Attila (bass) has very expressive music and his character isn´t one-dimensional. Odabella (as Abigaille in "Nabucco") is a fearsome role of immense difficulty and ardor; at the end she will plunge her sword into the King of the Huns. Foresto, her love, is less interesting but has good arias and duos to sing. And Ezio is a fierce Roman warrior quite ready to either do battle against Attila or pair up with him against the young Emperor, Valentinian. A key spot is the brief but essential encounter with Pope Leo, repeating the same words heard in a dream by Attila and convincing him to stop his advance towards Rome.
Of course, if the production is good (a very moot point nowadays) I prefer to see it staged, for this opera is very theatrical. But staging costs a lot, and these enthusiastic ad-hoc groups that typically go to the Roma very rarely have sponsors (they often deserve to have them). For those that don´t know this opera well, the lack of supertitles was certainly a problem, especially as the plot was poorly narrated in the hand programme; Another liability was the 37-minute wait before it started.
But once the show began, most of it was worth hearing. César Tello has long been a great promoter of Nineteenth-century Italian opera. The years have given him a deep understanding of Verdian style and he transmits an intense love and knowledge to the orchestra and the singers. He even dresses as a Nineteenth-century maestro! And he has refined and polished the Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Avellaneda to a level it doesn´t always have. Unfortunately the Coro del Instituto Municipal de Avellaneda (prepared by Armando Garrido) was well below requirements, sounding weak and not always in tune.
Two artists have long been to the fore as valuable Verdians: Haydée Dabusti and Omar Carrión. She is the sort of singer that stands up to any hurdle and vanquishes; a sense of drama and natural instinct for the Verdian line combined to make her Odabella a model of intensity. However, she did show some strain in a few very high notes (this is a killer role). Carrión has done the part before and expresses the conflicting emotions of Ezio very expertly; his voice started not quite in full form, but by the time of his aria and cabaletta he was splendid.
The Attila is quite a find: on this showing we have a true bass baritone in Juan Salvador Trupia y Rodríguez. His timbre is of a bass but his highs are of baritonal ease, whilst he handles correctly the lower part of his register. He still isn´t as dramatic as the part needs. I am of mixed feelings about tenor Felipe Castillo de Orleans. A young Brazilian (he is only 27), he has had very little experience in major roles. I don´t have empathy with his color (too soft for Verdi) but he feels deeply what he sings and is capable of modulating his voice giving light and shade to the music. The two supporting roles were well taken by Luciano Straguzzi (Leo) and especially by Cristian Carrero, a solid voice for Uldino, Attila´s adjutant.
"El matrero", by Felipe Boero, dates from 1929 and has long been a typical "ópera campera". It is one of the Argentine operas most often staged (the other is Panizza´s "Aurora") but it hasn´t been seen in BA for decades now. I have seen it twice at the Colón and once in Córdoba. Now an endeavor born last year and quite worthy has brought it to the Cervantes after having been staged last year in several provinces. It is the idea of a Programa Federal under the auspices of the Nation´s Culture Secretariat and the provincial governors, with local orchestras and choirs and changing casts.
I have to be honest, this opera shows its age; and as the libretto by Yamandú Rodríguez is so full of the pampas jargon, the lack of supertitles was a drawback for it was hard to understand the singers. The best things are still the folkish fragments such as "La Media Caña" and a few moments of vocal expansion.
The opera was nicely staged by Carlos Palacios, who is the coordinator of this venture and was the producer, stage and lighting designer; and Alicia Gumá, as costumes adviser. They gave us an authentic estancia locale, and the singer-actors responded very well. There was good singing from the three principals: Eugenia Fuente (Pontezuela), Juan Carlos Vasallo (Pedro Cruz) and Fernando Santiago (Don Liborio). Sebastiano De Filippi and Enzo Romano gave character to flank roles.
Fernando Álvarez got good playing from the Orquesta Juan de Dios Filiberto, the Coro Nacional de Jóvenes was very well prepared by Néstor Zadoff and the Ballet Folklórico Nacional under Fiordelmondo Omar was pleasant.
For Buenos Aires Herald