As you know, this is the year of Verdi´s bicentenary, so not only the Colón is programming his operas but other concerns are contributing abundantly to a proper celebration, for no other composer has provided so many masterpieces to the genre. In recent weeks we´ve had a "Rigoletto" at the Roma (Avellaneda), "Il Trovatore" at the Coliseo (it will be repeated at the Roma), and the revival of "Un giorno di regno" at the Auditorio de Belgrano. I won´t review the latter because it is an almost exact reproduction of last year´s premiere at the Teatro del Globo (I wrote about it then) by a group led by Dante Ranieri.
Both "Rigoletto" and "Il Trovatore" had certain common characteristics this time: a) at all times they are two of the so-called "popular trilogy" (the other, of course, is "La Traviata"); b) they were completely done by Argentine artists; c) there was little money available, so the productions were modest; d) they blessedly preserved the original "time and place" as specified by the librettist instead of following the horrid trend of changing both parameters and give us absurd distortions .
I wasn´t lucky with "Rigoletto". Not only June 9 was the date of a football match between Boca and Racing, which meant that it took me two hours to get from Palermo to Avellaneda (police barriers everywhere and immense roundabouts), but the lighting console went pfhtt and the technicians had to do everything manually sauntering from place to place; initially they had to start the First Act again and then things proceeded with some short intermittences.
Kudos to Luis Gaeta, who in his sixties gave us an admirable Rigoletto, as well sung as acted, the voice in astonishing condition. On the other hand soprano Laura Delogu is very new; the voice is adequate for Gilda´s requirements and she is musical; she lacks some creaminess and the personality that comes with time. Tenor Leonardo Pastore was uneven but had many good moments. There were agreeable contributions from Luciano Straguzzi (Sparafucile) and Vanina Guilledo (Maddalena), the revelation of a fine bass voice as Monterone (Nicolás Secco) and a good cast of "comprimari", especially Diana Salazar (Giovanna) and Ricardo Crampton (Count of Ceprano). A curiosity: for the first time in Argentina an innovation: the small parts of the Page and the Herald were sung by a countertenor, Damián Ramírez.
Enthusiasm rather than quality from the Orquesta Sinfónica Municipal de Avellaneda and the ad-hoc choir, but César Tello conducted with conviction. Producer Jorge Luis Podestá managed to offer an acceptable show, with the help of Ana Rodríguez Quiroga (stage designs) and Oscar Moralli (lighting, of course affected by the console failure) and with "alternative costumes" (quite adequate): "the Colón and the Argentino didn´t want to accept ceding them for the occasion".
Word has it that soon the Roma will close for a long time due to a restauration. I do hope it won´t last more than a year or two, for it is a charming old theatre and it has given through the years some interesting operas.
"Il Trovatore" was a benefit performance for the Italian Patronage and a part of "Verano Italiano" ("I Pagliacci", weeks ago, had started this collaboration of Italy and Argentina), although in this case their intervention was solely the venue, the Coliseo, because it is owned by the Italian State. Two matters were a bother: a) the lack of supertitles, by now a requirement; b) the substitution of the two male leads went on unannounced until after the interval, when the audience was finally told who sang what.
It would have been interesting to see and hear the two rivals incarnated by two artists who are in real life half-brothers. Tenor Gustavo López Manzitti was replaced by Juan Carlos Vassallo, and baritone Luciano Garay, by Leonardo López Linares.
As it turned out, the ladies prevailed. Haydée Dabusti was very firm in the high and middle registers, less so in the low tones; but she always sang with taste and style, proving again that she is one of our best singers. At times she was a bit light (Leonora is generally more forceful); on the other hand, she was admirably agile in the "cabalettas".
The Azucena was a find: Anabella Carnevali (do not confuse with Mariana Carnovali), "Rosarina", is more a contralto than a mezzo. She has a problem with excessive vibrato in high notes but otherwise her big, heavily textured voice has the tragic strength the old gypsy needs. Her acting was concentrated and communicative.
The gentlemen were less convincing. Vassallo´s style is elementary both as musician and actor, though he has an ample voice. López Linares is effective and he has a Verdian line, though his tone sounds rather leathery; his paunch doesn´t help to give an adequate profile to the Count of Luna. Juan Pablo Labourdette was accurate but too light as Ferrando.
I was disappointed by Maestro Mario Perusso, who raised the decibels covering the singers. True, neither his orchestra (again the Sinfónica Municipal de Avellaneda) nor his choir (Coro Imma del Instituto de Música de Avellaneda) were up to par, but a conductor of Perusso´s experience should have gotten better results. The ultra-Spartan production by Eduardo Casullo had no stage elements except a few steps, acceptable costumes (uncredited), poor lighting and basic marking of singers. More was needed.For Buenos Aires Herald