The Orchestra della Toscana is one of the good regional Italian orchestras. They have come before. It is in fact a chamber orchestra, 51-strong on this tour, and the music they played sounds well with such forces, for it encompasses a short period of time between 1807 and 1816. True, the works chosen are all very well-known and a little more enterprise would have been welcomed, but the results made their audition worthwhile.
In his early thirties, Daniele Rustioni has been named Principal Conductor of the orchestra. He was well trained by such artists as Gelmetti, Pappano, Noseda, C.Davis, Segerstam, Masur and Muti. He has conducted important orchestras not only in Italy but also in Switzerland, Russia and Great Britain, and has had extensive operatic activity already, at Milan´s La Scala, Covent Garden, Munich, Lyon and Berlin. Also, he married lissome, tall violinist Francesca Dego, who has recorded no less than the Paganini Caprices for Deutsche Grammophon and at 27 is having important activity in variegated places. She came along to BA to play Paganini´s famous First Concerto.
As to the Orchestra, it was founded in Florence back in 1980 and has had numerous and prestigious conductors and soloists in abundant trips and recordings. The combination of a flexible, dynamic orchestra with two young talents has proved fruitful, some reservations apart. Rustioni is histrionic to a fault, a style with which I have no empathy, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and as colleagues told me (I agree) when you closed your eyes what you heard was coherent, orthodox and intense; and that´s what matters.
The start was excellent, with a pointed, humoristic and limpid version of one of Rossini´s best Overtures, that of "L´Italiana in Algeri", with fine woodwind solos. Then, Paganini´s First Concerto, by far the most often played, allowed Dego to show off a virtuoso display of precision in very difficult writing, especially her admirable control of harmonics. She is quite impressive playing pyrotechnics (Paganini revolutionized the technical requirements) but not so convincing in long melodic phrases, where the timbric quality wasn´t as warm as the music demands. The Concerto´s First Movement has beautiful tunes but also a stop-and-go quality that was too emphasized by Rustioni. Her brilliant encores were Ysaÿe´s Third Sonata-Ballade (a strong, dramatic score of transcendental hurdles written in 1923) and a Presto Paganini Caprice.
We are accustomed to hear Beethoven´s massive Fifth Symphony with big modern orchestras, and in an ample hall the extra weight tells. But in fact if 50 musicians play with concentration and drive the music is projected to the hearer with satisfying effect, and under the firm command of Rustioni we heard just that.
The encore was more Rossini, the most famous of all his Overtures, that of "The Barber of Seville", and it came out sparkling, with a perfect control of the famous crescendo. The concert was on June 2, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Italian Republic.
And now is the time to refer to another celebration: the start of the final two years of the ample restoration of the Coliseo. Of course, such things as the intensely white floor of the foyer, the new design of the marquee, the ameliorated rest rooms, the refurbishing of the auditorium, the redesign of the foyer stairs, have been evident for some time. I do question that the orchestra seats are still too narrow. But many other aspects can´t be seen by the public, and an illuminating video was shown in a useful press conference.
Thus we saw the impressive and very tall redesign of the stage box with a system of motorized and automated rods and a gridiron and bridges system weighing 65 Tons with three levels. There is also a motorized monorail with carts to mount stage designs or lighting positions. The lighting system has a new switchboard guaranteeing lighting levels in different planes of the stage and with dimmers.
Also, the rehearsal rooms and the dressing rooms have been redesigned. In these next two years there will be new stage floor, acoustic chamber and complementary systems. And the system of security drop curtain will be modernised.
All this has been or will be done during the Summer period, thus allowing the Coliseo to have normal activity during the rest of the year. It has been possible thanks to funding of 44 million pesos of the City Government through the Sponsorship (Mecenazgo) Law. Architect Alfio Sambatore designed the stage box, the rehearsal rooms and the dress rooms, and Architect Giuseppe Caruso, the marquee and foyers.
The whole project was coordinated by Elisabetta Riva, Directress of the Theatre, with the full support of the Board of Directors of the Fundación Coliseum led by Cristiano Rattazzi.
The Coliseo is part of the Palazzo Italia and is owned by the Italian Government (only case in the world of a theatre outside Italy). Although born as a circus in 1905, afterwards it became a lyric theatre and in 1920 Enrique Susini realized the first radio transmission of an opera in history ("Parsifal"). After a period of decay, it was bought by the Italian Government in 1940; the old building was torn down and the current one was built; inaugurated in 1961, it has been an important aspect of theatrical activity in our city.
For Buenos Aires Herald