viernes, septiembre 28, 2012

Sullivan´s Utopia, Offenbach´s Hoffmann, Pergolesi´s intermezzo

 At last, Gilbert and Sullivan are back in our city after decades of neglect. Being a veteran, I fondly remember the G and S series of the 1960s conducted by Alannah Delias at the Xirgú, plus some later attempt by the Belgrano Day School. And I had the great pleasure of experiencing true G and S style from the D´Oyly Carte Company at London´s Savoy in 1964.  So as you see I´m an enthusiast of these masterpieces of light music and of Victorian-era satire.

Lírica Lado B is an enterprising independent opera concern that brings us annually interesting premieres since 2009 (Telemann, Haydn,Martín y Soler). I have generally liked the musical side and differed with their stage conception. When I heard that they were planning on a G and S "opera" (they are really operettas) I was happy but apprehensive for the right style is of the essence. Their choice surprised me: not one of the famous pieces ("The Mikado", "H.M.S.Pinafore", "The Pirates of Penzance") but one that is rarely done even in England: "Utopia, Limited", which I had never heard (I know there´s a D´Oyly Carte recording ). They are offering it on September, October and November Saturdays at the curious venue of the Sala de Representantes of the Manzana de las Luces, an old amphitheatre.  

They did it in English taking a comprehensible though regrettable liberty: all the spoken parts were taken by a talented actress, Camila Dougall, who had quite a job playing diverse characters. This made the singers´ task distinctly easier, for they didn´t have to learn their spoken parts.  "Utopia, Limited" is well worth the acquaintance. A late work, it was premiered in 1893 at the Savoy. The peaceful island Utopia is ruled by King Paramount; his realm is disturbed by the arrival of Princess Zara, schooled in England, plus seven Britishers: they are the Flowers of Progress (subtitle of the "opera") and will run havoc on Utopia´s ways. The plot is based on the clash of cultures and an innovation: each person will be a Limited Company. And the Party System will be instituted.

The "opera" is long (2 h 40´) and the music is very charming and catchy, done with superb professionalism . It was a pleasure to hear it, for the musical side was mostly good. The 21-member orchestra could be bettered (especially the trumpet) but Camilo Santostefano, the conductor, kept things together efficaciously. Some of the singers stood out: Alejandro Spies (Paramount), Selene Lara (Zara), Tamara Odón (Lady Sophie), Pablo Urban in a spoof on tenors, Gabriel Carasso as a witty Goldbury. The others (nine singers in ten parts) were in the picture, all of them ready to have and give fun, including the ten-member choir.

I have often been critical of producer Diego E. Rodríguez, for his farcical ideas ran counter to the eighteenth-century origin of the composers named in the second paragraph. His concepts haven´t changed: a crown of toilet paper rolls, recycled technological trash,etc., are used to concoct a particular type of pop aesthetics. His "Utopia" certainly has little to do with the D´Oyly Carte style, but this time it worked far better: the painted faces to symbolize different cultures, the frantic and maintained rhythm, the infectious enthusiasm of the singer-actors, made me smile frequently.  Stage designer Ángeles Miranda and the costumes of Virginia de los Santos were legitimate parties of this zany evening.

Offenbach´s opera "Les contes d´Hoffmann" has been done often in BA, often with good results. It proved too big a challenge for Avellaneda´s Roma. The Orchestra (Avellaneda Symphony) couldn´t handle the score under the erratic leadership of César Tello, the Choir (of the Avellaneda Municipal Music Institute) sang passably under Armando Garrido and the cast was very uneven, from rather good (Leonardo Pastore´s Hoffmann, María Gabriela Ceaglio´s Antonia, Trinidad Goyeneche´s Nicklausse) to correct (Antonello Tramonti´s Luther and Crespel, Luciano Straguzzi´s four villains, María Soledad Espona´s Giulietta, Miriam Casanova´s Mother) to downright bad, especially the Olympia, and simply horrible (the four character tenor roles done by one "artist"); the lower categories will remain unnamed in this review.

At the Roma they are always low on money and "Hoffmann" demands a big production. With the help of nice costumes (loaned, I was told, by La Plata´s Argentino) and minimalist stage designs by Ana Rodríguez Quiroga, Jorge Luis Podestá tried his best to tell the stories cogently, but a lot was very basic.

Pergolesi´s "La serva padrona" started in 1733 as an intermezzo between acts of his opera seria "Il prigionier superbo" ; it was the germ from which was born the "opera buffa". On the following year "La contadina astuta" had the same function in "Adriano in Siria" . Completely overshadowed by "La serva padrona", "La contadina astuta" has finally been premiered recently in BA by the group La Cetra led by Sergio Antonini at the Auditorio Fundación Beethoven. On an extravagant and poor libretto by Tommaso Mariani, Pergolesi (and Hasse?) have composed agreeable and quirky music, barely 39 minutes long; it was "clothed" this time with an attributed Pergolesi Symphony in F and a bona fide Pergolesian Sonata in G for violin and continuo.

The seven-member instrumental group was acceptable, the production by Daniel Viola poor, Walther Schwarz was very good as Tracollo and Laura Rozas funny but miscast: you need a young soubrette for this part.

For Buenos Aires Herald