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Posts Tagged ‘Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra’

La Gazza Ladra is considered by many Rossini’s most original opera, the one in which comedy and tragedy are most perfectly connected and theatrical conventions then in force were most frontally and effectively challenged. Then the question is: why is it so rarely staged? And the answer is very simple: the vocal parts are so difficult and the acting requirements are so considerable that opera houses usually find it safer simply to refrain from staging it at all. For instance, for a long while, the only available recording had been made live with Katia Ricciarelli as Ninetta, Luciana d’Intino as Lucia, Bernadette Manca di Nissa as Pippo, William Matteuzzi as Gianetto, Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fernando and Samuel Ramey as the Podestà. Although one would kill to see a cast like this, reviewers had called it a hands off because the romantic couple is sung by singers past their prime. Let’s consider it a tribute to their artistries that they still hold their own quite easily considering the competition.

For instance, this evening’s Ninetta, Sophie Bevan, shares with Ricciarelli a creamy tonal quality and a natural feeling for classical style, but, although she is far younger than Ricciarelli at the time of the recording, she too sounds strained when things get high – and also often unfocused and sometimes hooty. If her coloratura is nimbler than her predecessor’s, the Italian soprano had a far more substantial voice, a quality much missed this evening. In any case, Bevan has a congenial stage presence and is dramatically fully committed. As much as Matteuzzi’s, Francisco Brito’s tenor has a quite nasal sound. However, that does not ensure him the kind of brightness usually associated to it: the voice does not pierce through easily and his high notes come through as effortful.

Katarina Leoson (Lucia) is no Luciana d’Intino, but her voice has enough volume and flexibility, if not an individual tonal quality. Alexandra Kadurina (Pippo) sang her act II duet with Ninetta most sensitively, but sounded small-scaled elsewhere. Although Jonathan Lemalu had his woolly moments, he sang with imagination and sense of style, his overgenerous vibrato here less bothersome than usual. I leave the best for last: even if one can hear that there still room for development in Kihwan Sim’s singing, what he is doing now (as we could hear in his performance of the role of the Podestà) is already quite impressive. His forceful bass voice is extremely flexible, the sound is firm, dark and pleasant and he has attitude. He can certainly go places.

Conductor Henrik Nánási likes his Rossini fast and intense, and the fact that his orchestra was working noticeably hard to follow him did not seem a sign that maybe he should give his musicians a little bit more leeway. As it was, although the intentions were honorable, the results were often jagged and sometimes messy, what prevented some of the numbers with softer affetti to achieve true touchingness. This was made even more difficult by director David Alden’s refuse to take these characters seriously and to go for the slapstick approach, even in the serious passages. As a matter of fact, seriousness has been replaced by some sort of political agenda involving  Jewish question. The libretto has one rather stereotyped Jewish character, who is shown as amiable by the librettist, while Alden makes him someone quite nasty. Why then making all involved with Ninetta’s trial Jewish? While making little of Ninetta’s predicament? Is it really La Gazza Ladra’s story?! In the end, it all sounded excuse for some empty stylization. For me, it was only noise to Rossini’s music.

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