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Posts Tagged ‘Tokyo New National Theatre’

In his new production of Wagner’s Parsifal for the New National Theatre, Harry Kupfer has decided to go beyond the Christian context of the work and draw parallels with Buddhism: he mentions the strife for knowledge through compassion as related to the quest for enlightenment with the communion with all things or the idea of Kundry expiating her fault through many reincarnations. Richard Wagner himself has read about Buddhism and it is indeed an interesting idea to bring this connection to the fore, especially when you are in Asia. That said, I wonder if the Japanese audience noticed any reference beyond the three extras dressed as Buddhist monks who help Parsifal to find his way back to Montsalvat. Other than this, the staging looks pretty much like a Kupfer staging as you would see in Germany. The single set shows a lightning-shaped walkway that, with the help of elevators and projections, transforms itself according to themes mainly related to the four elements. For the Gralshalle, screens with Gothic architectural stonework are used. It all looks a bit abstract almost as a digital-era version of an Adolphe Appia production, but for the final twist: Parsifal doesn’t replace Amfortas, but rather replaces the idea that there should be a Montsalvat. He wraps himself in an orange mantle and walks away with Kundry and Gurnemanz, while the Gralsritter look bemused by having to find their own way of finding enlightenment.

This is the second Parsifal I happen to hear under the baton of Tajirou Iimori. Last time I wrote that Mr. Iimori is an experienced Wagnerian who concentrates rather on detail. This impression was confirmed today, if you overlook the fact that strings in the Tokyo Philharmonic lack volume and are unclear in passagework. Although woodwind and brass instruments had pride of place and played with admirable clarity, the conductor managed to avoid a brassy, unsubtle orchestral sound. One could guess that the idea had a Furtwänglerian inspiration, but in order to achieve this one really needs a truly rich-toned string section and phrasing of real expressive power. As it was, every minute seemed to last twice its length, especially in the second act, when the proceedings seemed to go dangerously close to a halt. A cast of unusual subtlety could have benefited from the approach, but this was not always the case here, especially in the key role of Gurnemanz.

John Tomlinson is a veteran Wagnerian singer, with a voice of gigantic proportions, still attractively dark and cleanly projected, except at the top, when it sounds dry, unstable and effortful. His Wotan used to be energetic and incisive rather than noble and nuanced and it is quite admirable that he could create today a believable performance without the Lieder singing qualities usually associated to this difficult role. If this opera were La Forza del Destino, he would have Melitonized his Padre Guardiano: this Gurnemanz had a rather cheerful disposition, a rough-edged directness that made his dismissal of Parsifal in the end of act I quite “predictable”. In act III, his acknowledgment of Parsifal seems informed rather by a simple and good-hearted nature than by wisdom or spiritual awareness, what is new to me, but surprisingly effective. This blunter approach needed a more enveloping orchestral sound to produce the right effect, though. Egils Silins’s Amfortas too lacked a softer touch. His whole approach seemed to be 100% to 150%, what made his act I monologue an overkill from moment one. Also, his bass baritone has developed a wobble that made the whole experience even less appealing. A Titurel with a wayward sense of pitch did not help things.

If there was a singer who benefited from the circumstances, this was Evelyn Herlitzius. This very industrious singer with a powerful voice – yet not easy on the ear – kept you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. First, her dramatic soprano is in excellent shape. Her lower notes were richly and warmly sung and she seemed decided to explore the very limits of her tonal palette, trying shades of mezza voce that I didn’t even know she could produce, delivering her text with crispy diction and sense of story-telling and darting her high notes with complete ease. I particularly cherish the fact that she waited until the end of act II to resort to her full powers, and this worked as an interesting theatrical effect. Her acting was also fully committed and effective. It is not the world’s most sensuous voice, but all in all hers was one of the most interesting Kundrys I have seen and heard in the theatre. Her Parsifal, Christian Frantz, is very clumsy in the acting department and, when a Heldentenor is really required, he can sound a bit tense and metallic. Yet he could often produce an impression of innocence and youth in an almost Mozartian sound and then shift to a René Kollo-like snarl in the next moment. Even if one can imagine this role more aptly cast, this German tenor offered some interesting possibilities in terms of interpretation. Robert Bork (Klingsor) was a firm-toned, unexaggerated Klingsor. One must praise the New National Theatre for a team of unusually sensuous-toned Blumenmädchen and for the very clean choral singing.

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In the bunraku play adapted for kabuki Kokusen’ya Kassen (The Battles of Coxinga), the warrior Watounai and his mother Nagisa are sent to China in order to offer General Kanki alliance in their common purpose of restoring the Ming Dinasty. When they arrive at the gates of Shishigajou Castle, there is a problem: according to the law, foreigners are not allowed inside. Since they have military secrets to discuss, the Chinese propose a compromise: the old lady can come if she agrees to have her arms bound. They are both outraged and Watounai threatens to draw his sword, but Nagisa – “as a Japanese person would do” – smiles. As you can see, it is not from today that the Japanese have disliked public display of emotions. Now imagine the effect of Italian opera on people who work hard to be collected even among friends: Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco claiming vendetta and confessing amore in full stentorian voice as if their lives depended on that in front of thousands of people. At this point you can see the appeal of becoming an opera singer in this country: your job being letting it all out in the name of art. This may sound like wild generalization, but I ask my eight or nine readers – have you heard of a Japanese singer who has distinguished him or herself internationally as a Mozart singer, in the way… someone like Sumi Jo has done?

As it seems, the majority of domestically trained Japanese singers are irresistibly attracted to Verismo and some Verdi… with the possible exception of those who sing with the Bach Collegium Japan. Even when they do sing other repertoire, the pamphlets advertising solo recitals almost invariably show people extravagantly dressed to sing Puccini and Verdi. Displaying feeling through the mastery of immaculate technique, sense of style and absolute grace could be a summary of the art of Kabuki actors, but it is also how a Mozartian singer could be described – this seems, however, to be less appealing a task for someone who could be ultimately letting it rip as Nedda or Canio. I have seen Japanese singers in Mozartian roles in the New National Theatre and I am afraid that it has never been a pleasure (I have discovered some very impressive Wagnerians born in this country nonetheless). I have refrained from posting a review on a Magic Flute without International guest singers from that theater and even more so because I couldn’t make myself stay for the second act.

The reason why I’ve decided to attend to the Idomeneo offered by the Nikikai Opera Company with an all Japanese cast is the fact that I was curious to see Damiano Michieletto’s 2013 production for the Theater an der Wien. As it seems, the genial atmosphere of the Da Ponte opera seems to inspire the Venetian director more positively than opera seria. The single set shows a sand box surrounded by white curtains. In it, we can see remains of war: shoes, suitcases, pieces of furniture. Nobody seems to be particularly happy about Greece’s victory over Troy, but rather gloomy in all shades of grey. This has an effect of having the cast throw things around – while poor Arbace’s job seems to be getting the trash out of the way for the next scene while he sings his long recitatives. When the second tenor finally got to sing one aria, he had already tossed aside 100 pieces of luggage and seemed so exhausted that he could barely get to the end of his phrases. This unimaginative and bizarrely awkward concept (have I told you that Ilia gives birth to a baby on stage during the ballet music in the end of the opera?) involves Elettra shown as a brainless bimbo obsessed with glittery dresses and high heels (to be used in the sandbox…). This meant that her sensuously expressive aria d’affetto would be transformed into operetta-ish couplets sung off-pitch amidst capers. If the director really wanted to use his imagination, he could have thought of something convincing for Idomeneo, Idamante and Ilia to do during D’Oreste, d’Ajacce.

If there was something positive about this performance, this was Jun Märkl’s conducting. His structural understanding of the score informed an ideal orchestral balance, an absolute control of rhythmic flow, even when he indulged in some well-judged playing with tempo… I feel tempted to write “sense of theatre”, but the truth is that a problematic cast and a not truly virtuosistic orchestra did not allow him real impact. In any case, the Tokyo Symphony gave the maestro its best and occasionally played with gusto. I cannot say something similar of the Nikikai Chorus, who lacked discipline and couldn’t cope with the solo demands (here given to a reduced group of choristers). The edition adopted today involved none of the arias cut in the Munich première (but for the above mentioned D’Oreste, d’Ajacce), the excision of Arbace’s Se il tuo duol and a large chunk of the scene with the High Priest, the use of one of the longer versions of the utterance of the Oracle and a reduced ballet music.

Now the singers. I have to assume that Yukiko Aragaki (Ilia) must have been seriously indisposed this afternoon. Her soprano is produced with a piercing metallic edge with occasional saccharine off-focused almost white-voiced moments (which I suppose to be attempts at shaded dynamics). Pitch and note values were too often imprecisely handled and, judging the effort to produce what Mozart wrote, the misguided exercise in ornamentation should have been duly avoided. Chikako Ohsumi’s Elettra was an alternately admirable and infuriating experience. Nature gave her an echt Mozartian soprano drammatico: it is bright, but not light; rich but well-focused; and it runs to its high notes without any effort. One can see that there is a Donna Anna hidden somewhere there, but there are problems with technique (unsupported low registered, her natural high notes become tight with pressure, there is a lot of sharpness going on there…), with style (problematic legato, tendency to peck at notes and truly ill-advised fondness for upward transposition…) and with discipline. There were moments where everything was in the right place and the effect was indeed amazing, but those were unfortunately always short-lived. It made me sad to see such potential going awry. Takumi Yogi (Idomeneo) is in comparison technically more finished: he has very long breath and, even if the coloratura was smeared here and there, he tackled the florid version of Fuor del mar less perilously than some famous tenors. However, he is not an elegant singer and very poorly acquainted with classical style, singing emphatically and stolidly most of the time. In his invocation to Neptune, where I can guess that the conductor had said something like “please attack the notes CLEANLY”, he showed how better the whole performance could have been if the same care had been used elsewhere.

I leave the best for last. I have seen Makiko Yamashita sing small roles in the New National Theatre for a while and have always enjoyed her warm, fruity mezzo and wished to hear her in a major role. Idamante is a tough piece of singing and although her Italian is a bit lifeless, she inhabits a different stylistic and expressive world from the rest of this cast. She is a natural Mozartian singer who phrases with poise and musicianship, only challenged by the high tessitura. As it was, both arias tested her sorely and she only made it to the end out of diligence and knowledge of her own limitations. I am not convinced that she doesn’t really have the high notes – they are there begging to be used, but it seems that she should work on her breath support to accomplish that. In any case, the artistry and the loveliness of tone are already there.

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The problem of staging decadence is that the audience has to understand that there have been upper standards at some point. When you are shown something that looks like the dictionary example of “tawdry”, one might wonder why Arabella finds it important to explain Mandryka that the Waldners lead a dubious existence there. In Philippe Arlaud’s obscenely ugly, blunt and superficial staging, even Mandryka’s untrained eyes would not need more than a glimpse of the whole thing to feel that he might be somewhere unashamedly second-rate. In it,  you could take Baron Waldner for a waiter, the Baroness for the owner of a brothel and Arabella for the cashier with the messy coiffure. If someone like Lisa della Casa or Kiri Te Kanawa had the bad luck to show up in a place like that, a sensible bouncer would escort her out and find her a cab.

Although there is not vulgarity in Anna Gabler’s Arabella, she ultimately fits her surroundings by the absence of any charisma and glamor, both in stage presence and singing. Her mezzo-ish soprano lacks radiance, does not project very well, has a hint of throatiness and sounds bottled up in its high notes. Her legato too can be problematic and the end of phrases are often undersupported and there is a problem of intonation (in the act II duet with Mandryka things went particularly astray). In those circumstances, interpretation here has fallen behind the intent to survive the high tessitura and the heavy orchestration. Anja Nina Barhmann’s Zdenka wouldn’t normally offer strong competition (as every good Zdenka should), but the natural brightness of her voice and her comparatively clear diction put the audience on her side, even if the ability of floating mezza voce eludes her entirely. As a matter of fact, the most testing passages brought upon a piercing and grainy sound that made her Zdenka more hysterical than exalted. Replacing Steve Davislim, Martin Nyvall was truly unfazed by the high notes in the part of Matteo. His medium and low registers, however, lack focus. The tonal quality, truth be said, is far from unpleasant. Even if Wolfgang Koch’s Mandryka is really devoid of charm, his glitch-free, firm-toned singing placed him far above of every other element in this performance. I would even say that his first act was top-notch in richness, volume and sense of line. As almost every other singer in this role, he would get a bit tired in act II, but even then he invariably produced exemplary heroic top notes – yet he seemed increasingly unengaged. If I had to appear in front of an audience with such ridiculous and unbecoming clothes, maybe I would feel that way too. Hidekazu Tsumaya worked a bit too hard for his Viennese accent as Waldner, but acted and sang famously, embracing the misguided directorial choices with gusto.

Although this evening’s drawbacks were various, Bertrand de Billy’s spineless conducting of a Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra matte in sound, unclear in articulation and often clumsy was the ultimate deathblow in Richard Strauss’s beautiful score. And saggy tempi only gave the audience plenty of time to realize the extent to which the composer has been ill-treated in his 150th jubilee.

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Since Les Contes d’Hoffmann is technically the only opera of a composer of operettas, one forgets how it is theatrically and musically difficult. The fact that Offenbach could not prepare a definitive score has a great deal to do with it. As it is, although the various editions around offer different solutions, they all basically try to make it sound less of the patchwork it essentially is: style changes a lot during the opera; the idea of one soprano and one bass-baritone for various roles is as unpractical as having a crowded cast; and the title role is a very tough piece of singing (to say the truth, every role here is far from easy, but the tenor sings far longer than anyone else). The New National Theatre’s present staging, premièred in 2003, uses a composite version – it is basically a generously cut Oeser edition colored by borrowings from the Choudens version (especially in the Giulietta act, where one – most fortunately – can listen to the “inauthentic” diamond aria and the sextet).

Philippe Arlaud’s production has many splashes of kitsch in its acid colors, fake perspectives and cute choreographies. Its overbusyness makes for very little atmosphere and the main characters are often surrounded by dozens of extras. There are some very striking images now and then, but curiously none of them involve the supernatural episodes in the plot, which are very uninterestingly conceived by the creative team. Conductor Frédéric Chaslin too believes in overbusyness – everything here sounded fast and furious. At first, I wished for a little bit more charm and detailed expression, but considering the cast’s limitations, this proved to be a wise decision in a long opera (prologue and epilogue included). There were many moments where singers would be drowned by the orchestra, but judging from what you could still hear from them most of the time, the big orchestral sound was a good trade off.

I had never heard Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz before and I cannot tell if his voice usually sounds as colorless and devoid of squillo as this afternoon. I hope not. In order to send some sound into the auditorium he had to work really hard. Fortunately, he has enough stamina to run a marathon. In the Giulietta act, his middle register was raspish and grey-toned and the low notes were long gone, but he could still muscle up for his high notes without any hesitation. His French is quite passable and he tried to avoid excessive Italianate-ness. It must be said that he has charisma and the perfect attitude for the role, acting with true abandon.

His three love interests were cast with Japanese singers. Hiroko Kouda (Olympia) is the only survivor from the 2003 cast. Her voice is a a little bit richer than one usually hears in this role, but she tried – not without some strain – some very high options. There have been more coruscating Olympias on stage and in records, but Ms. Kouda deserves praise for the intelligent way she portrayed her character’s mechanical nature without tampering with musical values. Keiko Yokoyama (Giulietta)’s soprano has a basically interesting color, but her method involves too much pressure and, even if it seems voluminous enough a voice, imperfect focus does not grant it enough carrying power. Moreover, the role does not fit her placid personality. Although the part of Antonia is on the high side (and the trills off limits) for Rie Hamada, her complex, extra-rich soprano with a touch of Martina Arroyo and sensitive, musicianly phrasing made her the most interesting singer this afternoon.

The Nicklausse, Angela Brower, has a soprano-like mezzo, modest in size but bright enough to pierce through. She is at ease with French style and has good pronunciation of Racine’s language. Hers was a congenial, pleasant performance. Mark S. Doss’s voice is one size smaller than required for the bad-guy roles and a bit curdled in tone, but he is an intelligent singer who offered the best French in the cast, athletic divisions as Dr. Miracle and even managed a smooth Scintille, diamant.  This is an opera without unimportant roles and one could have had some imports from France to add some spice. In any case, someone minimally acceptable for the role of Crespel.

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Andreas Homoki’s all-purpose staging of… in the Komische Oper, this was Richard  Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, but here in the Tokyo New National Theatre it is supposed to be Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Anyway, I’ll walk you through the checklist – the color palette is limited to white/black/gray, there is only one set that comes apart at some point, there is a great deal of stylization/anachronism going on and singers are kept very busy throughout. To be honest, the production is 10 years old and I cannot say how many original ideas by Homoki are still in use. In any case, Spielleiter Yasuhiro Miura has done his job: in this sugar-rush approach – throngs of extras involved – everybody seems to be in the right place at the right time with the right motivation. It is all most uninterestingly efficient – and the animation from the cast is not of much help here.

“Animation” is the keyword to describe Ulf Schirmer’s conducting too, keen on fast tempi, crispy accents and regularity of pace. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra was seriously tested in what regards clarity by the unrelenting beat, but never gave up trying. This has given the performance some spirit – and even if dazzling accuracy would have been welcome, I would choose spirit over mechanical correctness anytime… What the conductor seemed to be rather careless about was his singers. At some times, I wondered if there had been any full rehearsal, for ensembles were invariably poorly balanced and synched. Sometimes a singer would sound unhappy about the tempo chosen for his aria; in other moments, he or she sounded as if he or she would have benefited of some guidance in style by the conductor. If this were a cast of exceptional abilities, maybe the magic would have operated by itself.

Mandy Fredrich has many advantages for the role of the Countess Almaviva: her voice is clear and uncomplicated and, having dealt with the role of the Queen of the Night as early as in last year’s Salzburg Festival, does not seem to find anything in this part really high (actually, she sing her own high notes better than almost every Countess I have ever seen live). She can also produce very clean Mozartian lines and has crystalline diction. But – and again this is a big “but” – the voice has a cold, uncongenial tonal quality and she too often sounds prosaic in moments in which she should sound simply scrumptious (the entire Porgi, amor, for instance). Her Susanna, Kanae Kushima, on the other hand, is very congenial – her voice has a smile and she knows what kind of woman Susanna is. However, faulty intonation and technique (she desperately needs a plausible solution for her low register) make it very hard to enjoy her performance. Deh vieni, non tardar was below amateurish. If a soprano has so little affection for this lovely piece of music, she should not be singing this role. Ukranian mezzo-soprano Lena Belkina (Cherubino) too made very little of her arias – she and Mozart are not really best friends. Levente Molnár’s baritone has an attractive Thomas Allen-like color and – some “acting with the voice” apart – is quite stylish. He can be clumsy in some key moments, but something must have gone seriously wrong during the Count Almaviva’s big aria. The stretta was all over the place. As Figaro, Marco Vinco produced the right endearingly goofy impression – native Italian being a great advantage. The voice unfortunately has a muffled, not very youthful quality.

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When the curtains opened this afternoon for Damiano Michieletto’s 2011 production of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte for the New National Opera, the revolving set with a realistic forest gave me a feeling of déjà vu from Claus Guth’s Don Giovanni from Salzburg. But then I’ve remembered that Guth’s awful production was set inside a house where Don Alfonso had some sort of mesmeric power over the two young couples. The déjà vu happened again when this evening Don Alfonso had a similar episode of telekinesis by the end of the opera. Thank God the similarities ended there. Here we are in some sort of camping resort: Don Alfonso is the supervisor, Despina is the waitress, everybody else is a guest. Are you thinking of Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito’s Youth Hostel production from Amsterdam? Me too, but in the Nederlandse Opera, the sisters and her boyfriends were shown as teenagers whose inexperience accounted for many hard-to-believe plot twists.

Here, Fiordiligi and Dorabella are probably the most down-to-earth people on stage – they take good care of themselves, clean their own camper truck, hold well their liquor and drive themselves the “Albanian” (i.e., “biker gang”) fellows away, when they first “show up”. Why do they behave just like the précieuses imagined by Lorenzo da Ponte? Good question… I have tried hard to see the point behind setting the action in the camping resort, but I could find none other than the fact that Paolo Fantin’s sets and costumes are nice to look at. In his Don Giovanni for La Fenice, Michieletto offered many insights into Da Ponte’s characters in a psychological whirlwind of desire, repression and excess. Here the psychology is cardboard level. Some would say “better so – now he can just tell the story”. Really? Fiordiligi and Dorabella refer to portraits, uniforms, drinking glasses that exist only in their imagination (and in the libretto, but not on stage), Despina’s disguise as a notary would fool only a blind person, among many loose ends. When Don Alfonso starts to use magic powers to hypnotize the group of young people only to end the opera with evil laughs, the audience has already given up to find some sense in all this. To make things worse, in order to accommodate the directorial choices, both finali were trimmed of some good music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (I won’t mention Fernando’s “difficult” opera, for this is an usual sin…).

Yves Abel is a theatrical conductor and also very kind to his cast – even when the tenor tried a tenuto on a high note, impairing the accompanying figures in the orchestra. His tempi were well chosen, vivid and coherent with the stage action, but the orchestra – kept on a leash to make these singers’ lives easier – could phrase with more clarity. A less pellucid tone would add a little bit more spark to the proceedings as well.

Miah Persson’s soprano too has seen brighter days. Now it can sound a bit tight, fluttery and metallic in its higher reaches, but – and considering the role’s formidable difficulties, this is a bit “but” – she does not cheat in florid passages, can sing piano when this is necessary (“mezza voce” would not be the right way to describe it though) and deals very commendable with the lower tessitura. She has very good sense of Mozartian style and is never careless with the text, but the voice itself has very little variety and, even if one hears her well, the results are small-scaled. Her Dorabella, Jennifer Holloway, took a while to warm, but once she reached performance level, offered a fruity mezzo, reasonable flexibility and a winning personality. If she really wants to sing Mozart, she still has to learn Italian and how to sing softer dynamics. Akie Amou has the attitude and the right Fach for Despina, but it seems that the days when the likes of Lucia Popp and Ileana Cotrubas were cast in this role are definitely over.

It is truly refreshing to find in Paolo Fanale a Ferrando with a thoroughly uncomplicated high register and whose vocal healthiness almost never stands between him and proper Mozart style, even if the tonal quality itself has more than a splash of Spieltenor in it. There is a great deal of harmonics in Dominik Köninger’s voice still to be discovered. So far, the sound is still pleasant but rather generic and unmemorable. Maurizio Muraro is a resonant, characterful but unexaggerated Don Alfonso. The cast has no weak link in what regards acting.

PS – On a second thought, there seem to be one development in terms of Personenregie in this staging – Ferrando and Guglielmo seem particularly coy but under the pretext of acting like the biker-gang Tizio and Sempronio, let loose their wild sides (including a homoerotic episode in their post-poisoning “mad scene”), what seems to have made them more sexually persuasive for the Fiordiligi and Dorabella. This could have had interesting results if we could see more clearly the effect of this transformation in their girlfriends. In any case, in order for the girls to have any sort of development (showing Dorabella in high heels… among the ferns of the camping resort is a very awkward solution), they should have had a very different starting point. At least, one that shouldn’t show them so self-aware in the first place. 

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If Donizetti and Felice Romani could come back to life and see Japanese TV, they would be surprised to see that Dr. Dulcamara’s lines have more or less the same text of 75% of ads showed in this country: miracle formulas that make you young, beautiful, attractive if you just pay a very reasonable price – and the taste is always eccellente. Maybe for that reason, the New National Theatre decided that L’Elisir d’Amore should be staged in days closers to our own. As Cesare Lievi’s 2010 production is highly stylized, it is difficult to be precise – 1940’s? 1950’s? What is clear is that the approach looks very much like the kind of production of comedy plays one would find in Italian theatres in the 1980’s, 1990’s: the concept is rather a matter of design than of meaning; costumes and sets are clever yet simple, everybody seems to be having the time of their lives and a well-rehearsed cast move about, jump, gesticulate a lot in variations of the theme of “cuteness”. Here the recipe works well, if one overlooks the fact that costume designer Marina Luxardo decided to employ every shade in the Pantone catalog (even in the wig department). Also, the sets turning around the letters L-E-I-S-D-A-M-O-R (the ones in the original Italian title) and gigantic “Tristan and Isolde” books do not seem to be trying to make any particular point other their immediate relation to the storyline.

Julien Salemkour proved to have good instincts for bel canto. Although a smoother orchestral sound would have made all the difference in the world, the conductor could keep everything clear, ebullient and consequent, choosing his tempi  from what makes sense structurally rather than from the mere intent of making everything fast and bright.

Nicole Cabell is a puzzle yet to be solved: her light velvety soprano is homogeneous, flexible and easy on the ear, but seriously lacking projection; she has clear diction, very good Italian and can sing really musicianly, but cheats whenever things get difficult for her. Adina is a role on the high side for her voice and she would often run out steam in tricky passages. For instance, although Prendi, per me sei libero was sensitively and beautifully sung, the cabaletta involved a great deal of adaptation. All in all, it was a congenial if superficial performance, but I do not really believe this is her repertoire. I wonder what is her repertoire – Mozart? Maybe, but that is not the kind of music one can get away with make-do.The second soprano, Kanae Kushima, showed a more typically bright Italianate soprano and, in spite of a very light voice, could be more easily heard in ensembles.  Tenor Antonino Siragusa too has a voice of reduced substance, but still very spontaneous, easy and pleasant. He sings with amazing clarity and cleanliness of line and makes very good use of the text. He could have offered a tad more mellifluous Una furtiva lagrima, but that did not make his light, uncomplicated and funny performance less attractive. Hiroyuki Narita has a forceful baritone and tackles his divisions better than most, but he is often rough-toned in voice and faceless in interpretation. Renato Girolami is quite economical with buffo disfiguring “comic” effects and has both the personality and voice for his role. Finally, the house chorus deserves praise for both their singing and acting.

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