jueves, mayo 10, 2012

Verdian feast warms operatic hearts

            A couple of weeks ago I wrote at length about the revival of "La Forza del Destino" at the Colón. "Noblesse oblige", I have to report a case of crossed wires: mine. Renato Palumbo wasn´t the conductor of "La Boheme" in 2010; it was Stefano Ranzani. So Palumbo made his debut here; he may have teamed with de Ana elsehere, but not here before this "Forza".
            The second cast had a problem, fortunately solved:  tenor Gustavo López Manzitti  had a bad cold and was substituted by his cover, the Spaniard Emanuel de Villarosa, who thus sang here for the first time. Although his timbre is a bit too metallic, he has all the required notes firmly in control, and the difficult part was presented honorably; his acting was no more than acceptable. Fabián Veloz, who had sung "Rigoletto"  on the preceding week, is our best young Verdian baritone. He sang Alvaro for the first time and will surely find more detail as time goes by, but he sang forthrightly and honestly.
            I very much liked Luciano Miotto as Melitone; younger than Gaeta, he encompassed with total ease the high "tessitura" and acted with fluid sense of humor. The voice is soft-grained but telling. Paolo Battaglia made his local debut with a Padre Guardiano sung with style but with a hollow voice rather short on volume.
            I welcome the new visit of  Maria Pia Piscitelli (Leonora), who has done very good work in several preceding visits. She has a fine timbre, enough projection and range, the musicality is first-rate and she is an attractive woman that acts with great conviction.  Preziosilla is a very ungrateful part, for she represents the weakest Verdi: if "Forza" sometimes falls into triviality, she is around. María Luján Mirabelli did better than Agnes Zwierko, but she couldn´t avoid some uncomfortable high notes, nor perform the magic trick of making the character tollerable.
            Smaller roles: Guadalupe Barrientos was again the excellent Curra (only part that wasn´t double-cast); Mario De Salvo was rather pale as the Marquis of Calatrava; Gustavo Feulien had excessive vibrato as the Mayor; Gabriel Centeno was too characteristic as Trabucco; and Fernando Grassi, correct as the Doctor.
            By the fifth performance, Palumbo and the Orchestra had ironed out some details and the results were quite convincing. Also, the Chorus was better heard in some soft fragments that were almost inaudible in the premiere.
            And now, the multiple Hugo de Ana: producer, stage, costume and lighting designer. As other productions have shown, he thinks big: only an amply provided opera house can suit him. And even the current Colón, with its diminished workshops, can still provide (with a lot of effort and some chaos) what he wants. I do have some disagreements with De Ana´s concepts, but this was a large-scale show with many convincing moments. He loves ample crowds (apart from the chorus, no less than 50 actors, acrobats and dancers intervened) fit for such a wide and deep stage as the Colón has, and handles them with some excesses but imaginatively.
            He used Goya and Michelangelo  pictures heavily textured with friezes, imitation bricks and burlap, etc; credible canons in the war scenes and plenty of shooting, not always in the right places. I disliked the immense crucified "wooden" Christ in the chapel and especially overwhelming the humble hermit´s grotto of the final scene. I certainly thank de Ana for his avoidance of "aggiornamento" to the Twentieth-century, a current plague. And he believes in melodrama. I have been told that a good deal of the preparation was done in the recently inaugurated workshops below the Plaza del Vaticano, and this is certainly good news, for the so-called La Nube is a cramped and unhealthy place in Belgrano unfit for the Colón, and it was there that productions were made in 2010 and 2011.
            I feel that Buenos Aires Lírica´s "Rigoletto" was a poor choice, for BAL had already done the piece and in recent years other productions of this great Verdi opera have been seen. Especially because the production wasn´t a success and the cast had a glaring mistake, the mediocre imported Duke of Mantua who was replaced by Fermín Prieto after the first performance: Angelo Scardina was erratic, sang with no line and was far from professional standards; I´m sorry I didn´t hear Prieto. Also, the clash between BAL´s and the Colón´s needs in the case of the Rigoletto, Fabián Veloz, forced the change of one of the planned dates (artists should avoid this sort of situation).
            In fact Veloz was the only vocal reason to hear this "Rigoletto", for he presented a mature interpretation of this towering role, well acted and sung throughout, with a beautiful true Verdian voice, lacking only the last ounce of volume. Gilda was Ivanna Speranza, too strident in "Caro nome" but gradually better. Others that did well were Walter Schwarz as Sparafucile, Norberto Marcos as Marullo and Ernesto Bauer as Monterone. The remaining good points were the idiomatic conducting of Carlos Vieu and the excellent chorus under Juan Casasbellas.
            André Heller-Lopes is Brazilian and made his debut here as producer and stage director. He transforms a Renaissance Mantova into a vaguely Napoleonic ambience with a picture gallery; it looks nice but is quite beside the point. The distribution of space is all wrong in Rigoletto´s house and Sparafucile´s tavern. And the ending was absurd, with Gilda singing "out of the bag", ruining the climax of the opera. For the record, Sofía Di Nunzio did the costumes (some were attractive) and Alejandro Le Roux the lighting.

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