sábado, septiembre 19, 2009

Disaster, jubilation and stark drama

Things have been jumping in our operatic world lately. Disaster struck the Teatro Argentino of La Plata with their worst production ever, a total travesty of Donizetti´s "Lucia di Lammermoor". In complete contrast, Juventus Lyrica provided a jubilant version of that lovely operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow". And Buenos Aires Lírica gave us an admirable version of Menotti´s always relevant and stark drama "The Consul".

I presume Reinaldo Censabella (the Argentino´s Artistic Director in 2008) didn´t imagine the dire results of his decision to engage as producer the "platense" Claudia Billourou, who lives in Europe as assistant producer; Marcelo Lombardero, the current Artistic Director, maintained the engagement. The production showed us the very worst of bad European ideas about production: not so much the trendy mania about taking location and time out of context but the utter lack of taste and total arbitrariness. Thus Scott´s "The bride of Lammermoor" is no longer a conflict between Scottish aristocrats about 1690 but a brutish contemporary Mafioso tale. A few examples: Sir Edgar of Ravenswood strolls in a bicycle and in casual attire; the same unit set (a three-sided box by Juan Carlos Greco) is good for everything, in and out of doors; no fountain; no "tomb of my ancestors"; during the whole mad scene an enormously obese person straight out of Monty Python´s "The meaning of life" eats and drinks away whilst the presumed ghost of Lucy´s mother is impersonated by a well-known human-rights activist of La Plata, etc.

The poor singers did their best in this horrid context. Paula Almerares is more a lyric soprano than a true coloratura but she sang valiantly and often beautifully, even if she was overstretched at times. Uruguayan tenor Juan Carlos Valls was mostly agreeable to hear, with a clear lyric voice and good highs. Fabián Veloz for the moment isn´t a dramatic baritone; he sang musically but we never believed he was the villain. Christian Peregrino sang Raimondo initially with too much vibrato but he later settled down. In the flank roles there were good jobs from Leonardo Pastore and Vanesa Mautner; Sergio Spina was too harsh as Normanno.

Usually the Choir under Miguel Martínez is a big plus at the Argentino, but they seemed discouraged by what they were forced to do and were below their standard. So was Carlos Vieu, the conductor, generally first-rate but this time lacking in conviction and with uncommon maladjustments in his orchestra.

Eight years ago the Colón audiences were overjoyed by a marvelous "The Merry Widow" in German for the first time here ("Die Lustige Witwe") with Von Stade, Allen and Rudel, produced by Mansouri. I can give no higher praise to the recent Juventus production than to consider it a worthy successor. In what is certainly one of the best jobs of Ana D´Anna, she produced with clear understanding of the world of operetta, with the considerable assistance of Gui Gallardo (especially in the spoken dialogue); everything was buoyant and fleet, and her stage designs were tasteful and functional. And the impeccable costumes of Ponchi Morpurgo had the benefits of long and cultured experience. The dances choreographed by Igor Gopkalo were quite in the picture, with its Slavic touches.

Soledad de la Rosa was wonderful; she lacked the "physique du role" but otherwise she was ideal: lovely singing, charm, excellent acting, good German. Her partner was no less convincing: Armando Noguera´s light baritone suits Danilo perfectly, and he is a master of timing and inflexion. Sonia Stelman was a very agreeable Valencienne. Unfortunately, her Camille de Rosillon was too green: Sebastián Russo sang with stilted style and white tones and seemed ill at ease. I am accustomed to baritones as Baron Mirko Zeta; Argentine character tenor Carlos Rivas at first disconcerted me, but he´s a pro of such roles in Germany and I was soon accepting him as a definite positive contribution. Norberto Lara was an ebullient Njegus. The others were variable though always enthusiastic.

Carlos Calleja seemed a born Viennese as he led with subtlety his fine orchestra, largely made up of members of the appallingly dissolved Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón .Both choristers and dancers fully entered the spirit of this evergreen operetta, deeper than it may seem.

For the sixth time our city has witnessed Menotti´s "The Consul", and again it seems completely contemporary in its Kafkian portrayal of a police state. In the model production of Fabian Von Matt we feel it as a compelling drama that has lost none of its urgency. He has added lateral booths where the burocracy of terror is displayed, whilst the room in Sorel´s house and the Consulate are starkly evoked. Fine work from Daniela Taiana (stage designs) and Stella Maris Müller (costumes).Very well conducted by Javier Logioia Orbe, this presentation of BAL gave us an extraordinary local cast, fully as good as the mixed English/Argentine cast we saw at the Colón in 1999 produced by the composer.

Carla Filipcic Holm was as true and sincere a Magda as can be imagined, and she sang with world class quality. Hernán Iturralde as John was no less admirable, and Virginia Correa Dupuy was an expressive Mother. There were fine contributions from Osvaldo Peroni providing needed comic relief, Elisabeth Canis in a complete portrait of the Secretary, and from Walter Schwarz, Mariano Fernández Bustinza, Andrea Nazarre, Gabriela Ceaglio and Vanina Guilledo.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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