felice, an impression that was repeated: beautiful voice, sure in the agilities, excellent phrasing, but also a great actor who knows how to speak with body, gestures, and a simple look. The direction uses the whole setting of a modern house in a continuous flow of people that makes the plot glide fluidly, beautiful the lights and the costumes, the latter in colourful and elegant 70s style.

Il viaggio a Reims: Direzione-Michele Spotti, Elementi scenici-Emilio Sagi, Costumi-Pepa Ojanguren, Corinna-Beatriz De Sousa, Marchesa Melibea-Martiniana Antonie, Contessa di Folleville-Giorgia Paci, Madama Cortese-Noluvuyiso Mpofu, Cavalier Belfiore-Oscar Oré, Conte di Libenskof-Emmanuel Faraldo, Lord Sidney-Elcin Huseynov, Don Profondo-Roberto Lorenzi, Barone di Trombonok-Michael Borth, Don Alvaro-Francesco Auriemma, Don Prudenzio-Daniele Antonangeli, Don Luigino-Alasdair Kent, Delia–Francesca Tassinari, Maddalena-Valeria Girardello, Modestina-Marigona Qerkezi, Zefirino/Gelsomino-Ruzil Gatin, Antonio-Aleksandr Utkin, 16 agosto 2017, Torvaldo e Dorliska, Direttore-Francesco Lanzillotta, Regia-Mario Martone, Scene-Sergio Tramonti, Costumi-Ursula Patzak, Duca d’Ordow-Nicola Alaimo, Dorliska-Salome Jicia, Torvaldo-Dmitry Korchak, Giorgio-Carlo Lepore, Carlotta-Raffaella Lupinacci, Ormondo-Filippo Fontana, 18 agosto 2017, Le siège de Corinthe, Direttore-Roberto Abbado, Progetto Regia-La Fura dels Baus, Regia e Scene-Carlus Padrissa, Elementi scenografici e pittorici, Costumi e Video-Lita Cabellut, Mahomet II-Luca Pisaroni, Cléomène-John Irvin, Pamyra-Nino Machaidze, Néoclès-Sergey Romanovsky, Hiéros-Carlo Cigni, Adraste-Xabier Anduaga, Omar-Iurii Samoilov, Ismène-Cecilia Molinari, 19 agosto 2017, La pietra del paragone, Direttore-Daniele Rustioni, Regia, Scene e Costumi-Pier Luigi Pizzi, Marchesa Clarice-Aya Wakizono, Baronessa Aspasia-Aurora Faggioli, Donna Fulvia-Marina Monzó, Conte Asdrubale-Gianluca Margheri, Cavalier Giocondo-Maxim Mironov, Macrobio-Davide-Luciano, Pacuvio-Paolo Bordogna, Fabrizio-William Corrò, 20 agosto 2017. Pictures: Studio Amati Bacciardi/RossiniOperaFestival/www.Lafura.com

200th birthday for Rossini’s Otello in Naples

49889-myimageRossini’s Otello was one of the most represented operas of the XIX century, it was written in Naples for some of the best singers of Italy. Isabella Colbran, soon to become Rossini’s wife, was famous for the big range of her voice as well as her actorial skills, depicting heroins “with real sentiment and great passion” as Spohr penned down when he heard her in Elisabetta. All operas that were composed for Isabella Colbran had long and elaborated scenes which allowed her to show off her dramatic skills. In fact, Rossini made his Otello an opera about Desdemona, frail in the first act, the second act is centered around her distress and excitement while the third act intensifies her personal tensions and emotions even more, bringing the opera to a tragic close. Andrea Nozzari and Giovanni David were two famous tenors. David the flexible tenore contraltino, usually employed for the lovers’ roles, and Nozzari the baritonal tenor, usually the temperamental antagonist. For these voices he created most of his Neapolitan operas who are regarded as his masterpieces, such as La donna del lago, Ricciardo e Zoraide, Zelmira, Armida etc. It was in Neaples where Rossini could be the most creative, opening to new musical forms and modernizing the repertoire which was not possible elsewhere. Otello also finishes with a death on stage, something that was unthinkable in other parts of Italy (although just a few months before Carafa composed Gabriella di Vergy with tragic ending, which had a tremendous success).
Otello was performed first in the Teatro del Fondo (now Teatro Mercadante) on 4th December 1816 as the main Neapolitan stage, the Teatro di San Carlo, burnt down a year earlier but was moved to the San Carlo the 18th January 1817. Although the libretto was criticized for not being completely faithful to Shakespeare, the opera was a complete and utter triumph that pleased people all over Europe for decades, making Desdemona the warhorse for such primadonnas as Ronzi, Pasta, Malibran and Grisi, just to mention a few (I refer to another blog for an extensive article on Rossini s Desdemona http://ilcorrieredellagrisi.blogspot.be/2008/07/il-mito-della-primadonna-desdemona-di.html). The public and critics praised especially Isabella Colbran’s interpretation of Desdemona emphasizing that “….this unequaled actress inspires in all minds the most affectionate feelings of melancholy, and the strongest commotions of the tragic terror. Ms. Colbran, great in the so-called bravura pieces, most praised in the arpeggios and the rapid coloratura, has no equal in the tragic or declamatory music or in the difficult talent of expressiveness”. (Giornale delle due Sicilie). Well done therefore, the Teatro di San Carlo, which staged Otello exactly 200 years after its premiers and the excitement was great to hear it in exactly the same location.

untitledThe settings are beautifully designed by Dante Ferretti, who brings us from a ship interiour in the first act , to a big room with fire place in 16th century Venice in the Act II to Desdemona’s bedroom in the third act (well, a carpet with a few cushions…). Set, costumes and colours matched all very well. I was less enthusiastic about the direction. Amos Gitai wants to link Otello’s story with today’s immigrant issue and projects war landscapes, boats full of immigrants and the likes in regular frequency (3 or 4 times if i remember well). But these projections feel a bit like a “mistake”, in the sense that it felt like someone switched on the projections by accident, and then turned them off again so that the show could continue…very bizarre… And this is all the director could think of as the singers move very conventionally and the chorus is motionless.

49890-otello-gaia-petrone-nino-machaidze-c-luciano-romano-san-carlo-cropI enjoyed all singers of the first cast. Excellent Nino Machaidze, though with an harsh timbre and not always an exemplary legato, the voice moves effortlessly over the whole range and displays remarkable coloratura. Features that she shares with John Osborne, who i remember more audacious in other productions i saw him in, but nonetheless an exquisite Otello. Somewhat careful Dmitry Korchak as Jago but very very enjoyable nonetheless in a very difficult role. A bit short in the higher register Mirco Palazzi. Gaia Petrona had a nice warm timbre and convinced as Emilia. Of the second cast I particularly enjoyed Sergey Romanovsky, a tenor to watch carefully, as his rendering of Otello was very exciting with no problems neither in the baritonal register or in the coloratura with an agreeable timbre. I found Carmen Romeu not as convincing as when she sang the same role in Gent a few years back with a voice more tired and her usual issues with intonation. Rodrigo was a role too big, I felt, for Giorgio Misseri, who had slight issues in the runs as well as the high register.

Worst was the conductor though, who dragged everybody into an expensive nap. Nomen est omen I would say, for Ferro (it: iron). Except for strette, which get a bit speedier, he directs with crawling tempi, rolls over the score with flattening carelessness, without rubati, without emotion. Even when the singers accelerate a little because the music requires it, he beats tempi like he would stir polenta. With unclear beats the orchestra shows unclean cues. A disaster is the whole finale of act I where several different pieces follow one another with different tempi, different emotions. In theory! Because Ferro, with metronomic lethargy, beats the rhythm with no crescendo, rallentandi, accelerandi, oblivious to the whole armamentarium to create a pulsating and exciting sound. The recitativi are ever so boring as Ferro adds so many little pauses between the beats and everything seems endless. What a catastrophy!

Direttore-Gabriele Ferro, Regia-Amos Gitai, Regista collaborator-Mariano Bauduin, Scene-Dante Ferretti, Costumi-Gabriella Pescucci, Light Designer-Vincenzo Raponi, Videoproiezioni-Alessandro Papa, Otello-John Osborn/Sergey Romanovsky, Desdemona-Nino Machaidze/Carmen Romeu, Rodrigo-Dmitry Korchak/Giorgio Misseri, Jago-Juan Francisco Gatell, Emilia-Gaia Petrone, Elmiro-Mirco Palazzi, Il Doge-Nicola Pamio, Il gondolier, Lucio-Enrico Iviglia. Naples 2 and 3 december 2016.