sábado, octubre 21, 2006

“I Vespri Siciliani”, a difficult Verdi

In Giuseppe Verdi’s production the so-called “popular trilogy” (“Traviata-Trovatore-Rigoletto”) is the dividing line between his early years and his later operas. Of those operas composed after 1853 , none is more problematic than “ I Vespri Siciliani”. It was Verdi’s first creation for the Paris Opera and the original is in French: “Les Vepres Siciliennes”, on a libretto by the famous Eugene Scribe in collaboration with Charles Duveyrier. It was premiered on June 13, 1855. The Italian translation by E. Caimi went through Austrian censure and was converted into “Giovanna di Guzman”; in such a guise it was given at La Scala on February 4, 1856. Later on, after Italian unification, it was reconverted into “I Vespri Siciliani”, and this is the work habitually given nowadays. Habitually, but not frequently, and there are reasons. Even Verdi, then the most famous opera composer, had to comply with the rigid “grand opera” mold sanctioned at the Paris Opera after the triumph of Meyerbeer’s “The Huguenots” (1836): five acts, a long ballet, plenty of stage spectacle, big roles for at least a quartet of main singers, a story based on history and romance. It all made for a long and visually rich night at the theatre. It was also a heavy and at times trivial night, where show mattered more than substance. And writing to French words didn’t come natural for Verdi. The choice of subject was strange, for it refers to a Sicilian revolt in 1282 against the Anjou ruler, of French extraction: the image it gives of the Gallic side is hardly ingratiating and certainly not the right approach for an Italian’s debut in Paris. Also, Scribe’s libretto changed some historical aspects, and it was cluttered with unnecessary detail. But it’s the music that is difficult: less melodic than other Verdi operas, often experimental (the a capella quartet, the clipped phrases followed by immense silences, the melodic line often sinuous and chromatic), “Vespri” does have a famous Overture, a splendid baritone-tenor duet (with the main tune of the Overture), a catchy though anachronistic Bolero for the soprano, and some splendid “concertante” ensembles. But this is a Verdi going through a change of style and not quite landing in a safe position. Curiously enough, for a long time the only interpretation available on records was in a German translation with famous singers (Schlusnus, Roswaenge), and it was thus that I knew the music in the Fifties. But the Colón offered it in 1970 with a splendid cast: Lavirgen, Milnes, Arroyo and Giaiotti, conductor the great Molinari-Pradelli, producer the authentically-oriented Franco Enriquez. Then came the admirable Levine recording featuring two of the Colón singers (Arroyo and Milnes) along with Domingo and Raimondi: the first recording in Italian. Later there were recordings conducted by Chailly and Muti. None have been in French. It was a brave and valid decision on Marcelo Lombardero’s part (he’s the Colón’s Artistic Director) to put on “I Vespri Siciliani”. He did make a substantial cut: the ballet, which has no incidence on the plot, would have added half an hour to the almost three hours of music we heard. And although pleasant, it’s hardly major Verdi. Unfortunately, this “Vespri” was of middling quality, due to mistakes in the cast and a fundamental change in the production’s time period, transforming an important Medieval historical milestone into a Garibaldian skirmish of the 1860s. First, the cast. Curiously enough, the best member of the principals was the resident Argentine tenor Carlos Duarte: his voice sounded beautiful and big, his musicality solved arduous intonation problems and his acting was involved. The other three were all visitors and made their local debuts. Two of them weren’t the originally announced: Korean baritone Carlo Kang replaced Sergei Murzaev and Italian bass Duccio Dal Monte substituted for Andrea Papi. Kang seems to me more a verismo Scarpia than a Verdi baritone, he is too rough; but he had some good moments, especially in the duet. The voice is reasonably good. Dal Monte has a large black voice, but alas his intonation was often all wrong; he made for uncomfortable listening as the patriot Procida. And Marquita Lister is a wild singer with a difficult voice; her technique isn’t up to par for the ornaments but she can be expressive in some long lines. Small parts were generally well taken.The expressive Enrique Folger, the beautiful timbre of Carlos Natale, the strong character of Federico Sanguinetti and Ariel Cazes, the firmness of Mario De Salvo and the professionalism of Gabriel Renaud and Alicia Cecotti were all pluses. The Chorus under Salvatore Caputo was in good form, with impressive fullness at climactic moments. Mario Perusso showed again that he is the best of our veteran opera conductors with a clear and well molded reading, abetted by an attentive orchestra (though the intonation of the cellos could be improved). If you accept the change of historical period (I don’t) the work of producer Eric Vigié (debut, of the Lausanne Opera) was fluent and logical. Enrique Bordolini did monumental stage designs of considerable beauty in a Neoclassic style well lighted by himself, and the costumes of Imme Moeller were of Garibaldian times; I disliked the white wedding dress of Elena. All in all, hardly a memorable “Vespri” but good enough to appraise the work for its values and place it in the Verdian canon. 25/05/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

No hay comentarios.: