domingo, junio 14, 2009

Warhorses gallop again

It is in the nature of things that opera companies of any level should prefer a select group of warhorses for their ventures, as they find a ready market for them, considering the fact that most people either have a routine-inclined temperament or simply don´t have much information and/or curiosity. Thus such operatic items are taken out of their stables and left to gallop again in the wide open prairies,

Giuseppe Verdi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in their best-known efforts, are a cinch, even if conditions aren´t right, for another sign of the times is that people are quite ready to receive with warm applause interpretations that in more knowledgeable times would have been booed.

I¨ll start with the best of three recent revivals, that of Verdi´s "Il Trovatore" at the Argentino of La Plata. This is a singer´s opera "par excellence" and of course we don´t have artists that can compete with the best in the world, but we did have a local cast of good level with responsible artists. I was present at the fourth and last performance, and one should bear in mind that in this type of high-strung singing there can be important differences from one date to the other. In this particular one, the best interpreter was Alejandra Malvino, who sang her old gypsy Azucena with considerable stamina and character after a start that was a bit unfocussed. Gustavo López Manzitti may not have an ingratiating timbre but he sure has guts; his singing was virile and strong, with a resounding high C to his "Di quella pira". In good health Luis Gaeta is our best Verdian baritone, but he hadn´t quite recovered from a laryngitis that had forced him to sing only one act of the first performance (he was replaced then by Luciano Garay). So he sang with comprehensible caution and although there was taste and musicality, the Conte di Luna also needs blood and thunder. As to Haydée Dabusti, this sensitive soprano has had more convincing nights; she sounded clean and transparent, but you need darker shades and a sense of instinctive passion in Leonora. Ricardo Ortale, a baritone, sang Ferrando, a bass role whose range he encompassed well, but I found his interpretation too free and "verista". In the flank roles, good work from Vanesa Thomas, Sergio Spina, Claudio Rotella and Francisco Bugallo.

Carlos Vieu is probably the best resident opera conductor of his generation. True, his tempi sometimes challenged the singers and the chorus, but this is as it should be, for "Il Trovatore" needs urgency and intensity; the orchestra responded reasonably well, though there were fissures of intonation in the brass section. The very good chorus of the house, under Miguel Martínez, entered enthusiastically in the spirit of the staging.

Marcelo Perusso had already produced the piece for the Argentino in 2006 and this was a revision of that concept (he had also done a different production for Buenos Aires Lírica). I rather liked what he did, for there were several positive points: he respected the original historical context (the fifteenth-century Spanish Civil War), he managed fast and convincing adaptations of the stage pictures to the different scenes (only one interval), he imagined dramatic stage designs with an adequate lighting plot, and the costumes of his collaborator, Stella Maris Müller, were always adequate. I was only bothered by some unnecessary gruesomeness.

I´ll be brief with the other two offerings. I´m sorry to say that I can only report favorably on some of the singers and the chorus of Fundamús´s presentation of Mozart´s "The Magic Flute" at the Avenida, but I was unhappy with the production and the orchestral playing. Pride of place goes to Lucas Debevec Mayer´s Sarastro, so much deeper in sonority and interpretation now than when he did it at the Colón in 2004. Graciela Oddone sang Pamina with involvement but also with some undue strain. Maico Hsiao sang his first Tamino as alternate to Carlos Ullán; the Taiwanese tenor was likeable and sweet but lacked expansion. Luciano Garay´s Papageno was too vulgar; the character is a simple, warm man; the singing was acceptable, no more. His Papagena was the charming Laura Penchi. The Queen of Night of Natalia Quiroga was inadequate: completely undramatic and barely managing most of the notes. The Monostatos of Fabián Frías had little character. I found the Three Ladies good (Claudia Montagna, Trinidad Goyeneche and Verónica Canaves) and very dignified the Speaker, Edgardo Zecca. The others were tollerably in the picture.

The orchestra sounded unclean and imprecise under Reinaldo Zemba, and Eduardo Casullo signed one of his weakest productions, with badly chosen projections instead of stage designs and many wrong indications to the singers . Some of Mariela Daga´s work as costume designer I liked (Sarastro, Pamina´s gowns), some I didn´t (the Genii, Papageno).

When I was told that Verdi´s "Aida" would be staged at the diminutive Roma (Avellaneda) I thought it ludicrous, and I wasn´t wrong. In fact several announced artists walked out of an impossible production. Forgiving what I saw (imagined by Florencia Bendersky and Sergio Grimblat) I can report that Sebastiano De Filippi at the podium did his best (and so did the conductors of three different choirs) to solve the music´s challenges , and the main singers did have some salvageable qualities: Svetlana Volosenko, Juan Borja, Lidice Robinson and Marcos Nicastro.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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