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Archive for May, 2019

The Theatro São Pedro is São Paulo’s other opera house. It is a small auditorium, the size of an European baroque theatre. The acoustics are very good too. Although the budget is limited, their productions (I have seen two so far) are similar to what one would see in a provincial German opera house, and the orchestra is quite good for South American standards.

It is hardly the theatre’s fault that casting an opera in Brazil is something of an adventure. The level of voice teaching is below standard, the market for professional opera singers is restricted and most young tenors and sopranos are here trained to be Radames and Aida even if they have voices for Handel or Bach. That is the reason I decided not to write a review the last time I attended a performance there. Although everything else was acceptable (or more than that), the singing was simply depressing.

I have always enjoyed seeing Luisa Francesconi, especially in Mozart, and I was curious to hear her as Sesto in La Clemenza di Tito. So I have decided to try my luck. Although her high notes have lost a bit of the impetuosity missing in the stretta of Parto, ma tu bem mio, she did not disappoint me in a stylish and expressive performance. She was not immune to the prevailing lassitude this afternoon and shone rather in moments like Deh per questo istante solo.

Her Vitellia, Gabriella Pace, has the kind of voice one calls a Mozart soprano. It is bell-toned and able to phrase with instrumental poise, provided things are not fast or high or loud or a combination of those. In moments like that, the voice develops an acidulous edge that can verge on stridency. As a result, a great deal of what Mozart wrote sounded like “acting with the voice” today. In her defense, she can claim to deal with the low notes better than most sopranos of her type. And she has temper to spare, especially in a staging that requires constant evil laughter.

Actually, it was quite confusing to hear a Servilia (Marly Montoni) whose voice sounded more Vitellia-ish in sound.  I understand Ms. Montoni – in spite of an attractive rich and dark vocal quality – would be uncomfortable singing a part like that with a backwards placement that stands between her and ideal projection and clear phrasing. She was well-partnered by Luciana Bueno, a velvety-toned Annio who gained in strength during the performance.

Caio Duran’s Tito displayed very good divisions and ideal clarity of diction. His voice lacks high overtones and his approach to high notes can be touch-and-go. What bothered me, though, was the Brazilian flavor of his Italian – and a tendency to stress the wrong syllables and ignore double consonants. Saulo Javan’s resonant, round-toned Publio could have stolen the show if Mozart had given him a little bit more to work with.

Conductor Felix Krieger was capable of eliciting a Mozartian sound from his orchestra and generally kept good balance between sections and also with his singers, but his hesitant conducting compromised any possibility of drama. His reluctance to attack was such that you could go to the restroom, buy a soda and drink it between the end of an accompagnato and the beginning of the aria.

Caetano Vilela’s staging centered around Vitellia and if you overlook the evil laughing, he and Ms. Pace were able to build convincing dramatic development  for that character. Everything else was more or less in shadows. The scaffolding used as scenic element does not make much sense or add to the atmosphere, but did not spoil the fun either. On the other hand, Fause Hauten’s anachronistic and incoherent costumes were really confusing. For a Roman setting, the fact that everybody had a beard (the girls en travesti especially) did not help much. Sesto and Annio looked like twins and their oriental-flavored costumes (among choristers in togas) were especially nonsensical.

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