sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Opera: A mixed bag of premieres

As you know, currently Buenos Aires offers a varied operatic programme. And not only the three main companies (Colón, Buenos Aires Lírica, Juventus Lyrica) are to be counted, but numerous smaller outfits in such venues as the Roma Theatre in Avellaneda, La Manufactura Papelera or the Xirgú Theatre; and of course, the Avenida. I generally welcome enterprise and innovation, but several recent attempts haven’t been convincing. For half a century I have treasured my old vinyl recordings of Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurydice” with respectively Simoneau and Gedda. And during all that time I have been amazed that such a masterpiece remained unknown to our public. Of course, our city has long admired the original Italian version, “Orfeo ed Euridice”, often done in recent years though poorly. (Let’s not fall into the trap of believing that the Colón’s 1966 revival was the French version: it was instead a French translation of the quite different 1762 Italian opera, transposing furthermore the mezzo register to a baritone, whilst the French 1774 is for a tenor). So I was happy to be informed of a project to premiere the French version; alas, it was a disappointment. Richer in orchestration and incorporating many dances according to the French tradition, the old Greek myth sounds good in the Pierre Louis de Moline translation of Calzabigi’s Italian libretto. And the music remains mellifluous but even more so as well as soberly tragic. There was a good point in this venture at the Avenida: the careful work of Gustavo Codina as conductor and the fine sound of three different choirs that combine in the final scene: Coro de Cámara Zahir, Coral Ensamble and Vocal Meridión. And there were partial merits in the work of the very young countertenor Damián Ramírez (Cupid, a soprano part) and Cecilia Layseca (Eurydice). But the production was bad and the tenor was in such poor health that he shouldn’t have appeared. Producer Marga Niec made grave mistakes: she substituted vague and mediocre pantomime for the required ballet (and at times gave us exactly nothing: the impressive Dance of the Furies was merely played, not danced), and offered kitschy spectral images in a dense and boring stage picture (Víctor De Pilla) complemented by oppressive lighting (Oscar Bonardi) and nondescript neutral costumes (uncredited). Osvaldo Peroni is physically the antithesis of Orpheus the poet but he might have atoned with some nice singing; but he had no voice left and the ordeal was surely painful for him and the audience. The whole thing should be rethought and recast and then put again before the public, with Baroque dances in proper style (no points). We have such an immense gap of knowledge in operas of the Baroque period that I’m generally happy when any of them is announced. But surely there are priorities in a city that has only seen two Handel operas, still lacks one of the three Monteverdi, and has had Vivaldi and Cavalli operas decades ago (just one of each). In these circumstances it was a rather strange idea to offer the premiere of “As variedades de Proteu” (1737), libretto by Antonio José Da Silva, music by Antonio Teixeira. It was the result of painstaking work of reconstruction by Argentine musicologist Aníbal Cetrángolo, who lives in Venice. However, he hasn’t shown good judgment: we were exposed to endless repetitions of material; if he had trimmed a full hour we might have had a good show. Anyway, Teixeira is a modest composer writing in Italian style on a Portuguese text; his stuff is moderately pleasant but thin , hardly a revelation. But there was a curiosity value, for this was a marionette opera, a genre that has had some illustrious examples, such as Haydn’s. And it had long stretches of pure theatre, with good actors behind the stage giving life to the Da Silva libretto whilst the action was presented by the splendid marionettes of Tito Loréfice. There were clear evidences of insufficient rehearsal: of all the singers only one had the part by heart, the others had to read the music as in a concert, which made nonsense of any theatrical effect ; it was an ungrateful job for producer Ana D’Anna. One point was well taken: the singers were dressed like the marionettes, which helped in following the plot. The “variedades” of the title refer to the transforming abilities of Proteus (modelled on the Greek myth) and the plot is an involved one of crossed lovers and political consequences typical of the Baroque theatre. Fernando Grassi in a “gracioso” role was convincing (he was the one who didn’t read his part). The others were trammeled by dependence on the score, but Elena Jáuregui showed some charm and Florencia Machado and Mario de Salvo were in good voice. The others weren’t up to par: Marisu Pavón, Carlos Ullán, Manuel Núnez Camelino and Vincenzo Di Donato. It remains to be said that the 15-member orchestra of historicist players under Cetrángolo had a very mediocre night . A capsule notice on an ill-attended revival at the Roma Avellaneda: the incomplete “L’oca del Cairo”, just seven numbers of minor Mozart complemented by arrangements of other music of his by Virgilio Mortari to make the work viable. Correct singers did their job in a simple staging by Daniel Suárez Marzal and were abetted by a small orchestra conducted by Susana Frangi. 05/09/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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