Posts Tagged ‘Marco Vratogna’

La Fanciulla del West is probably no one’s favorite opera; although Puccini’s imaginative writing for the orchestra and harmonic adventurousness are often mentioned, the whole spaghetti western impression comes across are unforgivably kitsch for most opera goers. This is why the fact that director Christof Loy had not decided to rescue it from its innocence is what makes his staging particularly effective. His Golden West is a place of need for affection – almost every character yearn for their moms and behave in a childlike way. If you don’t take this in face value, the whole story seems awkward and silly. In this staging, this emotional need takes pride of place and even if the production could be described as “traditional”, it ultimately does not look traditional because it feels realistic in its almost Scandinavian movie restraint (it happens to be a coproduction with Stockholm’s Kungliga Operan). Under Loy’s direction, almost every one on stage offer convincing acting.

With her Claudette Colbert-like cheekbones, Barbara Haveman could have been a realistic leading actress in a Western movies if she had been born some decades earlier. Actually, she is at any rate a very accomplished actress full stop. Whenever she is on stage, it is very difficult to look away. And she happens to be a very compelling singer too. Her lyric soprano is not very distinctive in itself but for the fact that it always sounds natural, feminine and unforced. Naturally, the role of Minnie is on the heavy side for her, but her good technique makes it entirely functional in a small house such as the Oper Frankfurt: she masters the art of exploring her chest register as few transalpine sopranos and deals with exposed dramatic acuti rather by letting her voice spin in its natural brightness than beefing it up or pushing. However, what makes her performance remarkable is her complete understanding of the relation between music and text. Her Johnson/Ramerrez, Carlo Ventre, unfortunately doesn’t share her musical-dramatic intelligence. In any case, his unexaggerated acting under a good director places him above the regular standard as far as tenori di forza go. Although his voice sounds a bit breathy and worn in its middle register, his top notes are always impressively full and powerful, if not remotely nuanced. Marco Vratogna has the perfect attitude for the role of Jack Rance and, if his baritone is generally soft-centered and velvety, it produces the right effect in outspoken moments by sheer volume.

The Frankfurter Opern- und Museumorchester seemed fully engaged in the dramatic action, relishing the coloristic orchestration and boosting the effect of what was happening on stage. Conductor Pier Giorgio Morandi’s symphonic approach in this score paid off in the sense that one could feel the gradual increase in tension through the three acts. He did not spare his cast and unleashed quite often his orchestra, fortunately not very Teutonic in its rather leaner sound. Although he is not the conductor in the première (as well as soprano and baritone), it is impressive how the whole performance seemed coherent in its overall concept.

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