jueves, julio 17, 2008

The rich paths of the Baroque

Fortunately in recent decades the musical Baroque has always been an important part of the B.A. musical season; this year is no exception. In recent weeks two events have told of the richness of that period. I will start with the double programme offered by Juventus Lyrica at the Avenida: Pergolesi's "La serva padrona" and Handel's "Acis and Galatea" in the premiere of Mozart's orchestration. The idea was good and the show in general terms was satisfactory. Pergolesi's piece nowadays is valuable more for its historical significance than for its current weight. It has the merit of being the "intermezzo" that gave birth to "opera buffa"; the author wanted to lighten an evening otherwise devoted to his own "opera seria" "Il prigioniero superbo" at Naples' theatre San Bartolomeo in 1733. The "intermezzo" became the symbol of the new "opera buffa" based on everyday contemporary characters instead of gods or heros and kings of yore. In 1752 it would be protagonist in the "Querelle des bouffons" that opposed partisans of French serious opera (Lully and so on) and the new "buffo" opera. "La serva padrona" is short and easy to stage , with two singers and a mime and its subject smacks of new ideas born of the bourgeoisie: a canny maidservant manages to induce her employer to marry her. The music is simple, melodic and pleasant, but both text and music are apt to have redundant patches. George Frideric Handel (spelled the British way) had immediate success with his "opera seria" "Rinaldo" in 1711 and would remain the great master of the form for thirty years. "Acis and Galatea" is a digression, a "masque" (a typically English form that combined dialogues, arias, ensembles and dances) in which none less than John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Hughes refashioned an episode from Ovid's "Metamorphoses". The new piece was created in 1718 for Cannons, the Duke of Chandos' magnificent residence. The work is really a pastoral, only interrupted by the cyclops Polyphemus, who rages but is beaten by the shepherd Acis, who thus saves his fiancee Galatea. Nothing much as a story or as theatre, but what charming, lovely music. Juventus opted for Mozart's orchestration, which adds clarinets and flutes and revises the trumpet parts; he also adds an interlude based on two concerti grossi by Handel. The results are obviously refined and beautiful. Producer Oscar Barney Finn had an interesting idea: to stage both pieces integrating an evening at an English aristocrat's mansion and opposing the tastes for Italian "opera buffa" and English "masque" through (invented) conversations between the aristocrat and the promoter of "La serva padrona". The dialogues were funny and very well played by Daniel Miglioranza in the Italian's part and Fernando Margenet as the very British aristocrat. The use of the same ambience was logical in this case and it had a very tasteful stage design by Raúl Bongiorno from La Plata. Mini Zuccheri's costumes, on the other hand, were very uneven: pleasant in "La serva padrona", mixed in "Acis and Galatea", where the shepherdesses were agreeably dressed but not the shepherds, and Polyphemus was disastrous: he looked like a rundown circus performer. Singers also were uneven. Marisa Pavón was accurate, clean and coquettish as Serpina, but Alejandro Meerapfel as Uberto shouted a lot and -not his fault- was marked as too weak and subservient. The mute role of the servant Vespone was well done by Miglioranza. In "Acis and Galatea", Acis was rather dully taken by Carlos Ullán, and Leonardo Pohl, from Chile (debut), was gray in sound and acting. Soledad de la Rosa was her usual impeccable self as a singer but gave little expression to her part. Quite the contrary of the very animated and talented Sergio Carlevaris as Polyphemus, even hindered by a ridiculous costume. This was a joint production with the University of Buenos Aires, who contributed its Choir (32-strong) and Orchestra (34 players) under Andrés Gerszenzon. They also played prior to the operas the Overture to Handel's "Ode to Saint Cecilia" in Mozart's orchestration, which fared poorly, but elsewhere the Orchestra played decently enough and in good style; the Choir was disproportioned, the girls much better than the boys . We were promised "ambience music" before the start, Mozart's Serenade K.388, but this didn't happen. The Accademia Bizantina led from the harpsichord by Ottavio Dantone paid us a return visit for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo and proved again that it is one of the best Italian historicist ensembles. They are only twelve but everyone plays with style, technique and intensity. The two violin soloists are outstanding, particularly Stefano Montanari, whose presence is strong and dramatic and his mechanism really impressive; the lighter tone of Stefano Rossi complements Montanari well. There's also an excellent cellist, Marco Frezzato. The programme held no surprises but was a good cross-section of outstanding Baroque scores: Corelli's Concerto grosso op. 6 No. 1, the same description for the included Handel piece, Geminiani's Concerto grosso "La follia" , op.5 No. 12, three Vivaldi works (the Sinfonia –Overture- from the opera "L'Olimpiade", Concerto in A for strings F.XI No. 4 and Concerto in G minor for strings F.XI No. 12) and J.S.Bach's famous Concerto for two violins. The encore was Vivaldi's Allegro from op.3 No. 5. I preferred them in the Italians than in the German, but the standard was mostly high. For Buenos Aires Herald

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