This is a coupling of reviews on operetta and opera for children. I start with Juventus Lyrica´s final offering, a welcome vindication of the greatest of all operettas, Johann Strauss Junior´s “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”), in its original German. The institution had done it years ago with such poor results that I remember it as their all-time fiasco. This time the result was honorable, though scarcely ideal.
Mind you, operetta in German is for Argentines quite as difficult as a zarzuela is for Germans. For, along with other genres as zarzuela and opéra-comique, it has the added problem of spoken sections and it is notoriously more difficult to be idiomatic speaking than singing. It certainly showed on this occasion, and although they all tried hard, it wasn´t idiomatic enough, it sounded phonetically learnt in most instances. But I certainly prefer that to a bilingual version, with sung parts in German and spoken bits in Spanish.
As producer Ana D´Anna showed last year in “The Merry Widow” that she has a knack for the genre, and although this “Fledermaus” wasn´t as successful, it was certainly pleasant. There was somewhat more parody than needed, for this is in fact a refined comedy, but especially in Laura Penchi´s assumption of Adele and Eernesto Bauer´s of Dr. Falke, the result was communicative fun. They both sang quite well, in addition.
Chilean soprano Macarena Valenzuela is beautiful and moves with elegance, though not with natural comicality. And she managed the difficult Czardas with musical accuracy. Mariano Spagnolo sang Eisenstein with metallic forthrightness and too robust physique. As Alfred is supposed to be an Italian tenor, accent didn´t matter in Sebastián Russo´s performance; it was liberally sprinkled with snatches of arias introduced by D´Anna and probably conductor Carlos Calleja; his acting and singing are a bit green yet but promising. Prince Orlofsky´s trouser role was well taken by mezzo Griselda Adano with appropriate spleen. Frank, the jail director, was convincingly done by Fernando Álvar Núñez. Norberto Lara was a good singer-comedian as Dr. Blind, Carlos Kaspar was quite funny in the spoken part of Frosch, the jailer, and Claudia Montagna was a charming Ida.
The 34-strong Choir sang agreeably under Miguel Pesce and made their moves with enthusiasm. D´Anna had as stage designer Daniel Feijóo, whose structures were less attractive than expected, lacking airiness and sheer beauty, though functional enough. María Jaunarena´s costumes were mostly handsome and varied. The lighting by D´Anna and Fernando Micucci was especially good in the jail scene.
D´Anna followed tradition by adding an ad-hoc Divertissement in the Second Act. It started with a Johann Strauss Junior polca in a rather charmless choreography by Igor Gopkalo with a protagonist girl and four men escorting her. Then, three singers accompanied by Susana Cardonnet on the piano: octogenarian Gui Gallardo sang Gounod´s Mephisto´s Serenade from “Faust” with little voice and lots of style; tenor Darío Schmunck made a wise choice, the lovely “Ach so fromm” from Flotow´s “Martha”, done with nice lyricism; and soprano Soledad de la Rosa opted curiously for an old tango, “Nostalgia” by Cobián and Cadícamo, done with musicality as a “tango-canción”.
Calleja conducted his Orquesta Académica de Buenos Aires and the result was less good than last year´s “The Merry Widow”; Viennese character was lacking, as well as some technical polish, though acceptable in the whole.
July 1922. The famous puppet company of Vittorio Podrecca presented here Respighi´s opera “La bella addormentata nel bosco”. In 1933 the composer revised it and called the new score “La bella dormente nel bosco”. The 1922 version is lost, so there´s no way to compare it. Written for a chamber orchestra (in this case, 21 players) and intended for children, the Ensamble Lírico Orquestal premiered the 1933 work, on a libretto by Gian Bistolfi, in a trial performance last year at the Roma (Avellaneda). This year the ELO gave a whole run of performances at the Teatro del Globo of our Capital; only the first performance was in Italian, all others (including the one I saw) in an uncredited Spanish translation. Gustavo Codina was the conductor, and the stage production was done by his wife, Cecilia Layseca (who also sang beautifully as the Blue Fairy), with colourful scenery by Atilio de Laforé, Eliana Aramando and Adriana Torossián, lighting by Ernesto Bechara, charming costumes by Mariela Daga and simple choreography by Mariel Weselowski.
The piece is very worth knowing, done by an eclectic master composer with the right touch to communicate with children. The music follows the modified Perrault tale and I was particularly interested by one of the characters, the wicked Spindle that pricks the Princess and sends her into the long sleep. The libretto spans the centuries and thus we meet a “Mr. Dollar”.
Layseca´s production was fluid and reasonably professional, keeping the natural touch that attracts children. Codina got good playing from his orchestra and acceptable results from an amateur choir. Of the singers I liked (apart Layseca), Christian Casaccio as the Prince, María José Valerio (Spindle), Alicia Alduncín (Old Woman), Leonardo Menna (Woodcutter), Elena Deanna (Nightingale and Lilac Fairy), Enrique Borlenghi( the sad King), Sebastián Russo (Buffoon) and found poor Rocío Cereceda (The Princess) and Milagros Seijó (Cuckoo, Rose Fairy). Others were in the picture: Andrea González Cortiana (Duchess), Ariel Suárez (Mr. Dollar), Alfredo González Reig (Ambassador), Karen Paz (Queen). The dancing was very basic.