sábado, octubre 21, 2006

Warhorses trotted out: “La Boheme” and “Il Trovatore” triumph again

Operatic warhorses rode again inaugurating the seasons at the Colón and the Argentino (La Plata) showing their vitality in good productions that gave a fine start to both official institutions. The Colón chose that evergreen, Puccini’s “La Boheme”, with a double cast; the Argentino, Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”, the most dynamic of his “popular trilogy” (the others, of course, are “Rigoletto” and “La Traviata”). The Colón needed a success to begin the first season programmed by Marcelo Lombardero and it was good policy to obtain it with the sort of piece almost everybody knows and loves, for he now has a pool of support that will make it easier for the audiences to digest some tough challenges ahead. I must say I got scared when I saw the name of Willy Landín as producer, remembering what was for me an abominable “Barber of Seville” last year, but this time the producer was in his best behavior and gave us a visually enjoyable “Boheme” in what was mostly a traditional and handsome view of this great opera. Yes, there were some wrong details: “the rose-colored coif” was substituted by a very red cap; Parpignol is a toy vendor, not a clown as Landín made him to be; and the 1870 clothing doesn’t agree with the 1840s Louis Philippe era which is alluded to specifically in the libretto. But the acting was natural and agreeable, crowd scenes were well handled and the emotion of the situations came through. The only solecism is the librettists’, when they place some of the Café Momus tables exposed to the weather, quite cold in Christmas. Landín’s team was very professional. Tito Egurza’s sets were beautiful and apposite and he took advantage of the revolving stage to telescope together the first two acts, the garret converting into the Momus street scene and Mimí and Rodolfo walking from one place to the other. To divide the café into two stories allowed the chorus to be better displayed. Daniela Taiana designed becoming clothes and José Luis Fiorruccio used lighting with a dramatic sense . The Colón’s Musical Director Stefan Lano is decided to show that he isn’t only a twentieth-century specialist; neither is he an Italian-style traditional conductor, relegating the orchestra and following the singers. No, he stresses color and delicacy , and the myriad touches of orchestration of the magician composer. His “tempi” were arguably too slow but there was also good taste and musicality, and the Colón Orchestra was in fine fettle. Nice work from both the Mixed Choir (Salvatore Caputo) and the Children’s Choir (Valdo Sciammarella). I will now analyze the double cast. For the third consecutive year Nancy Gustafson was announced and didn’t appear. As far as I know, she was quite right in the two earlier cases when she was supposed to sing Strauss with the Philharmonic and was stumped by non-payment of orchestral parts and a strike. This time I don’t know (the Colón says she renounced) but I was sorry for she is first-rate. However, Lombardero got a quality replacement in Angela Maria Blasi (debut), who has an important career behind her. Her voice isn’t exceptional but sounds well, she acts with empathy and sings with style. Her alternate was the Russian Olga Makarina (debut) who was blessedly free of Slavic acidity and sang with good Italian an intimate and agreeable Mimí. Massimiliano Pisapia made a good impression last year in “I Lombardi” and he reaffirmed it now: he has a fine Italianate voice, liquid and beautiful, with an easy upper extension; the “physique du role” doesn’t accompany him, alas, but he was a good Rodolfo. Not so Steven Harrison (debut), whose voice is too small to register at the Colón, though he had some nice expressive moments when he could be heard. Hernán Iturralde (second cast) was an impressive Marcello, acting as well as he sang; his alternate, Gustavo Gibert, was correct enough but no more. Both Musettas tended to shrillness, more so Eliana Bayón than María José Siri; this is a part that gains with more discretion and taste. Both Schaunards were fine: Leonardo Estévez and Alejandro Meerapfel. Good Collines though rather short in expression: Carlos Esquivel and Nahuel Di Pierro. Gui Gallardo in the double roles of Benoit and Alcindoro gave atractive character cameos whilst Juan Barrile opted for buffo tradition. In the bit parts there were bleaty tenors (Gabriel Centeno, Miguel Angel Drappo) and firm basses (Alejandro Di Nardo, Mario De Salvo). “Il Trovatore” is more than a “stand-up-and-sing” opera: it needs dramatic presence. It certainly got it in the first cast (I couldn’t hear the second) especially from the intense Azucena of María Luján Mirabelli, who was also the best singer. Carlos Duarte sang a courageous Manrico with full and beautiful voice in all exposed passages. Omar Carrión is small-voiced but he sang with style and point his Conte di Luna. María José Siri was uneven as Leonora, certainly involved and with punch but also uncomfortable in many places. A firm Ferrando from Carlos Esquivel and passable bit parts, except for one tenor. Dante Anzolini was a careful conductor but made too many silences that softened the necessary tension. Brilliant work from the Chorus under Miguel Martínez. Producer and designer Marcelo Perusso was reasonably faithful to the requirements; there were fine period clothes from Stella Maris Mueller. 03/05/06 para el Buenos Aires Herald

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