sábado, septiembre 03, 2011

Onieguin and Lucy are back

Early in the year, Tchaikovsky´s opera on Pushkin´s Romantic antihero, “Eugen Onieguin”, was offered by the Argentino of La Plata. Now a different “Onieguin” was presented at the Colón, and it was a pleasure to have the John Cranko ballet back. Walter Scott´s “The Bride of Lammermoor”, transformed into an opera by librettist Salvatore Cammarano and composer Gaetano Donizetti, was presented by Juventus Lyrica; dear Lucy is in the hands of the Italians “Lucia di Lammermoor”, maybe the most famous bel canto drama.
            John Cranko, who died at only 46-years-old of a strange allergy, was the very soul of the Stuttgart Ballet, and his narrative ballets were a great contribution to the repertoire. Both “Eugene Onieguin” and “The Taming of the Shrew” were conceived for his group and seen here when they visited us. “Onieguin” isn´t, as might be thought, the Tchaikovsky opera in a danced version, which would have been a difficult hybrid to pull off, but a collation and orchestration by Kurt-Heinz Stolze of fragments from Tchaikovsky´s other music: pieces for piano from “The Seasons”, his opera “Cherevichki” and the last part of the fantasy overture “Francesca da Rimini”, all well chosen for their adaptation to the contrasting dramatic sequences. The story follows the Pushkin original closely.
            First presented at Stuttgart in 1965 and revised in 1967, it was premiered here in 1979 with those extraordinary dancers, Marcia Haydée and Richard Cragun; they repeated it in 1985. In 1994 the Colón Ballet prepared it for the farewell performances of Raúl Candal and Silvia Bazilis, and there was another splendid pair, Maximiliano Guerra and Alessandra Ferri. I am happy to say that the current revival was fully worthy of the splendid Cranko imagination and represents a remarkable step forward for our principal Ballet.
            Cranko intersperses the pas de deux por the two main couples (Onieguin and Tatiana, Lensky and Olga) with Russian-folklore-influenced group dances as well as a Polonaise. His language is Neoclassic, elegant and tasteful, but always akin to the psychology of his characters and at times quite Romantic. And the productions, both the beautiful original stage designs of Stuttgart with their emphasis on ochre hues and the 1994 designs by Pier Luigi Samaritani (now used again) so evocative and attractive in a contrasting range of blues, were gorgeous. Subtle lighting by Alfredo and Carlos Morelli and lovely costumes by Roberta Guidi Di Bagno completed an atmosphere of enchantment.
            Two stars of the 2011 Stuttgart Ballet were invited for the first cast (there were three casts and I write on the first): I was very impressed by the charm and ethereal quality of Alicia Amatriain, a long-legged Basque blonde which seemed to float most of the time in aerial ease, her accomplished technique always at the service of a Tatiana that goes from adolescent infatuation to dignified early maturity. The American Jason Reilly has the right looks for the blasé Onieguin and is a good foil with his strong movements to this Tatiana; he is an excellent partenaire. The poet Lenski  was nicely danced by Juan Pablo Ledo. Carla Vincelli contrasted with this Tatiana, for her Olga was petite, coquettish and perhaps too trivial. Prince Gremin was danced dignifiedly by Vagram Ambartsoumian. Virginia Licitra and Norma Molina fulfilled with professionalism their character roles. The Corps de Ballet was generally good, with special interest in some beautiful girls that dance with refinement. The work of Agneta and Victor Valcu as revival curators of Cranko´s choreography was outstanding in every sense.  The Colón Orchestra played reasonably well under Javier Logioia Orbe.
            Donizetti´s “Lucia di Lammermoor” is by now a hoary warhorse flogged to death, for it is staged almost every year; it´s time to give it a rest and remember the Donizettian British queens. The point of interest in Juventus Lyrica´s offering was actress Leonor Manso´s first operatic production. Although she transposes the action from the early eighteenth-century to the time of Donizetti, her concept was generally respectful of the music and the libretto, at times even too traditional. Two interesting things: she emphasized Lucy´s brother´s brutality, and in the Mad Scene she correctly makes Lucy smile as she remembers the happy moments spent with Edgardo. The minimalist stage designs were based on a huge disk which could be a fountain, a moon or a sun. Nothing in the stage indicated Scotland, and the Tower scene especially was quite unevocative. Stage designs and lighting were the work of Gonzalo Córdova, and the costumes by Mini Zuccheri were attractive if you accept the transposition in time.
            There were two casts although only one Lucy (I report on the first). Laura Polverini was an increasingly convincing Lucia, with adequate florid singing, although her timbre isn´t particularly ingratiating. Leonardo Pastore replaced the announced  Nazareth Aufe; he sang with some strain and a rather bland lyric tenor, though the end result was correct. Sebastián Angulegui as Enrico looked appropriately nasty, but his voice is too dry for bel canto. Roman Modzelewski was an adequate Raimondo (his aria was included). Iván Maier sounded rather green as Lord Arthur, Santiago Sirur gave an edge to Normanno (Enrico´s confidence man) and Verónica Canaves was a positive Alisa. With acceptable choral singing prepared by Miguel Pesce and pretty good orchestral playing under the young maestro Hernán Sánchez Arteaga, this was hardly a memorable “Lucia” but neither is it to be dismissed. 

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