Currently we are resembling Europe: we are in economic and political crisis, and we are witnessing productions of opera that leave the beholder completely dissastisfied and angry. I will qualify this: I believe there´s still a much higher group of opera lovers that want to see stagings that conform to what was in the mind of both librettist and composer, and I call it respect for what has been created. True, you need a public that has seen truthful productions and that has acquired what people of my generation call "culture": those who realize that if you see Verdi´s "Don Carlo" (e.g.) you must know something about Spain at the time of Philip II; those who can compare; those who have done their "homework" as operatic fans.
Indeed, I have seen atrocities in Berlin and Vienna stages (and commented them on the HERALD) that have provoked nary a reaction from the audience, who by now seem totally accustomed to such travesties. There I felt that the game was over and that opera as I knew it was Kaputt, and I had both indignation and sadness. In recent years some of the Argentine productions elicited from me similar sensations. Now it would seem that the pace of change in the bad direction is accelerating.
Daniel Suárez Marzal has had a long career in opera, first as a baritone and then as a producer and also as the Argentino´s Artistic Director. A cultivated man with an important cultural background, capable of very good work, he has strayed so far in recent years from inner logic and even common sense that I simply can´t understand such misguided evolution, especially considering that his stint as the Argentino´s Director was one of the best (he had brilliant repertory ideas. His recent "Don Giovanni" (Mozart) at the Argentino turned out to be: tasteless, at times ridiculous (Leporello playing football during his two initial arias), nonsensical (the final scene of the First Act), against the grain of the characters, absurd in its lack of essential props (no stone statue, no semblance of a cemetery), clumsy in the movements indicated to the singers, and I could go on. And of course a translation in time and space (neither seventeenth or eighteenth century nor Seville) nowhere warranted.
Part of the general senselessness were the stage design of Nicolás Boni, an abstract structure with a heavy, uncomfortable tilt and many doors, which almost never was adaptable to the needs of the plot, or the costumes of Mini Zuccheri, certainly one of her most objectionable jobs.
The Argentine conductor Andrés Juncos has had recent European experience, but I found his reading rather slow and opaque, with a lackluster orchestra; a good point, the harpsichord recitatives by Cecilia Prieto.The Choir was nondescript.Three singers were worthwhile: the very young bass-baritone Fernando Radó, who at 24 has already had a long Berlin stay with Barenboim´s company, has a splendid voice and uses it with consummate ease; he is tall and handsome, but looks much too young for Giovanni and was made to act by the producer as if he were a glam rocker. Ricardo Seguel (debut) turned out to be a valuable Chilean bass baritone as Leporello, with a firm voice and emission, though he had to put up with the clownesque indications of Suárez Marzal. Carla Filipcic Holm as Elvira sang well, especially her final aria, but was badly dressed with no thought of dissimulating her rotund physique. María Bugallo was quite overparted as Donna Anna. Santiago Burgi was a small-scaled and rather restricted but dutiful Ottavio. The peasant couple was quite nice: Sonia Stelman as Zerlina and Fabián Veloz as Masetto sang accurately and moved well. Finally, Mario De Salvo sang with firm intonation but small volume his Commendatore.
I felt some trepidation at the announcement that Juventus Lyrica would tackle Bellini´s "Norma", a masterpiece of bel canto that needs the very best the world can provide. By such exalted standards this wasn´t an interesting revival, but there were some merits. Soledad de la Rosa –apart from her overweight, to be blunt about it- will never be the dramatic soprano the name part needs; she did some agreeable lyrical singing, but at the performance I saw (the last of four) she seemed tired and some highs were harsh; the recitatives went for nothing. I was well impressed by the young Guadalupe Barrientos as Adalgisa, a true mezzo with considerable command of line. Darío Sayegh as Pollione was stalwart though hardly subtle, and Roman Modzelewicz sounded and looked light for Oroveso. María Eugenia Caretti was a good Clotilde and Hernán Sánchez Arteaga an expressive Flavio though his timbre isn´t agreeable.
I was glad to hear the Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires under Carlos Calleja, the ex Colón Académica refusing to die and showing its worthiness with the appropriate combination of veteran first desks and young people; and Calleja was in proper style, although some tempi were slow. The Choir was acceptable, no more.
Blessedly this time producer Oscar Barney Finn didn´t change time, though "place" was moot: I didn´t recognize in Emilio Basaldúa´s semicircle of "metallic bamboos" anything resembling a Druid forest: and Zuccheri´s costumes again seemed doubtful. The production was dull but not insulting; some of it even looked like "Norma".
For Buenos Aires Herald