Jerusalem @ Opera de Liège

Like many other Italian composers before him (Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti just to mention the main contemporary ones), Verdi was invited to compose for the Parisian stages. It was decided to stage a grand opéra as it was fashionable since the 1830’s. But instead of composing a brand new opera, Verdi adapted one of his earlier operas, I lombardi alla prima crociata. The writers of the libretto Royer et Vaëz  rewrote the plot (which makes more sense than the Lombardi one) while Verdi re-adapted and rewrote bits and pieces. The result is not really a grand opéra in the sense of Meyerbeer, Halevy et al. It sounds like any contemporary Verdi with all his characteristics and flaws. So if you like Verdi you probably liked this one as well, if you were expecting a grand opéra you probably were disappointed. Mazzonis di Pralafera and Jean-Guy Lecat provide red-bricked columns on each side, a wall at the back and a painted decor with an otherwise empty stage (except cushions for Gaston’s aria in act III, hastily removed for the ballet). Beautiful the costumes shaped as idealized and colourful Middle Ages apparel. The ballet was the only modern bit in an otherwise traditional setting and although i liked some parts, the performers danced in a modern, hectic, nervous kind of style.

Speranza Scappucci does her best to keep it going though I again miss the extra bit to make the music sparkle. Marc Laho’s voice expands well, his registers equally even; a fine interpretation. Elain Alvarez and Roberto Scandiuzzi both had some issues with very low or high notes in act I. Maybe not warm enough? But in the following acts Scandiuzzi developed his beautiful bass voice and was a delight as Roger (and hermit). Elain Alvarez has a somewhat “slow” voice, her embellishments not very light and and the interpretation lacked the punch of the Verdi heroines. Overall i preferred her Hélène to her Elvira 2 years ago, but was not fully convinced either.

Director-Stefano Mazzonis Di Pralafera, Conductor-Speranza Scappucci, Set Designs-Jean-Guy Lecat, Costume Designs-Fernand Ruiz, Lighting Designs-Franco Marri, , Gaston–Marc Laho, Hélène–Elaine Alvarez, Roger–Roberto Scandiuzzi, Comte De Toulouse-Ivan Thirion, Raymond-Pietro Picone, Isaure–Natacha Kowalski, Adémar De Montheil-Patrick Delcour, A Soldier-Victor Cousu, A Herald-Benoît Delvaux, Emir Of Ramla-Alexei Gorbatchev, An Officer-Xavier Petithan; 21/03/17

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Lucia di Lammermoor @ Liège

12239972_1093581437327630_8124868623146702813_nIt is always a risky choice to perform the classics of the operatic repertoire. But the public flocks like sheep and fill the house, sometimes regardless of the quality. This Lucia unfortunately doesn’t stand out. The direction of Cobos is conventional and monotonous. He wakes up a bit ‘in the first finale but for the rest directs as if zapping through TV channels with his slippers on. The setting is beautiful, though, with the medieval tower in the center which can be rotated to see both the exterior and the interiour, with trees going up and down etc (Although the fountain in Lucia’s first aria seems like taken from a crib in the nativity scene made by a child in kindergarten). The singing is acceptable from most singers: Ivan Thirion as Enrico sings well but slightly throaty, his low register is weak and the voice doesn’t expand. Annick Massis sings well, the coloratura is clean and still exciting, but she sings very cautiously which doesn’t allow her to really immerse herself into the role. Her madness was accompanied by the always welcome glass harmonica. Celso Abelo sings quite well. The curse is effective, the pronunciation excellent and the singing bright and light. Roberto Tagliavini’s short role of Raimondo was excellent but Alisa, Arturo and Normanno barely acceptable. The direction of Mazzonis di Pralafera is at times ridiculous. I think it is always very delicate to show the actual killing of Arturo. In Liege in the few minutes between the end of the duet Arturo/Enrico and the moment Lucia sings her madness-aria we see Lucia and Arturo enter their nuptial room, Lucia stab him with a knife, take a sword from a shield that adorns the wall, stab him again on the floor, Raimondo enter the room acting all surprised, dash down to give the news (Dalle stanze ove Lucia) and Lucia appear on stage….with Arturo’s head (!!!)… Additionally Enrico, with his exaggeratedly sudden aggressiveness, pushing people, grabbing them at the collar etc, was farcical and ludicrous. It was all very Benny Hill-like: the least you want in a dramatic opera. All in all not fully convincing.

Direction musicale-Jesus Lopez Cobos, Mise en scène-Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera, Décors-Jean-Guy Lecat, Costumes-Fernand Ruiz, Lumières-Franco Marri, Lucia-Annick Massis, Edgardo-Celso Albelo, Enrico-Ivan Thirion, Raimondo-Roberto Tagliavini, Arturo-Pietro Picone, Alisa-Alexise Yerna, Normanno-Denzil Delaere