What an utterly miraculous score this is! I doubt if Tchaikovsky wrote anything finer than the scene in the Countess’ bedroom and the following nightmarish haunting scene at the St Petersburg barracks. The Queen of Spades is a score that has run through my musical and professional life back to before I embarked on higher education. I was fortunate enough to work as a lowly assistant stage manager on New Sussex Opera’s production helmed by a promising young director, Nick Hytner, and a cast including John Treleavan, William Shimmell and Patricia O’Neil. Hytner took his cue from the original Pushkin and set the whole opera in the madhouse in which the crazed Herman is incarcerated. I may be looking back through rose-tinted memory but that production still strikes me as one of the best that I’ve experienced. Alas, since then, apart from Graham Vick’s excellent Glyndebourne production, I have suffered a series of bitter disappointments ranging from Richard Jones’ inexplicably overpraised WNO version – complete with wobbly skeleton -through Francesca Zambello’s disastrous heap-of-snow ROH outing and, most recently, David Alden’s dowdy ENO production which seemed little more than a collection of rehashed ideas from his previous shows. Finally this year my luck changed with Stefan Herheim’s dazzlingly inventive and technically jaw-dropping production for Dutch National Opera, boasting a top notch cast and the luxurious underpinning of the Concertgebouw under Mariss Jansons. This production used a bold Regie concept while never betraying Tchaikovsky and Pushkin in the way that several of the previously mentioned culprits were most definitely guilty of.

The Queen of Spades - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Opera Holland Park - 2nd August 2016

Conductor - Peter Robinson
Director - Rodula Gaitanou
Designer - Cordelia Chisholm
Lighting Designer - Simon Corder
Choreographer - Jamie Neale

Herman - Peter Wedd
Lis

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‘I do love Gilbert and Sullivan’, the jailor Frosch earnestly declares as he mimes The Blue Danube with the assistance of his clanging prison keys in the third act of Opera Holland Park’s new staging of Die Fledermaus. The humourous solecism is archetypal of an evening that so readily fuses the grand Viennese waltzes and style of Johann Strauss II’s buoyant score with a thoroughly English sensibility. Director Martin Lloyd-Evans’s staging sets the scene not in fin de siècle Vienna but rather in the roaring London of the early twentieth-century.

Die Fledermaus - Johann Strauss II - Opera Holland Park - 19 July 2016 Conductor - John Rigby Director - Martin Lloyd-Evans Designer - takis Lighting Designer - Howard Hudson Gabriel von Eisenstein - Ben Johnson Rosalinde - Susanna Hurrell Adele - Jenni Read the rest of this entry »

The first offering of the Opera di Firenze summer season, L’elisir d’amore and this Traviata have one thing in common: both are set in times and places quite remote from the ones indicated in the librettos, and – what’s more important – in locations known to almost everyone through endless movies and TV shows (the “South West” Elisir) or one of the most celebrated and iconic film of international cinema, Fellini’s La dolce vita, as in the case of the Verdi evergreen. Director Alfredo Corno places the action during the shooting of the movie, a classic case of captivating and engrossing ‘metatheatre’, even though, as it often happens in such cases of adaptations, some arm-twisting becomes necessary in order to force extraneous elements into the plot. After the projection in reverse of a poorly attended funeral procession during the Prelude, Act I opens in front of the Trevi Fountain, with our heroine dressed and coiffed as Anita Ekberg, making it immediately clear that they are on the set of the famed movie: Gastone is a paparazzo and the other interpreters and the chorus play other actors, stagehands, waiters, make up artists and so on. The audience soon realises that, if some scene are part of the script (the “Brindisi”, for instance), other, starting from Violetta’s sudden illness, are real life events. This prompts the first perplexities, because an actor falling in love with a colleague in the 1960s is not such a scandal as to cause his father to try to put a stop to the affaire; but in the finale of Act II the father is revealed to be an actor himself (playing Casanova, no less) and perhaps his attempt to shelter his son from a world he knows too well become more plausible. This finale takes place once again in a studio (Cinecittà studio number 5, where Fellini shot most if not all his movies), with a gathering of the most varied and eccentric Fellinesque humanity: the drag queens, the curvaceous, wide bosomed, mature women revealing too much skin (all played with fearless gusto by the choristers), the clergymen, and finally Gelsomina and “The Fool” tenderly comforting Violetta during the ensemble. Act III brings us in a dreary hospital room: Annina, who in the previous acts had appeared to me a sort of a manager or a secretary, is now a nun; Alfredo’s entrance is as unsentimental as it can be, keeping at a safe distance from Violetta, who manages somehow to pull him towards her; and Germont, a toy trumpet in his pocket, had clearly taken part to the Carnival celebrations. Paparazzo Gastone tries to take a photo of Violetta’s corpse. A gelid, aseptic death in the common indifference, with the exception of Suor Annina.

Prima Traviata

Firenze, Cortile di Palazzo Pitti, luglio 2016. Un momento della Prima della Traviata di Giuseppe Verdi, diretta da Fabrizio Maria Carminati, con la regia di Alfredo Corno e l’Orchestra ed il Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Florence, Pitti Palace Courtyard, July 2016. A moment of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, directed by Fabrizio Maria Carminati, conducted by Alfredo Corno and Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Fabrizio Maria Carminati’s reading of the score may not be to everyone’s liking, but I am sure that even his detractors cannot remain indifferent to his coherence and originality. A lean sound, linked to relatively fast tempos and a scarce interest in highlighting colours give birth to – in an almost black and white expressionism – pictures of intense tragedy, pervaded by a sort of gloomy fatalism. This is a society that, far from enjoying itself, plunges into an oppressive void, a society with no hope of rescue; the incessant hammering of the violins during the scene of Flora’s party turns into a true danse macabre. Absent is the feverish, neurotic wish for life that burns in so many Violettas: the Act I party is characterized only by fragility and weakness, overwhelmed by a relentless inexorability. Thus there is no rebellion or fight in Act II; she can only yield to something that had been foreboding since the very beginning.

Prima Traviata

Firenze, Cortile di Palazzo Pitti, luglio 2016. Un momento della Prima della Traviata di Giuseppe Verdi, diretta da Fabrizio Maria Carminati, con la regia di Alfredo Corno e l’Orchestra ed il Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Florence, Pitti Palace Courtyard, July 2016. A moment of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, directed by Fabrizio Maria Carminati, conducted by Alfredo Corno and Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Carminati’s conception was fully comprehended and followed by his leading lady. Francesca Dotto, a young soprano who has recently made headlines for taking part in the so-called “Valentino’s Traviata” at the Rome Opera House (which was Sofia Coppola’s first ever operatic production) does not have a particularly alluring or distinguished timbre, nor is it one of those voices that one recognises instantly, but it is a technically proficient instrument capable of doing full justice to virtually everything Verdi requires from her. She offered a charmingly fragile Violetta in the first act: the passagework was more than competent, with accurate descending roulades, and she was able to express the recklessness, if not the neurosis, suggested in “Sempre libera”. She sounded at ease at the top, where high Cs (including the repeated ones on “volar”) were secure and ringing, while the Ds flat of “Gioir!” sounded a little less confident. The optional E6 flat capping the cabaletta was very cautious and did not have that liberating power that it should when one chooses to include it. In the rest of he opera, her voice lacked the ideal body and warmth for the first scene in Act II, but she enacted it eloquently. “Dite alla giovine” was a measure of her art: she phrased it touchingly, with dignity and sorrow. “Amami, Alfredo” was sung very expansively but was perfectly proportioned. The final act had elegance. For example, “È tardi!” conveyed desperation without sounding vulgar or “veristic”. “Addio del passato”, fortunately sung in its entirety, was the peak of her performance. Despite the partial lack of desirable heft or seducing timbric quality, she chiselled the aria with a skilful game of chiaroscuros and delicate pianissimos, a further proof of her innate musicianship. Matteo Lippi (Alfredo), a pupil of Mirella Freni, is a another thirty-something tenor just a few years into his career. My impression is substantially positive, as he seems to be a tenor with a good knowledge of the mechanism of a correct vocal production; he is able to sing ‘on the breath’, to modulate an instrument gifted with a remarkable volume and a pleasant timbre, even though he seems to recur to a nasal sound too often, probably thinking this helps the ascent towards the top register. His looking too cold and staid on stage was probably due to the director’s concept of his character. Simone Del Savio was a fine Germont: his baritone is quite sizeable as well as a bit monolithic and not particularly nuanced. He also proved to possess a good schooling, and was able to perform technical feats such as skipping a breath (in the first strophe of “Di Provenza”) in “Dio mi guidò, Dio mi guidò” after the high F, reaching the climatic G flat without a break. Among the secondary parts the Flora of Ana Victoria Pitts (already appreciated in much bigger assignments) stood out with her appealing mezzo-soprano and her ability to perform the gruppetti of “Il lupo perde il pelo…” with precision. The cast also included Patrick Kabongo Mubenga, a tenor with a nice timbre and a less than acceptable diction, Byongick Cho, a particularly fearsome Douphol, Pavlo Balakin (Grenvil), Matteo Loi (Obigny), Eunhee Kim (a good singer wasted as Annina), Leonardo Melani (Giuseppe), Nicolò Ayroldi (Flora’s servant, also heard in more rewarding roles) and Nicola Lisanti (Commissionario). The Chorus and the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino were exquisite, as always.

Prima Traviata

Firenze, Cortile di Palazzo Pitti, luglio 2016. Un momento della Prima della Traviata di Giuseppe Verdi, diretta da Fabrizio Maria Carminati, con la regia di Alfredo Corno e l’Orchestra ed il Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Florence, Pitti Palace Courtyard, July 2016. A moment of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, directed by Fabrizio Maria Carminati, conducted by Alfredo Corno and Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Despite some confusing moments, it is legitimate to describe this Traviata as an ultimately successful production, with an accomplished cast and the technically flawless, whipping, I daresay appropriately cruel conducting of Fabrizio Maria Carminati.

Nicola Lischi

Photo credit: Simone Donati-Terra Project-Contrast

 

 

3 p.m. starts don’t agree with me at all: and on this showing I wouldn’t say they much agree with the Opera North orchestra’s principal horn either, who, offstage in the Act I Rhine Journey and the Act III foregathering of the hunt had pretty much the same catastrophes as befell him in Siegfried Act II on Thursday. Once I can forgive; twice, I get less forgiving; three times, and I think something needs doing (as it does with the ROH’s delinquent trumpets, big time and soonest). Still, these aberrations apart – and the largely inevitable assortment of sporadic wrong entries, split wind/brass chording and the odd lapse-of-ensemble scramble duly noted and allowed for – I have to say that the band’s performance, throughout in general, and today in particular, strikes me as the single finest “star-turn” of the whole cycle, with some quite ravishing string playing – silky violins, soulful cellos and gorgeous, gorgeous violas – and fabulously characterful winds, with an oily bass clarinet and a truly fat and nutty-sounding cor anglais. Excellent trumpets and trombones, too, not to mention the three offstage steerhorns which accompany Hagen’s summoning of the vassals in Act II, here brought onstage and turning out not to be steerhorns at all, but bizarre-looking, narrow-bell wooden, slide-less trombones which make the most stupendously coarse racket (and which turn out to be, I discover to my amusement, on loan from the Royal Opera House, where of course they haven’t been seen – as opposed to heard – before). Barenboim’s Berlin Staatskapelle forces caused conniptions at the Albert Hall in 2013 – I know: I was there, and reviewed it here – but I would say that the Opera North’s house band’s playing was markedly superior, and certainly (for the most part) more accurate in the all-important brass.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 21.17.38

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A grim setting for a grim tale. This new production of Il trovatore by David Bösch places the action in modern times, a war zone in winter, portrayed in monochrome greys and shadows. It is an atmospheric setting, an effective and unobtrusive updating. Musically, this is a strong production, with a robust cast, including a few real standout performances, and excellent chorus contributions and orchestral playing, conducted with drive and focus by Gianandrea Noseda, here making his Covent Garden debut.

160629_2456 IL TROVATORE, PRODUCTION IMAGE © ROH. PHOTO BY CLIVE BARDA

Il Trovatore by Verdi; Royal Opera House; Covent Garden; London, UK; 29 June 2016; Cast A: Željko Lučić as Count di Luna (left); Francesco Meli as Manrico; Lianna Haroutounian as Leonora; Conuctor – Gianandrea Noseda; Director – David Bösch; Set and video designer – Patrick Bannwart; Costume designer – Meentje Nielsen; Lighting designer – Olaf Winter; Photo: © ROH Photographer: CLIVE BARDA

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It’s often been observed that Siegfried is the Ring’s scherzo, the third “movement” of the four, and that it generally beats to a far fleeter pulse than any of the other constituent parts. But, in performance at least, this isn’t all that often evident. Richard Farnes, however, clearly takes the truism at face value, for this was by some margin the zippiest Siegfried I can ever recall encountering live, all done and dusted in just 3 hours 50 minutes (79’/73’/78’). In principle, I approve: I grew up listening to Goodall at work at the Coliseum but now find, somewhat to my surprise, that his accounts, as recorded live – fabulously well-sung as they were, way beyond the dreams of any opera house management today – are just dead-in-the-water exercises in turgidity and sloth, with some very poor orchestral playing to boot (perhaps as a result). So, a touch of briskness is more than welcome, such as Haitink – also to my surprise – used to bring to the work in his earliest performances (at the ROH in Götz Friedrich’s second staging, and in the recording studio for EMI). But Richard Farnes, I think, slightly miscalculates here, in that there were numerous passages, particularly those in Act I pertaining to what is termed “Siegfried’s Wrath” and the latter stages of the forging of the sword which tonight could only be described as frantic, to the point that not only could the Siegfried not manage to articulate the notes properly, but that there actually had to be a second percussionist drafted in to bash the little orchestral anvil on alternate notes to the main player, since it would be beyond the power of any mere mortal to hammer the notated rhythms accurately at this tempo on their own.

The Ring - Siegfried 07

SIEGFRIED by Wagner;Leeds Town Hall;Leeds, UK;11 May 2016;Siegfried – Lars Cleveman; Brünnhilde – Katherine Broderick; Mime – Richard Roberts;Wanderer – Béla Perencz;Fafner – Mats Almgren;Woodbird – Jeni Bern;Erda – Ceri Williams;RICHARD FARNES – Conductor;PETER MUMFORD – Concert staging and design concept;PETER MUMFORD – Lighting and projection designer;Credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL;

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Well, I’m certainly no better disposed towards the aggravating and plainly unnecessary literary glosses that pop up with monotonous regularity on the screens during all of the (depressingly numerous) passages when this concert presentation either can’t or won’t show us what’s supposed to be happening scenically at the time. After the opening half-an-hour of back-story already embedded in the sung – and far-too freely translated – text of Act I, no sooner has Hunding gone off leaving Siegmund alone than the Godforsaken intertitles get going again, telling us, just in case we either couldn’t see, weren’t paying proper attention thus far, or suffer from brain-damage, that “Siegmund slumped, exhausted, and weaponless. Then he remembered something his father had told him”. And so on and so on, mentioning the sword in the tree and ending with the epoch-makingly bathetic banality of “Surely this was the hour!” This isn’t a guide, it’s glutinous garbage, and since yesterday I’ve discovered by a perusal of the (very) small print in the cast-sheet that the “textual material used in the projection sequences [is] taken from “The Story of the Ring” by Michael Birkett, by kind permission of the author”. He would in my view have done us all a much greater kindness by withholding it, as would this cycle’s progenitor Peter Mumford by not wanting to include it in the first place.

The Ring - Die Walküre 05

DIE WALKÜRE by Wagner;Opera North;Leeds Town Hall;Leeds, UK;28 April 2016;Sieglinde – Lee Bisset; Siegmund – Michael Weinius; RICHARD FARNES – Conductor;PETER MUMFORD – Concert staging and design concept;PETER MUMFORD – Lighting and projection designer;Credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL;

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All I knew when I signed up to review this cycle well over a year-and-a-half ago was that it involved projection screens rather than scenery, and would bring us the musical forces of Opera North. All well and good. In between times I’ve been told of positive reports concerning both the theatrical and musical side of proceedings, but after this opening salvo I have to say that the “staging” is no such thing, and indeed isn’t even that notoriously fluid concept, a “semi-staging” (or at least not one that remotely works to the narrative and dramatic advantage of the piece in hand). This isn’t any kind of “staging of” at all so much as a sort of “Beginners Guide to” Wagner’s Der Ring, bereft of insight, intelligence, any kind of usefully illustrative information and even the merest ability to tell the story theatrically. Instead, all the three juxtaposed small square screens do stuck up in the Choir Stalls – reminiscent to me of 1960s Cinerama, except that that was ten times this size – is carry the white-on-white surtitles parcelled out over the heads of the relevant singers, together with miserably badly designed projections of water and clouds, punctuated continuously by, not Wagner’s own stage directions to describe both physical and scenic activity, but by some brain-numbing drivel written in Barbara Cartland-esque idiot prose describing what we’re not seeing – at the very moment we’re not seeing it – all in the past tense, together with the odd flight-of-fancy gloss such as describing Freia as “not in the springtime of her youth”. Who wrote this garbage? And who for? Half-wits? Readers of Mills and Boon? And bad as this all is, there’s worse.

The Ring - Das Rheingold 02

DAS RHEINGOLD by Wagner;Opera North;Leeds Town Hall; Leads, UK;21 April 2016;Left to right:JENI BERN as Woglinde;MADELEINE SHAW as Wellgunde;SARAH CASTLE as Flosshilde;Credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL;

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ENO’s Jenůfa burns slowly, its opening scene a meticulously measured psychological study of alienation and longing spread out over a gloomy expanse of concrete and harsh electric lighting. Amidst this barren backdrop, the work’s rural Moravian village transposed to an industrial estate in the Eastern Bloc, a wistful Jenůfa dreams of the future she will have with her beloved fiancé, Števa. She clutches a small, sad plant, a sprout of green hope conspicuously out of place in the unremittingly bleak landscape. Then Števa arrives, drunk and wild and raging, and it strikes home that despite Jenůfa’s aspirations there is little room for hope or love to blossom in this place.

ENO-Jenufa-Laura-Wilde-and-Peter-Hoare.Donald-Cooper

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If Anna Bolena updated the dramatic characters of an opera seria, L’elisir d’amore – a comic and rustic rendering of the Tristan and Isolde tale, redefines the elements of the “commedia buffa” of the eighteenth century, giving birth to a new terminology. Thus, the specification of “melodramma giocoso” of Elisir acquires its meaning in the moving, pathetic and elegiac smile that perfectly counterbalances the “buffo” laughter of the classic comic opera. And Donizetti pushed this semantic subtlety of the words even further when he called Don Pasquale a “drama buffo”.

L'elisir d'amore

Opera di Firenze. Cortile di palazzo Pitti. Prove generali dell’ opera “L’elisir d’amore”.

Apparently Elisir features characters that have been already exploited and even abused. Nemorino is the village idiot, ready to swallow, both literarily and figuratively, Tristan’s fairy tale; Dulcamara is the typical charlatan, and Belcore is the classic blustering and swaggering soldier going all the way back to Plautus’ “miles gloriosus”. Adina is the flirt, the girl who can read and write and looks down on the peasants. Modern psychology would consider her as the quintessential example of a narcissistic personality who believes that that everything is owed to her and who gets irritated if she realises that people in whom she is not interested are not interested in her: it is an easy guess that the union between a professional manipulator and a “beta” male (and some doubts about his virility come from the bassoon in the introduction to “Una furtiva lagrima”, an instrument that like the cor anglais and the clarinet were usually associated with female characters) with serious self-esteem problems is not destined to have a happy end. In any case the disparity between these four characters and their respective “maschere” of opera buffa is abysmal: the latter are epigones following a pre-determined model, while the former are perceived by Donizetti like eponyms into whose humanity idyll and gossip, scratches and sighs, cunning and naivety miraculously weave together. Donizetti uses sophisticated musical tools to highlight Nemorino’s sincerity in opposition to the simulation, the artifice and deceit of the others; already in the initial cavatina “Quanto è bella, quanto è cara”, apparently just a simple Larghetto in C major, it is easy to detect inflection in minor mode (first E minor and then C minor), true presentation cards of the melancholy and sentimental personality of the character, who, among other things in characterised by the tendency to express himself in flat keys, rather uncommon for a buffo character. The other three entrances are parodies: Adina, introduced with a waltz and a mazurka, does not believe at all in the existence of Isolde’s philtre; everything about Belcore’s military-style rhythms and pompous coloratura speak of exaggeration and braggadocio. The peak of lie and deceit takes place in Dulcamara’s cavatina, where – as it has often been remarked – the insisted use of proparoxytones (normally used in relation to supernatural entities ) underscores the insincere nature of the charlatan introducing himself as possessor of powers he does not have.

L'elisir d'amore

Opera di Firenze. Cortile di palazzo Pitti. Prove generali dell’ opera “L’elisir d’amore”.

It must not be easy for a director to stage this opera while trying to say something new and personal. True, most modern productions justly move the location from the Basque Country indicated in the libretto to the flatlands of Lombardy, Donizetti’s native region. Gianandrea Gavazzeni famously asserted that the score of Elisir is redolent with the same scent as the earth of the countryside around Bergamo. The last Florentine production by Rosetta Cucchi had placed the opera in a performing arts school (think Fame) in an American inner city with sets and costumes reminiscent of Grease or Happy Days, which worked very well, provided one forgot or did not pay attention to the countless references to peasants and country life spread throughout the libretto. The new production by Pier Francesco Maestrini, with sets by Juan Guillermo Nova and costumes by Luca Dall’Alpi, is even more convincing because, while not leaving the new continent, he placed the action in a rural village surrounded by corn fields: a billboard announces that part of the action takes place at the “1970 Florence Fair”, and among the US locations by that name, the only one relatively closer to Route 66 (a road sing indicates the village is in its proximity) in the one in Arizona, with its varied humanity of cowboys, hippies, farmers with their pitchforks, Hare Krishnas, Mennonite milk-women, alternative artists, upper class ladies still wearing 1950s style clutching their pearls, and of course beautiful, provocative young women with platform sandals, skimpy shorts and shirts tied right under their breasts. Adina is the owner of a junk food restaurant and Nemorino is one of her employees, forced to spend most of Act I in a chicken costume to promote the greasy spoon’s fried wings. Belcore is the typical drill sergeant inciting his soldiers with one of the most famous running cadences, and will never remove his mirror sunglasses. Dulcamara is a snake oil salesman eerily looking like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Giannetta is the classic blond all-American girl, a Mena Suvari doppelganger. This production featured an endless series of gags, jokes, almost always funny and fitting: for example the keyboard played the “Tristan chord” when Dulcamara mentions Isolde in his Act II duet with Adina, and the trumpets hinted at “When the Saints go marching in” in some other part.

L'elisir d'amore

Opera di Firenze. Cortile di palazzo Pitti. Prove generali dell’ opera “L’elisir d’amore”.

Nothing but praise must be heaped upon the conductor, Alessandro D’Agostini. From the very first chords it was clear that he would be a key factor in this performance’s success, occasionally a martinet in rhythmic accents and insistence in clean phrasing but obtaining verve and clarity from the excellent orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He did not ignore one of the cornerstones of a superior Donizetti performance, the rubatos. His conducting was rich with élan and languor, irony and passion, where elegance alternates to considerable stressing of the melodic abandonments. He seemed to find the right balance between the Janus Bifron nature of this opera that looks simultaneously at its eighteenth century roots and the unabashed Romanticism of many others moments. Extremely appreciated was his choice to perform the opera in its entirety with variations in the daccapos. Adriana Donadelli (Giannetta), a gorgeous young woman that can easily pass for a Texan beauty queen, with long legs, a Farrah Fawcett mane and the cheekbones of Jerry Hall, did however reveal a little vocal acerbity. The two lower voices acquitted themselves admirably: Marco Filippo Romano was a well sung Dulcamara, with precise patter, clear diction, a good legato (required in phrases like “ah, di patria il caldo affetto”) and a remarkable top (a secure high G in unison with the tenor at the end of their duet), but above all he was careful to eschew distasteful histrionics. Biagio Pizzuti displayed a rich, robust and virile baritone able to fill the grander phrases Donizetti allots his peacock sergeant, supported by a fine vocal production that enabled him to sing with suppleness and exhibit appreciable agility. Juan Francisco Gatell (Nemorino) did not start in good voice, causing some alarm with a cavatina that was not a model of homogeneous delivery. His performance decidedly improved all throughout the evening reaching good results in the most awaited moment, the Act II romanza, sung with a fine legato, a decent range of colours and intense pathos. But even before, the moment I personally consider the artistic peak of the opera “Adina, credimi”, interpreted with melancholy and a touch of feverishness, was heartbreaking. The queen of the party turned out to be Laura Giordano, a light-lyric soprano of moderate volume suited to the repertoire she has been performing; she has a warm, round timbre (which automatically sets her apart from the many soubrettes that monopolise this role) and a ringing, secure and easy top, as she repeatedly showed in the puntaturas: quite good was the two octave jump (C 6 – C 4). As for the agility, it was remarkable as demonstrated the triple-time cabaletta with its fast eight-note runs and spectacular variations.

L'elisir d'amore

Opera di Firenze. Cortile di palazzo Pitti. Prove generali dell’ opera “L’elisir d’amore”.

In conclusion, an Elisir well sung, well conducted, in a funny and entertaining production where nothing seemed to be left to chance and and – icing on the cake – staged in the courtyard of one of the most beautiful Italian palazzos: what more can one wish for?

Nicola Lischi

Photo credit: Pietro Paolini – Terre Project -Contrasto

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