sábado, octubre 21, 2006

A complex Midsummer Night: Shakespeare and Britten

A child’s first impressions are indelible. I first came into contact with Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1951 when, just 13, I saw my sister play The Wall in a Swiss school’s end-of-term performance. The “sad” story of Pyramus and Thisbe remained with me. Then, at about 15, I saw twice the wonderful 1930s Max Reinhardt film with Mickey Rooney as Puck. Toscanini’s record of Mendelssohn’s incidental music was already with me. Then in 1962 the Colón premiered Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and I was bowled over. Many years later I got the author-conducted CDs and saw the admirable Glyndebourne video conducted by Haitink. But the most magical experience was when visiting Exeter in 1995 I went for a night stroll and bumped impromptu into a charming open-air performance of Shakespeare’s play in a lovely wood clearing. So it was with trepidation and hope that I met this 2006 “AMND” at the Colón. Alas, I was confronted with a tower of red velvet chairs instead of a wood as sole “decor” of Acts 1 and 2, arbitrarily and wrongly strung together, and then the same chairs put horizontally in rows for the Third Act. The pageboy object of the implied erotic interest of both Oberon and Tytania -and reason for their quarrels- was replaced by...a pram presumably holding a baby. And the elves were boys and girls in Argentine white school uniforms! All this just won’t do. (This was a coproduction with the Nice Opera. The producer was Paul-Emile Fourny, the stage designs were conceived by Louis Désiré and the lighting was by Désiré and Patrick Méeus. There was no credit for the costume designer). A pity, for this opera needs a skillful evocation of magical happenings to work. When it’s properly done, I find it one of the best post-World War II operas. Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears pared down the play to about half to make it manageable as an opera, but every word is Shakespeare’s. And as a composer Briiten most cunningly respected the three tiers of the play: the fairy world of Tytania, Oberon and Puck has iridescent touches of orchestration, suspended harmonies , high voices for the Queen (coloratura soprano) and King (countertenor) , a children’s choir for the elves and a spoken role for Puck, the mischievous messenger of Oberon who sows confusion among the humans inadvertently; the Rustics who put on the unintentionally funny tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe are humble artisans characterized with fine parodistic sense and with an orchestration of their own; and the Romantics, as I think may be called the two couples at odds, have intense writing that can be both tender and harsh according to the situation. Let’s analyze the singers according to those tiers and compare them to ’62. The new interpretation scored heavily by casting Oberon with a countertenor, as it should be. Back then there was no local experience whatsoever with that kind of voice, and the Artistic Director Roberto Caamano thought that a countertenor wouldn’t carry in the vast expanses of the Colón; he replaced it with a mezzosoprano. On the other hand, it was a pity that the originally announced Franco Fagioli didn’t appear, for Fabrice di Falco, born in Martinique, lacked tonal allure and projection, though he was correct musically. Tytania was sung by Pamela Coburn with increasing firmness, though she isn’t quite the required coloratura soprano, but a lyric soprano of some agility; she wasn’t helped by an inadequate costume. The other big mistake in 1962 was that Puck was acted (it isn’t a singing part) by a rather aged light soprano, when it needs a lithe adolescent boy ; Gary Tushaw isn’t that, but at least he is an adequate British actor. No charisma, however, and the part needs it. The two pairs of lovers who are to suffer mismatches at the hands of Puck were quite convincing. I especially liked the American tenor Jonathan Boyd, who made a most accomplished debut , with a fine, expansive lyric voice of just the right timbre. Luciano Garay as Demetrius has a harsher role for he repudiates Hermia; the interpreter was dramatically apt but some bits needed more plangent vocalizing. I enjoyed the involved work of both Graciela Oddone and Mariana Rewerski, who sang very well and looked beautiful. Britten is partly to blame for the neutrality transmitted by the parts of Theseus and Hyppolita, and one wonders if Shakespeare himself was well inspired in choosing the surroundings of Athens as a venue and giving such mythological names to the Duke and Duchess. Luis Gaeta and Alejandra Malvino are experienced troopers and did their bit adequately. I part company with the local Rustics, who showed themselves unidiomatic both in pronunciation and style. Back in 1962 there were some splendid artists all around but especially there was the Bottom done by Forbes Robinson and Joseph Rouleau as Quince. Carlos Esquivel in this part was good, but Gustavo Gibert was a flat and uninteresting interpreter of Bottom, others were nondescript and Ricardo Cassinelli was downright offensive playing Flute and Thisbe in the worst style of a Corrientes “revista”. To think that this was Peter Pears’ role! To atone there was fine work from the Children’s Chorus under Valdo Sciammarella and good conducting by the American Arthur Fagen (debut), who showed himself a reliable maestro. 25/07/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

No hay comentarios.: