martes, diciembre 11, 2007

La Plata and Avellaneda: valuable alternatives (II)

In this second part I will refer to the Roma Theatre in Avellaneda. Its small size and the very restricted budgets assigned to each operatic project mean that you go to the Roma knowing that some limitations are simply too great to be fully overcomed and that the audience must keep them in mind.

Only last year Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" was revived by Adelaida Negri's Casa de la Opera after a 40-year hiatus since the Colón 1966 performances. I was surprised that the Roma chose it so soon after, for it was even harder to do it well there, but I came out pleasantly surprised by the generally high level of the cast and by the mostly acceptable solutions found for the stage business.

Giorgio Paganini (habitual conductor for Negri) and Boris (Laurés), the producer, managed to assemble a really valuable cast that gave much vocal pleasure and showed yet again that if the artists are carefully chosen some tough titles can be done more than honorably. Probably Haydée Dabusti has done nothing better than this Gioconda, a role that calls for stamina, a deep sense of drama and conviction and powerful vocal means. Showing an impressive firmness in all registers and great involvement, she was always good , particularly in her big aria, "Suicidio!".

Antonio Grieco probably has our best local voice of "spinto" tenor, a category intermediate between "lyric" and "dramatic", the timbre for Manrico and for Ponchielli's Enzo. He lacks some professionalism and presence, but he does thrilling things. And thrilling María Luján Mirabelli certainly is when she finds a congenial role and is in vein; both factors concurred this time, and her Laura was one to remember. The qualities of Omar Carrión are rather those of honest professionalism and style rather than volume and charisma, so his Barnaba ( a villain if there ever was), lacked some impact. Lucila Ramos Mané was in good voice in the contralto part of La Cieca, and Walter Schwarz sang correctly as Alvise; he is still rather poor in dramatic projection. Paganini did a decent job with the Avellaneda Orchestra, certainly not first-rate.

The Venetian ambience was appropriately suggested by the stage designs of Atilio de Laforé and Hugo Ciciro, and there was the important help of having access to the splendid costume collection of the Teatro Argentino (La Plata). As you probably know, there's a famous ballet sequence, curiously just before the gory scene where Alvise show the presumably dead Laura to his horrified guests: the "Dance of the Hours". It was performed by five dancers following an acceptable choreography by Daniel Galve; of course it needs more space and show. Stage movements were generally well marked by Boris, even in the crowd scenes, except in the very poor resolution of the ship's fire, and commendably he respected time and place.

It was also Boris who produced Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor", conducted by Roberto Luvini. Three facts distinguished this event: a) The opera was offered absolutely complete, which meant that we heard such things as the Wolf's Crag scene between tenor and baritone (powerfully dramatic) and Raimondo's aria, among other things, and we heard florid writing generally substituted by later traditions. b) Boris introduced characters and actions from the Walter Scott original, "The Bride of Lammermoor" (or "Lammermuir"), which I find doubtful: it is an opera, not a novel, and the libretto rules. Here Enrico commits suicide, Edgardo gets a blind lady companion, Normanno is killed by the courtesans, etc. c) Raimondo is generally a minor role, but here, with the addition of his aria and the revelation of a major young bass, Fernando Radó, he got a bigger hand than the protagonists.

Soledad de la Rosa isn't helped by her rotund physique, but she certainly sings beautifully, with a crystalline voice. But there's the rub. She's a Lucia of the old Tetrazzini/Pons tradition, and now we are accustomed to Lucias of the Callas/Sutherland manner, where you ask more than command of florid singing; we want to hear the tears in the voice, and that never happens with De la Rosa. And she doesn't compensate with meaningful acting.

The tenor, Gerardo Marandino, had the opposite problem: his singing is intense and expressive, and he got some excellent moments, but there were fissures in his emission now and then within a generally high level. The young baritone Esteban Hildebrand is making giant strides: this Enrico was well sung and acted with intensity, and the voice is pretty good.

But Radó simply stunned; a country that has produced few basses of quality, we now have a wonderful "basso cantante" of noble timbre and line; winner of the "Neue Stimmen" contest, he is now going to Germany and should have a great career; time will deepen his lowest register. Add to it that he is very personable and you have the makings of an important international career; I hope we don't lose him altogether.

Of the others I liked Iván Maier (Arturo) but disliked Pablo Selci (Normanno) and Sandra Pianigianni (Alisa). The Chorus under Ricardo Barrera was weak and disconcerted. Luvini conducted well. And Boris was uneven, with things that were well solved and others that were simply absurd (the swashbuckling, or the perilous entrance of Edgardo from a loge just before the famous sextet). But balancing all, a "Lucia" worth anyone's time.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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