In just a week, three dissimilar operas have been seen at different venues, two of them being premieres: one was the trashiest I´ve ever seen, "Cachafaz" by Oscar Strasnoy on Copi´s text; the other, a condensed version of a pure example of rosy English Romanticism, "The Bohemian Girl" by Michael Balfe. And there was also a revival of a mid-length buffo opera by Rossini, "L´occasione fa il ladro".
Strasnoy is Argentine and lives in Paris; Copi (a pseudonym of Raúl Damonte Taborda) was Uruguayan and lived in Paris. Copi on the one hand was famous for his hermetic cartoons of the Seated Woman; on the other, he wrote several vitriolic pieces of aggressive porn and social criticism. He was gay and died of AIDS; his sexual orientation was made very explicit in his plays.
The Argentine theatre has become dirtier and dirtier as well as more and more transgressor in recent decades, less and less pure as regards the true texts; everything is transmogrified ("versionado"), a trend that I deeply deplore. But opera had been relatively untouched. I do remember four antecedents: one is a masterpiece of anticapitalism, Weill´s "Rise and fall of the City of Mahoganny" on Brecht´s sardonic text, and it was justifiably shown in 2002 at the Colón with a mountain of trash as décor. Another is that grotesque opera by Ligeti, "Le Grand Macabre", where the iconoclastic action happens (as seen by La Fura dels Baus) in front or inside a giant doll. The third is Penderecki´s "Ubu Roi", on Jarry´s pioneer surrealistic take on an atrocious dictator. And the fourth was the disastrous Leo Maslíah "Maldoror" on the sulphurous Lautréamont nihilistic original; it included the first time I heard at the Colón a crude blasphemy against God.
All this was child´s play compared to "Cachafaz", "barbaric tragedy", where the antihero is a two-bit delinquent who lives in a Montevidean "conventillo" with the transvestite La Raulito, his lover. Apart from the crudely explicit sexual talk in "lunfardo", the plot adds massive cannibalism justified because the dwellers are hungry...plus the fact that all those quaintly named "milicos" (they are members of the police) are the victims. In the end both Cachafaz and La Raulito die like immortal lovers...
We have a tradition in grotesques, from Armando Discépolo to Langsner´s "Esperando la carroza" or Cossa´s "La nona", but none of these insulted the public as "Cachafaz" did (well, a part of it, for the piece was longly applauded, so mine may be a minority report). I found Strasnoy´s tonal music functional, with some interesting instrumental bits, although I wasn´t impressed with two quotes: a long distortion (as an interlude) of Verdi´s Overture to "La Forza del destino", and a short reference to Leporello´s Catalogue aria from Mozart´s "Don Giovanni". The choral music was good (the people of the conventillo interact with the antiheroes).
The paradox is that this piece of offal was very well put on stage at the Casacuberta as part of the Contemporary Music cycle. Pablo Maritano´s production eluded thankfully being too explicit, the Parisian Ensemble 2E2M (conducted by Pierre Roullier) was excellent, Pol González (Cachafaz) and Víctor Torres (La Raulito) did their unattractive jobs to perfection, actress Alejandra Flechner was funny as several policemen, the Coro Diapasón Sur was very accurate. To no avail...
What a relief to hear the fresh, charming music of Rossini after that. "L´occasione fa il ladro" ("Occasion makes the thief") is an 87-minute light buffo oprea, with an agreeable libretto by Luigi Prividali based on a play by Eugène Scribe. Not a great Rossini, but rather a middle-of-the-range, which is still better than any other buffo of the time. There were two casts (I saw the second) in this presentation of the ISA (the Colón´s Instituto Superior de Arte) at the pleasant Teatro 25 de Mayo. It´s only the second time that this opera is offered in BA (the first was about eleven years ago).
Javier Logioia Orbe led very nicely the Orquesta Académica, which put its best foot forward. Jorge de Lassaletta´s production was a bit too finicky, but on a good level (though the borrowed costumes and stage elements weren´t positive).The two best singers were tenor Patricio Oliveira and buffo bass Enrique Borlenghi. Constanza Castillo was correct but a bit shrill, Melina Biagetti played her part too much for laughs. Mariano Crosio was rather metallic though exact as Parmenione, and Reinaldo Samaniego did well.
Little is known here about Michael Balfe, one of the few good composers in the Britain of the 1840s. Along with Wallace´s "Maritana", Balfe´s "The Bohemian Girl" is full of good tunes in a simple but effective musical language. A very small venue (seats just 70), the Casa Fernández Blanco, presented a young group called OID. We saw a condensed version (50 minutes) with piano. The Alfred Bunn libretto was inspired by Cervantes´ "La Gitanilla". There was a promising lyric tenor, Matías Klemm, and a disinvolt young soprano, Constanza Díaz Falú, a little raw in high notes; the baritone, Federico Paolella, has to better his vocal emission. The enthusiastic choir is curiously named "Hoy Mejor que Ayer" (Daniel Vallejo, director). María Dubini as producer took advantage of the big staircase and the upper floor. Nicolás Ravelli Barreiro was a rather unclean but dynamic pianist, and Leandro Soldano kept things together as musical director. The General Director was Nicolás Isasi.
For Buenos Aires Herald