martes, agosto 01, 2017

Donizetti British twosome: “Lucia di Lammermoor” and “Maria Stuarda”

            Out of Gaetano Donizetti´s vast production "Lucia di Lammermoor" is his best known operatic drama.  The Walter Scott novel about the sad destiny of crossed lovers from rival clans has some similitude with Shakespeare´s "Romeo and Juliet". The reign of William and Mary is clearly mentioned. They were crowned in 1688 as King and Queen of England and Scotland  after the defeat of James VII; the Restoration (the union of Scotland and England) had occurred in 1660. Lord Henry Ashton (Enrico in the opera) is the brother of Lucy (Lucia) and as a follower of James his future is in danger, so he needs the marriage of Lucy with Lord Arthur Bucklaw, advocate of William and Mary. But   Lucy is in love with  his enemy, Sir Edgar (Edgardo) Ravenswood.
             Librettist Salvatore Cammarano  gave Donizetti material for his gift for musical dramatic expression and  Romantic bel canto, and the opera is justly famous.  One point must be made: until the appearance of Callas, Lucia was treated as a field day for coloratura sopranos rather than as a dramatic though florid role; this distortion, however, wasn´t of the composer´s time. Callas, led by Tullio Serafin, gave sense to every word whilst maintaining excellent technical execution. When we had Sills and Kraus at the Colón in 1972 our audience heard the real thing; and we were shown a more complete "Lucia" without the traditional cuts: Raimondo´s arias, the Madness scene with the reactions of those present  including Enrico´s remorse, and the Tower tableau in which Enrico challenges Edgardo to a duel.
            How fares La Plata´s Argentino recent revival? Good enough though not brilliant vocally and orchestrally, but  a wrongly conceived staging, for producer Rita Cosentino, an avowed feminist, moves the action to the Victorian period because according to her it was a patriarchal time of gender violence. However, precisely then Scotland was quite at peace with England and furthermore there were no fights among clans; also, Enrico may use Lucia as a way to save his political skin but it´s quite logical that he should be startled to know that Edgardo loves her. And Cosentino´s affirmation that "Lucia isn´t mad" simply denies the libretto. Also, she wants everything to happen within the house, obliterating the garden and fountain  alluded in Lucia´s first aria; and later, Enrico, instead of receiving Lucia in an ambit with a desk,  invades his sister´s own room. Cosentino only respects the cemetery of the last scene. Nicolás Boni´s stark stage design, Imme Möller´s depressing costumes and Rubén Conde´s shadowy lighting are in accordance with the producer´s ideas.
            The best singer was Darío Schmunck, in firm voice and with stylish phrasing as Edgardo. Fabián Veloz was a sturdy Enrico, more boorish than usual following Cosentino. Oriana Favaro started weakly and gradually found a stronger voice and demeanor; the Mad Scene showed little insight but was cleanly sung. Apart from a shouty Arturo from Sergio Spina, the others were quite adequate: Emiliano Bulacios as Raimondo, Rocío Arbizu (Alisa) and Maximiliano Agatiello (Normanno). Expressive, intense job from conductor Silvio Viegas (Brazilian) and good choral work (Hernán Sánchez Arteaga).
            Short shrift to a botched revival of an attractive opera: Donizetti´s "Maria Stuarda", in which, based on Schiller´s poetic justice in his play, we have a tremendous scene between Mary and Elizabeth that didn´t happen...but it works. This modest production of Clásica del Sur at the Teatro Luz y Fuerza had a disastrous orchestra and mediocre choir. It was weird to hear Elizabeth sung by a soprano called María Castillo de Lima who is a tenor member of the Colón´s Chorus! Enormous voice but often forced and distempered, she-he provides an uncomfortable experience. Mirta Arrua Lichi as Mary had a bad cold and bravely went on with frequent accidents, but her singing and acting in her good moments were expressive. Fabricio Gori has an agreeable  lyrical tenor voice. Esteban Miotto was an experienced Lord Cecil, Lucas Miño sounded rather green as Talbot and Gabriela Ojeda, small-voiced but pleasant as Anna. Not one of conductor César Tello´s happy projects.  
For Buenos Aires Herald