sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Audacious challenges from BAL and Juventus

The two principal off-Colón opera companies formulated audacious challenges and by and large met them: Buenos Aires Lírica (BAL) did Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” (or Yevgeny Onyegin, as they transliterated the Cyrillic original) in Russian; and Juventus Lyrica tackled Verdi’s most difficult opera, “Falstaff”. Both of course at the Avenida, the by now well-established alternative to the Colón. “Eugene Onegin” hasn’t been done often here, but the Colón performances of 1977 (with Benackova, Portella and Noreika, conductor N. Jarvi) and 1997 (with Pieczonka, Hvorostovsky and Galuzin, conductor Ermler) were admirable and left a most pleasurable sensation. It had been a moving experience to meet first hand these “lyric scenes”, as the composer called them, on the novel in verse by Pushkin. Fortunately BAL’s version was good enough to justify the revival. The opera is, along with “Pique Dame”, the best of Tchaikovsky’s extensive and ill-known opera production, of which we have only seen here -apart from those two- his very last one, “Iolanta”. True, the dramatic structure of “Onegin” is rather loose and protracted, and its pungent lyricism could do with more urgency now and then. In our cynical times its very Romantic story may seem a bit unbelievable but after all we are accepting the Jane Austen novels, so why not Pushkin? And the music is full of beauties, both orchestral and vocal; of course, Tatyana’s Letter Scene and Lenski’s aria (the young poet killed in an absurd duel by his friend Onegin) but also the brilliant Polonaise and other pieces. Mercifully the production of Rita Cosentino didn’t go the way of her modernized “Rigoletto” and we were given a reasonably realistic “Russian” view, with some caveats however. The same basic decor with modifications was used for completely different houses, but the countrified gentry can’t be so similar to the city palace of Prince Gremin. The clothes didn’t look rich enough (apart from those of the people, which were adequate). And the choreography by Viviana Iasparra was either poor (First Act) or damnably nonexistent (the all-important Polonaise had a very disappointing staging as mere posturing of the guests). But the movements of the singers were natural and derived from the words and looked acceptable for the Russia of the early 1800s. Stage and costume designer, Oria Puppo; lighting, Horacio Efron. The all-Argentine cast sang good Russian thanks to the instruction by Rosita Zozulia, a Russian émigré residing here. I found Armando Noguera quite convincing in the title role, with the right type of lyrical voice and very appropriate deportment. The confidence put by BAL’s authorities on the young Daniela Tabernig proved justified, for she did a sincere and nice-sounding Tatyana, of impressive professional assurance. Once again Enrique Folger (Lenski) showed both his communicative feeling and the fissures of his technique. Gabriela Cipriani Zec did well as the coquettish Olga. As the mother of Tatyana and Olga, Larina, Mónica Sardi was accurate but looked and sounded too young. Marta Cullerés was quite right for the old nanny Filipyevna. Ariel Cazes was dignified but rather dull as Gremin, with a serviceable voice that lacked nobility and beauty. Ricardo Cassinelli was more acceptable as Triquet than in other recent roles, though still shouty. The young basses Walter Schwarz and Esteban Hildebrand did well as Zaretsky and the Captain. Carlos Vieu is a very able conductor, but this time he had to deal with an unresponsive orchestra that lacked weight and brio and solo players that made gross mistakes (that cello!). The good Chorus sang nicely under Juan Casasbellas. “Falstaff” is the almost miraculous result of Verdi’s return to comedy, almost octogenarian, decades after his early “Un giorno di regno”. It has a formidable libretto by Arrigo Boito conflating parts of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Henry V” in a splendid farce about the fat old knight’s defeats in love from those redoubtable wives, Alice and Meg. Three perfect acts divided into six scenes of an almost incredible musical variety and the most refined technique . Ana D’Anna, Juventus Lyrica’s guiding hand, was the producer and this time avoided the arbitrary stagings she often gives us, trying instead to be faithful to the richly theatrical action and its admirable feeling for Elizabethan times. Apart from a couple of botched situations, most was sanely conceived and funny in a measured way, with sufficiently detailed stage designs by D’Anna and quality costumes by the refined Ponchi Morpurgo, who did “Falstaff” before in her career; the red dress of Alice was splendid. The musical side was good. Antonio Russo is a wise conductor who kept things together with the right tempos, but the result lacked some brilliance. Nice choral work under Miguel Pesce. The protagonist was taken by Ricardo Ortale with rotund humor and he coped acceptably with the vocal hurdles that abound. Gustavo Zahnstecher was a sonorous Ford. I especially liked the Alice of Mónica Ferracani, who was in fine fettle; agreeable though a bit thin the Nannetta of Laura Delogu; Meg, often a cypher, had dramatic and musical presence with Lara Mauro; but Alicia Alduncín is an oratorio contralto, not a Quickly: she lacked character and presence . Norberto Fernández wasn’t quite the subtle lyric tenor Fenton should be, but he was agreeable enough. Good jobs from Mario De Salvo (Pistola) and Norberto Lara (Bardolfo), and a rather shouty Dr. Cajus from Hernán Sánchez Arteaga. 22/08/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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