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Archive for February, 2019

The Theatro Municipal de São Paulo seemed to have regained its footing, especially after Roberto Minczuk was appointed general musical director, when a press release informed that there would not be an announcement of this year’s season due to uncertain funding. Therefore, the management has decided to play safe and announce each item in the opera season as soon as the money to pay for it is guaranteed.

Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia is not my favorite opera, rather the opposite. And yet I couldn’t help supporting a company that is really struggling to offer its very best. I could overhear today a 20-year-old girl explaining her friend that since she saw Tosca in the Theatro Municipal she has become a subscriber and has insisted that her friends come along. “At first they are convinced it’s going to be boring, but when they’re here, they realize it is a experience like nothing else”. The taxpayers in the state of São Paulo can rest assured: their money is here – if almost nowhere else – being put to good use.
Maestro Minczuk’s ability to make the best of the forces available is a lesson to every conductor. On every occasion I see him  in São Paulo, I cannot cease to marvel at how he finds the exact balance between doing justice to the score and respecting his musicians’ limitations. This evening, for instance, Mr. Minczuk took profit of the house band’s lean orchestral sound to produce a quicksilvery aural picture  that proved to be ideal to ensure clarity in Rossinian ensembles. Also, as his strings are not the nec plus ultra in passagework, he made sure that his beat was buoyant but not hectic. That also helped his singers to sound “happy” while dealing with impossibly difficult coloratura. I can only imagine that this must be helpful when you’re singing an opera buffa.
Luisa Francesconi has all the elements of a perfect Rosina: the tone is distinctively fruity, her low register is firm and bright, the passaggio is 100% smooth, she masters the art of mezza voce, her diction is crystalline, her fioriture are clear and she is charming and acts with naturalness. At this point in her career, her extreme high notes can have a touch of vinegar, but once the voice is warm one hardly notices that. Her Almaviva was American tenor Jack Swanson, whose dulcet tenor can acquire a pronounced nasality when things turn high and fast. He too gained in strength during the performance and wowed the audience with the rarely sung Cessa di più resistere in the end of the opera. Michel de Souza offered a Mozartian Figaro à la Hermann Prey, whose congeniality he evokes too. His baritone has a hint of throatiness that is not really bothersome, but his vowels are more Brazilian than Italian. That is a problem this evening’s Doctor Bartolo, Savio Sperandio, has as well. He made a fair stab at the role, dealing with the patter commendably. I was going to say that there were moments when his voice was all over the place, but that is something I could say of most Bartolos I saw on stage. Carlos Eduardo Marcos was a light, firm-toned Basílio, and Vítor Mascarenhas showed a promising baritone in the small role of Fiorello.
Cleber Papa’s staging brings nothing new to Rossini’s most performed comedy, but what he offered was solid and dependable. The slapstick approach was perfectly timed, every singer was comfortable on stage and their acting was so well integrated that one couldn’t help but calling them all good actors. The sets seemed to have been bought in the supermarket shelf for “Productions of The Barber of Seville”, but costumes were a bit inconsistent. I don’t understand why Rosina was made to look unattractive in unbecoming gowns and wigs.

 

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