In recent years Argentine composers have written a good many chamber operas, simply because a full-scale opera is very expensive to put on and creators won´t risk it unless there is either a competition whose prize is the staging or otherwise having been commissioned to write one. Two recent instances: the start of the Cycle of Concerts of Contemporary Music (though it wasn´t a concert!) with "La libertad total" at the Teatro San Martín´s Sala Casacuberta, music by Lucas Fagin, text by Pablo Katchadjian; and at the Colón´s CETC, "Hércules en el Mato Grosso", music by Esteban Insinger, libretto by Pola Oloixarac. Both premières, of course.
Martín Bauer has led the San Martín cycle for close to twenty years, but he was also the czar (for a much shorter time) of the TACEC, the Argentino´s equivalent of the CETC. Even more than the latter, the former put the accent on experimentation, an orientation I dislike for it rarely produces good quality. But the new winds blowing at La Plata have ended the TACEC.
It was going to be the place of the Fagin/Katchadjian opus première but it was cancelled when already much advanced; Bauer decided to compensate the authors by giving them pride of place starting the aforementioned Cycle. I´m afraid it wasn´t a good move for the piece seemed to me clearly second-rate. I would have thought that after the precursors Lautréamont and Jarry the theatre of the absurd had already had illustrious practitioners such as Ionesco, Beckett and Arrabal.
The deplorable spoken text of Katchadjian took about half of the 50 minutes length and the absurdisms had no substance and no aim. The two actors met some characters who sang and were incomprehensible; the "singing" was pure distortion, presumably humoristic. Some reasonably interesting ambience was provided by nine players (a sense of timbre seemed to me the sole talent of this ill-advised venture).
I respect the professionalism of the singers who had thankless tasks: Mercedes García Blesa, soprano; Ricardo González Dorrego, tenor; Damián Ramírez, tenor; and Pol González, bass. And the players under Mariano Moruja were good. Luciano Ricio and Julián Cabrera were the harassed actors directed to shout their way through many passages by Mariano Tenconi Blanco. For the record, the poor stage and costume designs were by Micaela Sleigh, the rather better videos by Santiago Brunati and María José Jerónimo and the correct lighting by Matías Sendón. There were two performances.
I rather liked "Hércules en el Mato Grosso". It was commissioned by the CETC and the result was entertaining and original. The pretentious denomination of "lyric drama" is given to this imaginative telling of the perilous incidents met by two Europeans in the Mato Grosso during explorations in 1825. Three brief acts without intervals last 50 minutes. The text is in Portuguese, Quechua and German!
The opera is defined as "an imaginary trip based on a true story" involving the botanist Baron Langsdorff and the French painter Hercule Florence, a would-be predecessor of photography ("painting with light"). Two metaphoric characters evoke the terrible Green Hell: Anacondas Rainha and Vestal, monstrous and seductive. Oloixarac´s libretto and Insinger´s suggestive music (mainly tonal) weave a convincing spell, aided by the attractive stage design of Luna Paiva, the adequate costumes of Leticia Pompei and the good lighting by Eduardo Pérez Winter. Walter Jakob produced with fine attention to detail.
Very well sung by Alejandro Spies (baritone) and Martín Díaz (tenor), they were at times surrounded by the dangerous duets of the Anacondas, done with much conviction by sopranos María Paula Alberdi and María Virginia Majorel. The only players were pianists Victoria Gianera and Leandro Rodríguez Jáuregui,.very competent. The whole was coordinated by Sebastián Zubieta. Both at the beginning and the end there were some offstage electroacoustics by Diego Cano. The place was packed and four performances were given.
The Great Anniversary Gala of Juventus Lyrica is a cause to rejoice: a private opera group has reached its fifteenth year with a good level of artistry, a considerable audience and a fidelity to its main idea: opera done with love and conviction. It was a staged concert at the Avenida conducted by Antonio Russo and produced by Ana D´Anna, the twosome that founded Juventus. There were ups and downs but the end result was agreeable. Four performances with different casts; I attended the fourth, delayed 35 minutes due to the gigantic decibels of the Gay Parade outside the theatre!
There were no less than 27 pieces, all opera or operetta save for the "attributed" Rossini Buffo duet for two cats. The orchestra was too small (only 21) and some arrangements were the consequence. Best points: Figaro´s entrance aria in Rossini´s "Barber..." by a brilliant young baritone, Juan Font. The "Rigoletto" duet with an intense Jaquelina Livieri and an intelligent interpretation by Ernesto Bauer. An "E lucevan le steelle" ("Tosca") very firmly sung by Darío Sayegh. A beautiful "Va pensiero" from the Chorus of Juventus (Hernán Sánchez Arteaga). The low point: an absurd Queen of the Night aria sung by four (?) sopranos.
Fragments from "La Boheme", "Les Contes d´Hoffmann", "Carmen", "le Nozze di Figaro", "Don Giovanni", "Les Pêcheurs de Perles " plus operettas by Johann Strauss II and Lehár were acceptably done but with too loose a hand from D´Anna; the singers sometimes interacted with Russo and the public in a spirit of fun. The veteran maestro was spry and musical. I will mention as positive Laura Polverini, Carlos Ullán, partially Enrique Folger, Soledad de la Rosa, Laura Penchi, Rocío Arbizu.
For Buenos Aires Herald