Any first opera by a great composer is worth knowing irrespective of its values, for serious opera lovers are interested in his development and in detecting signs of his maturity. Such is the case with Giacomo Puccini´s “Le Villi”, with a libretto by Ferdinando Fontana based on “Les willis” by Alphonse Karr, written when the musician was 25 and premièred at Milan on May 31, 1884. As it was successful, he made a version in two short acts attaining just an hour.The willys are the spirits of women who were betrayed by their bridegrooms or lovers and who return for revenge on them. It is in fact the same subject of Adam´s famous ballet “Giselle”.
“Le Villi” was seen in BA in 1886, but at the Colón or elsewhere it had to wait until November 1967 when it was offered with local singers (Simonella, De Lupka, Mastromei), conductor Martini, director Eisler, on November 1967. I wrote at the time on my own magazine: “great ability as orchestrator, clear sense of drama, easy and attractive melody”.
I was happy that an independent group called Orquesta Nuevos Aires attempted it. They offered six performances: I caught the one at the Sociedad friulana (Villa Ballester), which has a middle-sized auditorium without a pit and a small stage.
The 19-member orchestra under Leandro Soldano did a decent job, and the 13 singers of the small Choir of the Cia.Opera Puccini prepared by Elizabeth Laura Franchi Llorca, were clearly not professional and rather tentative in their movements, but enthusiastic. The five women dancers were good in an expressionist “witches choreography” by Tamara Seufer and Sofía Pérez. The production was impaired by small funds and lack of space though having a positive will.
The strongest point was the two main singers: Elisa Calvo showed a sizeable voice of good quality and sang with impetus, whilst adapting her acting to the different emotions of Anna in each act; and tenor Javier Suárez produced a powerful sound that could be heard in much larger halls and gave punch to his character. Weaker was baritone Ignacio Agudo as the saddened father of Anna. Graciela Marchesi proved a dramatic narrator in excellent Italian.