The Avenida Theatre is the home of rivalling private opera companies, Buenos Aires Lírica (BAL) and Juventus Lyrica. In recent weeks the former chose a well-known bel canto work, Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore"; the latter offered a Ravel double bill, "L'enfant et les sortileges" and "L'heure espagnole".
Frankly, there's so much Donizetti to choose from that doesn't get staged and should be that I was sorry BAL had opted for the sure thing, for "L'elisir d'amore" has been staged several times in recent years by various companies. On the other hand, BAL came from two tough challenges, "Rodelinda" and "The Flying Dutchman", so maybe they needed something simpler. The piece is charming and relatively easy to put on.
There were two factors that interested me: in his time Dante Ranieri was our best specialist of the "tenore di grazia" repertoire and he was a first-rate Nemorino. The years have passed and now he has embarked in a conducting career. I'm happy to say that he emerged from the trial with flying colors. His tempi were slow and pauses between musical fragments were excessive, but he breathed with the singers and he elicited from the orchestra the most melting sounds.
The other matter of interest was the debut of two Chilean singers. I found tenor Luis Olivares a bit green though promising; the voice is sweet though he doesn't have a personal sound, and his musical instincts are mostly right. Not much of an actor, but then very few tenors are . He gained confidence as the opera progressed and offered a nice account of his aria. Patricia Cifuentes was Adina and she too got better gradually ; the voice is bright and unvaried though accurate. She was kittenish rather than charming, but Adina's character does have its bad points .
Although Fernando Santiago's voice had too much vibrato in the first minutes of Dulcamara's big number, he managed to tame it, and his charlatan was as should be, larger than life and quite funny; he knows how to act with the words, which he articulates with true precision. I was sorry to hear Emilio Estévez overtaxed by Belcore's music; his high register seems to be undergoing a bad patch. His acting was exaggerated but I put that at the door of the producer. Gisela Barok was an agreeable Giannetta. The Choir under Juan Casasbellas sounded natural and sincere and entered into the spirit of the action.
Claudio Gallardou is our local specialist in "commedia dell'arte", which is all very well if he does Goldoni's "Arlecchino", but "L'elisir" has nothing to do with that tradition, so the constant appearance of a troupe of commedia dell'arte featuring himself is certainly arbitrary, except when they do work as stage servers. I accept that we were never bored but that's not enough justification. On the other hand the action proceeded smoothly, even if he had a field day ridiculing the sargent. The costumes of María Clara Beitía were quite off the mark in two specific cases: Belcore dressed as a Renaissance noble, not as a nineteenth century sargent; and Dulcamara looking like a Turk; presumably Gallardou wanted them that way for producers are the head of a team and designers respond to his concept. The stage designs of Gastón Joubert were rather conventional and some could be moved around.
The Ravel double bill by Juventus Lyrica was quite welcome as a good idea, but infortunately they committed the same grievous mistake of their previous staging of "L'enfant et les sortileges": reducing the original marvelous orchestration to just three instruments just won't do and puts this revival out of court. And it isn't intellectually honest not publicizing this fact and not mentioning the author of the arrangement, which is quite poor. The piece is magical, Ravel at his best, but I couldn't enjoy it this way. Ana D'Anna, the producer, was also stage designer, and her daughter María Jaunarena designed the costumes. Some of the fantastic events were imaginative , others went awry, and the key scene of the fight in the garden was badly handled. The French was mediocre from all concerned, but I liked the singing of Cecilia Pastawski (the Child), Fernando Radó and Florencia Machado . Others were acceptable, no more.
Matters were much improved in "L'heure espagnole", a comedy by Franc-Nohain about Concepción, who employs the hour of the title (her husband has left to attend the official clock of the village) to have a weekly encounter with her lovers; alas, both are out of sorts that day, the poet Gonzalve and the pompous Don Inigo , so she prefers the robust Ramiro, a mule driver waiting for the return of Torquemada, the husband, who will fix his clock.. Ravel's music is witty and charming.The piece was last seen at the Colón in 1975, so the revival was very welcome, and here D'Anna was on much safer ground, both in her pleasant stage design and in the evolutions of the singers, who moreover were quite adept at playing their characters. It was a good cast, with Eugenia Fuente very comfortable in her juicy part, Santiago Burgi as a mellifluous Gonzalve, Fernando Grassi as an excellent Ramiro, Mario De Salvo as Inigo and Hernán Sánchez Arteaga as Torquemada. Emiliano Greizenstein conducted well a responsive orchestra; Ravel's orchestration was a bit reduced but it wasn't bothersome.
Para el Buenos Aires Herald
Para el Buenos Aires Herald