viernes, octubre 02, 2015

Another chance to meet the first Verdi

            April 2014. I wrote for the Herald about  "The first Verdi and the fourth Wagner". "A relatively recent private group, the Compañía Lírica G.Verdi, gave at the Avenida the long-awaited revival of Giuseppe Verdi´s "Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio". "It was only offered in 1939 during the Colón Spring Season commemorating the centenary of its world première".

            "This year they billed it at first as a première, and when they were advised that the Colón had already done that, they changed it to ´complete version´. I sent them mails indicating that their version is indeed complete, for I checked it with the excellent Marriner recording, but neither they nor I could find concrete evidence about whether the Colón première had cuts".

            Now in late September the Compañía Lírica G.Verdi has revived it with the same production and a cast where some voices remained and others were changed. There were three performances with two casts; I saw the first (though it was the last of the three it repeated the cast of the initial night).

             The hand programme included no comments on the work, only a spare account of the plot. The opera has only two acts and the logical thing is to respect the interval after the First, but here they went ahead for another couple of scenes before the lights were on; I see no reason for this.  The total length is about two hours and twenty minutes.

            As Verdi´s second opera, "Un giorno di regno", has been done twice in recent years, and now the same thing happens with the first, we have a clear view of Verdi´s initial steps before he arrived at a style of his own in the third, "Nabucco".  I am glad that the effort of putting "Oberto" on stage has been reproduced this year, for it is not only fair but understandable that opera lovers might be interested in knowing Verdi´s early inspirations.

             I was sorry to see a sparse audience; the lack of curiosity is lamentable. And it doesn´t stimulate the company to go on exploring neglected Verdi. Nevertheless, I do hope they will continue and offer us, e.g., "I Masnadieri" (on Schiller´s "The Bandits"), or "Aroldo" (second version of "Stiffelio"), or "Il Corsaro"; they all have some striking music. However, the programme says that this revival has counted with the auspices of the city´s Culture Ministry; may it happen in the future.

            I wrote in 2014 and haven´t changed my views: "Mind you, ´Oberto´ is a first step in a long road and far from the quality of ´Nabucco´. Of course, the 26-year-old Verdi has influences (Bellini, Donizetti, Mercadante) but in the best fragments you already find the Verdian style, espcially the trio and the great ´concertante´, though there are good moments in some of the arias" (and I would add, "cabalettas", the fast vocal pieces that succeed them).

            "I won´t mince words, the libretto (by Antonio Piazza as revised by Temistocle Solera) is deplorable, telling a Medieval story of love and vengeance in primitive terms. But Verdi´s ability to extract dramatic force from unpromising material is already there."

            "The production by Adriana Segal (advised by Lizzie Waisse) respected time (1228) and in very general terms, place (Bassano, Ezzelino´s castle and surroundings)".

I have more space to write this time, and I do want to say two things: on the one hand, I think that these melodrammas must be done traditionally, with everyone concerned making us believe that THEY believe in the happenings, and there was an adequate intensity from the artists. On the other, some things seemed absurd: e.g., those stools transported by the chorus from scene to scene and either used to sit down or to be piled for fire.

            "Mariela Daga is an experienced hand at period costumes", and in fact, was the best element in the staging. I found the stage designs by Mariano Campero and Juan Bautista Selva bad rather  than middling this time, with inappropriate armchairs and three "stones" that looked like upright surfboards. Again, "the supertitles were untidy", though colleagues told me that they were much worse on the first night.

            As in 2014, "I was well impressed by the vigor and clarity of Ramiro Soto Montllor´s conducting". The hand programme mentions "Casa Musicale Sonzogno" as the editor; did they have this time better material? For last year the conductor "had a lot of previous work to make sense of poor orchestral parts". As in 2014, the 34-strong Orchestra and 35-voice Chorus "collaborated with enthusiasm though they have some way to go in purely technical matters".

            Again, "Sabrina Cirera dominated the cast with her fierce, dramatic Leonora (the first of three in Verdi´s career!)". But the others were changed. The angelical Cuniza was sung by Laura Domínguez correctly although with a lineal voice short on harmonics. Clara Pinto  is rather similar in her projection; she sang Imelda, Cuniza´s  lady of honor.

            The two rivals were new and interesting. In the title role Juan Font, a baritone, sang a "basso cantante" part (such was last year´s Walter Schwarz). He looks too young (better makeup would have helped) but he is a good actor; he has convincing timbre and phrasing, even if more volume was needed at times. Finally, Carlos Ullán, formerly a Rossinian and Mozartian tenor, sang with involvement and dash his seductive villain (Riccardo) notwithstanding some perilous moments. 

For Buenos Aires Herald

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