martes, diciembre 11, 2007

La Plata and Avellaneda: Valuable alternatives (I)

Due to reasonable distances, the operas, ballets and concerts offered by the Teatro Argentino (La Plata) and the operas at the Roma (Avellaneda) are really part of the available experiences for residents of Buenos Aires City. And the excursions are often well worth it.

The theatres can't be more dissimilar: the Argentino is huge and modern, with an important budget and several hundred employees; the Roma is a pocket old Italian house of decadent charm and ad-hoc small budgets for different projects. The Argentino's dependence is from Buenos Aires Province; the Roma's , from the local Avellaneda government.

The imposing Argentino tends to determine a destiny of organized, steady work, although it can be altered by bad administration (it was, two years ago). The Roma had its own crisis about four years ago, and it has had since more modest aims, but has managed to stay in business. Due to lack of space, I divide this report in two parts; I will start with the Argentino.

The current Artistic Director of the Argentino is the veteran maestro Reinaldo Censabella, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who programmes only standards. Don't expect from him intellectual stimulation such as Suárez Marzal provided some years ago, but he knows how to cast . Things go smoothly under his hand.

Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" showed (as had happened earlier in the season with Donizetti's "Don Pasquale") that Censabella allows some degree of innovation in the stage productions. The producer, up to now tenor, was Rubén Martínez (Paula Almerares' husband); he opted for respecting the place, Seville, but not the time, and he moved the Beaumarchais/ Sterbini comedy to the 1910s, putting a period car on stage. The transposition from the eighteenth to the twentieth century meant that the libretto collided frequently with the action; he tried to enrich the specified stage action with visual gags, sometimes funny but also obtrusive. I liked the incredibly immobile statue (Marcel Canelo) that steps down from her pedestal at the end of the scene. He was helped by the beautiful Seville imagined by stage designer Daniel Feijóo, but much less by the sometimes kitschy and tasteless costumes by Cristina Pineda . I found exaggerated in number of interventions and acting the always yawning valet Ambrosio (Néstor Villoldo).

The musical side was alright, but nothing impressed. Esteban Gantzer (conductor) and Sergio Giai (choir director) did decent and accurate jobs. There were two casts, I heard the first. All were good in varying degrees. I least enjoyed soprano Elina Bayón, for I prefer the role sung in the mezzo (original) version, and this artist replaced the necessary charm with a vulgar ostentatious arrogance; the singing was correct, no more. Of the men Ariel Cazes was a traditional Basilio done with sonorous aplomb and well acted. Omar Carrión was a practiced and professional Figaro with a rather small voice; Carlos Ullán sang as Almaviva his difficult music with some style and firmness though as an actor of good presence he seemed unconfortable with the monkeyings marked by the producer. Another seasoned performer, Gustavo Gibert, sang a clean and rather understated Bartolo, lacking in the rotundity of utterance and girth associated with the tutor. A well-sung Bertha from Vanesa Mautner, somehow converted into a mulatto girl; a firm and clean Official from Víctor Castells, and a rather vibrato-ridden Fiorello from Fernando Alvar Núnez.

The Ballet presented two big works, Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" (Petipa revised by Pablo Aharonian) and Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" (Paul Vasterling). Under Cristina Delmagro the current ballet forces are very profficient; they of course have the benefits of a huge stage. The fine Aharonian revision of Tchaikovsky's best dance score was well served, and there was the revelation of a splendid Prince Désiré, the Russian Mikhail Kaniskin, all suppleness and elegance (debut). Genoveva Surur was the very agreeable Princess. Rather dull conducting from Guillermo Scarabino.

The Vasterling choreography for the Prokofiev masterpiece seemed to me too unvaried, with lots of push and shove to underline violence and little lyricism in the love scenes. Again nice work from the home star, Surur, and a very promising Romeo, Bautista Parada. Homogeneous cast all round. Professional but underpowered conducting from Bruno D'Astoli.

The Argentino boasts, apart from its main Ginastera hall (2.200 capacity), the smaller and cozy Piazzolla hall (about 600). The innovation lacking in the principal venue sometimes appears in the secondary one, and a good example was the rare occasion of appreciating a lovely Menotti work, "The Unicorn, the Gorgon and the Manticore". Highly original, it is a medieval fable told in dance and through several madrigals, with distinguished music. I'd have preferred an appropriately medieval staging, but choreographer Alejandro Cervera opted for strong modern dance, and Leonardo Haedo impressed as the Man in the Castle. Fine playing and singing under Néstor Andrenacci.

Finally, I want to put in a good word for the programming and seriousness of Dante Anzolini in the series of symphonic concerts with the Argentino Orchestra. The concert I saw was outstanding in its adventurousness and quite good in its results. I had the rare chance to hear not the suites, but the complete scores, of two great creations: Ravel's "Ma Mere l'Oye" and Stravinsky's "Firebird" . And there was a rather interesting premiere: "Three songs for soprano and orchestra" by the much-promoted Osvaldo Golijov, well-sung by Mónica Philibert.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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