domingo, diciembre 17, 2006

Operas and symphonic concerts, a survey

It's wrapping-up time, a final survey of opera and symphonic concerts. Starting with opera, two offerings of the Teatro Argentino, La Plata. Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" is historically one of the last "opere buffe"; it's also practically a chamber opera, and rather easy to stage agreeably and with moderate expense. But it's very much a period piece and the trend to modernize it doesn't work; it didn't now, in a farcical transposition to the 1920s incorporating extravagant car trips and the sort of humor that would go well in a Feydeau "vaudeville" but not in a typical 1840s plot. This futile effort was made by producer Alberto Félix Alberto, who was followed in his ideas by stage and light designer Raúl Bongiorno and costume designer Sergio Massa; incidental good points couldn't save the basically wrong concept.

On the musical side things were better though far from outstanding. Veteran conductor Bruno D'Astoli has done more convincing work in other occasions; apart from misadjustments, there was a lack of brio and charm in the orchestra. The Chorus (Miguel Martínez) did nicely its scene commenting on the house in disarray . There were two casts, I comment on the first. The experienced Ricardo Ortale did an understated but correct Don Pasquale and Sebastián Sorarrain was agreeable as Malatesta. I expected more from Carlos Natale (Ernesto), who has a beautiful lyrical voice; he used it this time rather perfunctorily. Eleonora Sancho as Norina was way over-the-top; Norina need not be so cruel for it leads the libretto to dramatic exaggeration. Her singing was a bit too acid as well, though competent.

One for Ripley's "Believe it or not" : Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" had never been done at La Plata! Well, this was finally corrected in this commemorative year, and I'm glad to say things went quite well. Oscar Barney Finn, with whose concepts I've often disagreed, this time was on form: he respected the historical time of the action, gave it a moderately Spanish tinge, handled admirably the comedy and was imaginative but never interfered with the perfect mechanism of Beaumarchais' "folle journée" as adapted by Da Ponte. Just one thing: he could have used some more space in the First Scene. With the sensitive support of two talented artists of long trajectory (María Julia Bertotto, stage designer; Eduardo Lerchundi, costumes) and the ability of lighting designer Roberto Traferri, the comedy went with a swing and impeccable taste.

Jorge Mariano Carciofolo has an affinity with Mozart, and his conducting was orthodox and sane, though not as quicksilver as it should be at various points. The Choir has little to do, but did it well under Miguel Martínez. I'm reporting on the first cast. I would single out Eliana Bayón as an impeccable Susanna, with a register that fully meets the demands, a fine line and the kind of lithe demeanor this spirited girl needs. Carlos Esquivel sings Figaro very competently but lacks the mercurial quality Figaro should have. I liked Gustavo Gibert's sinuous Count, which reflects his long European experience, and he was in good voice. The gangling, tall adolescent Cherubino of Adriana Mastrángelo, sung with vernal freshness and hormonal impulse , is a well-known quantity. I wouldn't call María José Siri's voice ideal for the Countess; with her rather wide vibrato and intensity, she is rather a Puccinian Mimí; but she did sing well, with fine discipline, and her brunette presence made a change from the usual Viennese blonde tradition for the role.

All parts are important in Mozart, although the others carry less weight. They were perfectly chosen and gave much pleasure: Luciano Miotto was a model Don Bartolo, Vanesa Mautner did a Marcellina full of character, Gabriel Renaud's Basilio was properly insinuating, Juan Barrile was the rough gardener Antonio to the life, Osvaldo Peroni was a buffo caricature as the stammering Don Curzio, and Susana Moreno a fresh Barbarina.

And now, short notice on some remaining orchestral concerts. In one of the sessions of the B.A. Phil conducted by Arturo Diemecke, there was the debut of Russian pianist Alexander Markovich; a bear of a man, he certainly can technically handle the difficulties of Tchaikovsky's First Concerto, but he lacks taste and a sense of phrasing. What was important came from the conductor in Richard Strauss' huge and rarely done "An Alpine Symphony", a fascinating piece beautifully done. Lior Shambadal came back in the same season for a concert that was correct enough in Britten's Passacaglia from "Peter Grimes" and Schumann's Symphony No.2, but unfortunately cellist Ricardo Sciammarella had a bad day playing Haydn's Concerto Hob. Viib/2, well below his usual level. The preceding concerts were at the Colón. After its closure the Phil went to the Coliseo where it offered three concerts in compensation for strike-cancelled sessions of 2005. One of them was conducted by the Italian Francesco Colombo, who showed good qualities even if the orchestra didn't seem quite sure of itself in Bartok's tough Concerto for orchestra. Angel Frette was his usual brilliant self in an attractive premiere, the Concerto for marimba and strings by South African Peter Klatzow. The opening piece should have been Copland's "Music for the theatre"; it was unaccountably changed by Fauré's "Pelléas et Mélisande".

Finally, the Colón Orchestra under Stefan Lano offered commendably Bruckner's enormous Eighth Symphony, a tough challenge well met.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald - January 08, 2007

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