lunes, agosto 04, 2008

From Cinderella to Don Quixote

In recent weeks chamber opera has predominated in the Colón plans (of course, you know that "big" opera is excluded this year). The presentation of Marta Lambertini's "Cenicientaaaa...!" was an initiative of the CETC (Center for Experimentation) but, in a move that Lambertini condemned in an interview, it wasn't offered at the CETC's own space but at the Teatro del Globo. Nevertheless, I have it from good source that the CETC was available and usable , for the exhibition installed there only takes over a corridor, but not the premises of hall and stage. Anyway, it's true that the Teatro del Globo is bigger, thus allowing better sales, and it has nice acoustics. And the piece was prepared for the winter holidays and for kids, not only for adults.

Lambertini has written several chamber operas for the CETC during the Gandini era, including her hit, "Alicia en el país de las maravillas", a very imaginative take on Carroll's wonderful tale. But also "Hildegard", an evocation of the famous Medieval mystic composer Hildegard von Bingen. She has always had a very keen sense of humor as well as a knowledge of historic styles. In opera the Cinderella we all know is Rossini's "La Cenerentola", a bourgeois adaptation of the old tale, but Massenet's "Cendrillon" is closer to tradition and very charming (it should be heard here). As Lambertini tells us in a programme note, the tale is Oriental, perhaps Chinese, and in Occident we have the versions of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Lamertini also wrote the very peculiar libretto, in which she invents a language based on contorted Spanish with numerous Russian-sounding words, plus some phrases in French from the Herald and some in English. It's very imaginative but comports a constant effort to "translate" it into Spanish on the part of the audience; some adults probably had trouble doing it, and any kids below twelve probably found it impossible, so I rather doubt that this an adequate opera for kids. But it is funny and fresh, though the humor is sometimes too obvious, as in the names of the characters and in the quotes of famous brands.

The music is very ingenious, beginning with the instrumentation: not an orchestra but a Baroque ensemble (flute and piccolo, violin, cello and harpsichord) complemented by four percussionists in some places; it transports us to an eighteenth-century court ambience, though the harmonies are of course of our time . As Lambertini says, her music "has a strong gestual charge", as corresponds to a farce, albeit a sophisticated one.

The names of the characters are grotesque: the stepsisters are called Malaria and Difteria; Cinderella's stepmother, Matroshka; the fairy, Adalgisa (as in Bellini's "Norma") and the Prince, Tirifilo. There's a small chorus with few interventions and also two girl puppeteers. The work is edited by Melos (ex Ricordi Americana). It lasts an hour. It had full houses and real success.

The CETC had done a proper job. Carlos Calleja led a very clean performance where the members of the Ensemble Musica Poetica and the percussionists responded very well. Musica Poetica is mad up of Gabriel Pérsico ( Baroque flute and piccolo), Joelle Perdaens ( Baroque violin), María de Jesús Olóndriz (Baroque cello) and María de Lourdes Cútolo (harpsichord). The production was well conceived by Jorge de Lassaletta, with the right fairy-tale stage and costume design by Noelia González and Fernando Martínez Ferrari jointly, with adequate lighting from Eli Sirlin.

Graciela Oddone was brilliant as a positive Cinderella that won't be humiliated, singing with ample and agreeable voice. Cintia Velásquez, looking like the stepmother in Disney's "Cinderella", did the part with good voice and perfect acting. Cecilia Aguirre Paz was a trifle pale as the fairy Adalgisa. Laura San Giorgio and Cecilia Jakubowicz were effective as the stepsisters, though the makeup should have been more grotesque. Pablo Pollitzer was a pleasant and well sung Prince, and Matía Tomasetto did a correct Herald.

In the same week, the Colón Chamber Opera showed its second production at the auditorium of the Sociedad Hebraica Argentina, which isn't adequate, but it became the refuge when the Theatre 25 de Mayo, originally scheduled, was denied to them by Pablo Batalla, the Secretary for Cultural Administration. It combined two very dissimilar pieces: Cimarosa's "intermezzo giocoso" for "basso buffo" and orchestra "Il maestro di cappella"

(1791, revised by Maffeo Zanon in 1949) and Manuel de Falla's "El retablo de Maese Pedro", a scene from Cervantes' "Don Quixote". Both pieces together last 55 minutes and are well-known here.

The common denominator was a good orchestra conducted with style by Bernardo Teruggi and excentric and unconvincing production by José Darío Innella. The basis of Cimarosa's piece is the live interaction of an orchestra on stage and the "maestro di cappella", but here the orchestra was in the pit and seven actors moved like puppets in the stage as "the orchestra", and with wildly incoherent gestures. Oscar Grassi is an old hand at this style (it shows in the frayed voice) but couldn't compensate for the erroneous concept.

There were two saving graces in "El Retablo...", de Falla's fine evocation of old Spain: the honed orchestra work under Teruggi and the splendid voice and style of Fernando Grassi (Oscar's son). But Innella had obnoxious ideas, like the dumb show in silence of the puppeteers at the start, or not having an audience for Maese Pedro's show excelt Don Quixote and Sancho. The poor stage design (Sergio Massa) didn't help. The puppeteers' work was pretty good, though. The "boy" Trujamán, who tells the story of Don Gayferos and Melisendra, was a girl, María Candelaria Castro, wih a rather nice timbre but shortness of breath and rhytmic problems. Fermín Prieto was an acceptable Maese Pedro.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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