lunes, diciembre 04, 2006

Opera standards pleasantly done

These last weeks of the operatic season have been marked by lack of imagination and adventurousness, but the standards presented have been done with generally agreeable casts though uneven productions. Mozart and Gounod have reigned , both with two operas. Buenos Aires Lírica decided to put on "Faust" (Gounod) , Juventus Lyrica came back to "The Magic Flute" (Mozart) and the Argentino of La Plata offered "Roméo et Juliette" (Gounod), "Don Pasquale" (Donizetti) and "The Marriage of Figaro" (Mozart). Space allows me leave to comment on only the first three on this occasion.

"Faust" was for decades (the late 19th. century) among the most frequently performed operas worldwide; its vogue is less now, for it has dated somewhat, but the charm of its melodies overpowers its weak points. It certainly responds well to full-blown productions such as the memorable Colón one of 1971 and this BAL offering was much more modest, but acceptable. Producer Claudio Gallardou was correct and conventional in his marking of groupings; his small innovation was to accompany Mephisto with two or three acolytes. The ballet was cut; I missed the music, but I must admit I've never seen a convincing choreography of the confused and kitschy action specified by the librettists. More seriously, the important Prison Aria was also cut, depriving Marguerite of a genuine dramatic climax. The simple sets by Gastón Joubert were too neuter and the costumes by María Clara Beitía uneven. Rather good projections complemented the stage designs.

I was impressed by the compact bass-baritone color of Homero Pérez-Miranda as Mephisto; he sings and moves well. Daniela Tabernig sang a rather indifferent Jewels Aria but later found the right dramatic accents for Marguerite and had some refined vocal details. Gonzalo Tomckowiack (debut,Chilean) is too much the typical tenor; a poor actor, his singing lacks involvement though the timbre is pleasant and he places well some high notes. I was disappointed by the Valentin of Emilio Estévez, he was uncomfortable and forced in his aria, although he improved later. Nice jobs from Vanesa Mautner (Siebel), Esteban Hildebrand (Wagner) and Cristina Wasylyk (Marthe). The Chorus under Juan Casasbellas sang well but couldn't manage the simultaneous dance and got unstuck with the orchestra, led with good tempi and adequate style by Guillermo Brizzio.

Of course it's the Mozart year; it was the right occasion to have from Juventus such things as "La finta giardiniera" or "Lucio Silla" and not yet another "Magic Flute", although it was a new production. Horacio Pigozzi, the producer, opted for a combination of a few rather ugly and uncomfortable stage props with handsome but meaningless projections. This is a Masonic opera with invocations to Isis and Osiris; what's the sense of projecting pictures of Istanbul's Saint Sophia or of the Hofburg Library in Vienna? The movements of the actors were more convincing, though again the transformation of a sinister Moor (Monostatos) into a handsome white athlete is unacceptable. Of course no producer can change the innumerable contradictions of the libretto, and more and more I try to be schizoid: enjoy the wonderful music whilst hating most of the text. The quality of the costumes by Mini Zuccheri was very mixed.

The musical side stressed youth, and several principals have had very short careers. There were two or three interpreters for each main part. I write about the first night. Nazareth Aufe was tense and charmless as Tamino, but Vanesa Aguado Benítez was a find as Pamina: big-voiced, resolute and with a nice line. The Uruguayan Flavia Berardi made her debut as the Queen of the Night; she has the stratospheric notes but not always the intonation. The best of the cast was Mariano Fernández Bustinza, a Papageno in the proper tradition who sang and acted with bonhomie. Lucas Debevec Mayer has sung Sarastro before; he is now more pompous but his tone is noble , though not deep enough in the low stretches. If you accept Pigozzi's wrong view, Mirko Tomas did a good Monostatos, articulating clearly his difficult arietta. There was an impressive new voice, Fernando Radó as the Orator. The Three Ladies were fine: Soledad Espona, Lara Mauro and Alicia Alduncín. Laura Penchi was charming and accurate as Papagena. Three agreeable Geniuses (Laura Delogu, Cecilia Pastawski and Margarita Pollini), good Priests (Norberto Lara and Radó) and Men in Armor (Gustavo De Gennaro and Juan Pablo Labourdette). Nice work from the Chorus (Miguel Pesce). The Orchestra was led firmly and stylishly by Maestro Antonio Russo.

Only two years ago the Argentino had presented Gounod's melodic and sweet "Roméo et Juliette", so the revival was unnecessary. There were some new touches in the traditional production by Marga Niec, with fine décors by Daniel Feijóo in the proper Renaissance style and splendid costumes from the Colón production of some years back.

Firm and sensitive conducting from Javier Logioia Orbe and yet another excellent job by the Chorus (Miguel Martínez). There were two casts, I write on the first. Paula Almerares, as in 2004, was a lovely Juliet both in appearance and in her singing; her talent is more and more affirmed. However, Carlos Vittori as Romeo looked too mature and sounded too tense. Fine jobs from Sebastián Sorarrain (Mercutio), Carlos Natale (Tybalt), Leonardo Estévez (Capulet), Vanesa Mautner (Stephano), Carlos Esquivel (Friar Lawrence) and Alberto Jáuregui Lorda (Duke of Verona). An agreeable evening.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald, 06/12/06

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