As readers know through earlier articles, La Plata´s Teatro Argentino is functioning as a full-range center for opera, ballet and concerts. Their productions can be seen not only at the big Sala Ginastera (over 2.000 capacity) but also at the Sala Piazzolla (of chamber size) and at the TACEC, a basement dedicated to experimentation. Before its inauguration the Argentino had to live for many years at makeshift venues such as the Teatro Rocha, due to the sad fire that ruined the beautiful Italian-model theatre that existed where now the immense brutalist cube of the Argentino stands.
In recent years a powerful team has taken over: Leandro Iglesias as General Administrator, Marcelo Lombardero as Artistic Director and Alejo Pérez as Conductor of the Resident ("Estable") Orchestra. Many good things come from the years when Daniel Suárez Marzal was Artistic Director: especially interesting repertoires with valuable exhumations, quality productions and well chosen casts. But in all these aspects, certainly helped by substantial budgets and the increase of personnel, the Argentino is now a major theatre where the negative connotation of "provincial" has disappeared. It is a serious rival to the Colón, and considering that it takes only an hour under reasonable traffic conditions to go from Palermo to the Argentino, music lovers from our capital certainly schedule visits to the "platense" organisation.
Its dependence on the so-called Instituto Cultural of the Province had some rough rides in the past but in recent years the relationship has worked smoothly. In fact now the Argentino is as complex as the Colón. They both have resident orchestra, chorus and ballet (the difference lies at the Colón, where another orchestra is added, the B.A. Philharmonic), integrated production, a student area (the ISA at the Colón, the Opera Studio and the School of Arts and Crafts at the Argentino), experimentation centers , administration. I thought years ago that the huge Argentino had only two possible destinies: a white elephant, or its growth to the level of a first-rate national center; fortunately, this is what has happened.
All this doesn´t mean that I agree on all points with the current team: I certainly feel that their habitual adhesion to distorted opera production in the unfortunate European mold has led to aberrations such as their presentations of "Giulio Cesare" and "Lucia di Lammermoor". But the technical quality has been impeccable even in those misconceived productions, and the sheer size of the stage permits full-scale presentations. If the audience has the good fortune of witnessing a team that respects the chosen piece and does it with freshness, splendid visuals and a theatrical sense, you have the true success the Argentino has had with the recent "Doña Francisquita", certainly the best zarzuela production of the last decade easily available to a "porteño".
The Argentino hasn´t done a zarzuela since the "Doña Francisquita" staged at the Teatro Rocha in 1989. A warm welcome to the return of the genre under such good auspices. This famous zarzuela is the best of the prolific Amadeo Vives. It was written in 1924 and became an immediate success. For good reason: the libretto of Federico Romero and Guillermo Fernández Shaw, on Lope de Vega´s "La discreta enamorada", has charm, wit and rhythm; and the music has memorable melodies. In Argentina we have the problem of finding local artists that can give an authentic "Madrileño" flavor, especially in the extensive spoken bits ("cuadros de letra").
The first cast was reasonably up to the requirements. Marisú Pavón is very Spanish in her style and has the technique for the florid fragments, notwithstanding a touch of unwelcome acidity. Alas, although Mónica Sardi is a beautiful woman, she lacks the earthiness required by Aurora La Beltrana. A splendid Mexican tenor, Ricardo Bernal, made his debut as a wholly convincing Fernando. Santiago Bürgi was fine in the humoristic part of Cardona. Luis Gaeta was masterful as Don Matías and Marta Cullerés funny and natural as Doña Francisca. Nice contributions from Ricardo Crampton, Patricio Olivera, María Luisa Merino Ronda and the three "cofrades" of the Carnival celebration (Arnaldo Quiroga, Mirko Tomas and Alberto Jáuregui Lorda). Excellent the group of dancers in the pleasant choreography by Nuria Castejón. An alert orchestra responded admirably to Guillermo Brizzio´s idiomatic conducting, and the choir under Miguel Martínez was very good.
But the highest spot goes to the producer Jaime Martorell, in a lavish production with Carnival actors, air balloon, beautiful and varied costumes (Pedro Moreno), brilliant lighting (Horacio Pantano) and an imaginative stage design by Daniel Feijóo, with buildings moving about the stage and creating different ambiences.
From the lightness of the zarzuela to the metaphysical and anguished world of Gustav Mahler. Showing again the great talent of Alejo Pérez, and the current good condition of the Orchestra, they tackled Mahler´s Fifth Symphony, the one with the sublime Adagietto for strings and harp. It has been heard recently in BA by a crack orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie, under Ashkenazy. In sheer orchestral splendor and accuracy, of course the Berliners are ahead, but what astonished me was how much of this enormously complex score could be heard, with admirable trumpet work at the very beginning, and from then on, clean, no-nonsense conducting and playing. I was sorry to miss due to a mistake (mine) on starting time Beethoven´s Triple Concerto with Antonio Formaro (piano), Fernando Favero (violin) and Siro Bellisomi (cello).
For Buenos Aires Herald