Posts Tagged ‘Teatro La Fenice’

The Teatro La Fenice has a history with Japan since 2001, when it first visited Tokyo with two productions (La Traviata, with Dimitra Theodossiou and Ambrogio Maestri, and Simon Boccanegra, with Lucia Mazzaria and Fabio Sartori), repeating the experience once more in 2005 (Attila, again with Dimitra Theodossiou, La Traviata, with Patrizia Ciofi and Roberto Saccà, and Les Pêcheurs de Perles, with Annick Massis) only to come back now for one opera and concerts with operatic excerpts.

This year, the main item in the program is the staged performance of Verdi’s Otello with an international cast and conductor Myung-Whun Chung, whose recording with Cheryl Studer and Plácido Domingo with the forces of the Opéra de Paris for Deutsche Grammophon is a recommended item in the discography. The Korean conductor proved again that he knows this score very well, focusing, as in his CDs, in orchestral coloring and forward movement. The orchestra from Venice is less impressive than the Opéra Bastille’s in studio, but woodwind and brass gave adept and expressive contributions to a perfectible string section that could nonetheless produce the varied sonorities requested by the maestro. It is hard to tell if the lighter textures are a side-effect to the conductor’s coloristic approach or a necessity due to a lightweight cast.

Gregory Kunde, for instance, is a name one would rather associate with Rossini’s Otello, but since his Enée in Gardiner’s Les Troyens in Paris, the American tenor has flirted with heavier repertoire. He is probably the lighter-toned Otello I have ever heard. Even Luciano Pavarotti in Georg Solti’s recording from Chicago sounds richer in comparison. That does not mean that he had any problem in being heard this evening – his finely focused, bright-toned tenor pierces through thicker orchestral textured without effort. The fact that he is used to high-lying roles made some very tricky passages – act II’s amore e gelosia vadan dispersi insieme!, for instance – unproblematic in comparison to almost every tenor in this role, but, for the same reasons, his low register sounded a couple of sizes too slim. He is a musicianly singer, attentive to dynamic shading, and has very clear diction. He does not really have any wildness in him and his Otello was often less than convincing when he had to sound fierce. When Desdemona said that she was hearing a fury speaking through his voice, she must have used her imagination. However, he could produce the necessary intensity and despair in quieter passages such as Dio! mi potevi scagliar or in a very expressive death scene.

His Desdemona, American soprano Leah Crocetto, has a very interesting, almost endearingly old-fashioned big lyric soprano voice. Although there are moments when the tonal quality is a bit saccharine and grainy, she is adept when things get more difficult – she can float beautiful mezza voce, has reserves of power in “lirico spinto” moments and has beautiful legato. At this point, she would rather be labelled a “promising name”, but, if she lives up to the promise, she could be an interesting name for roles who are usually cast with less generous vocal natures.

Lucio Gallo is hardly a force of nature as Iago, but he is a very presentable one nonetheless, provided you adjust to relatively reduced volume. His baritone is more pleasant on the ear than I remembered and he uses the text subtly and effectively.

To say the truth, if the performance actually was rather underwhelming, I would rather blame Francesco Micheli’s superficial and overbusy production that concentrates rather on kitsch effects (how about a bunch of guys in skeleton-bodysuits piercing Otello with swords during Dio! mi potevi scagliar?) than in actually directing singers who were rather “now-I-take-off-my-shoe-and-recline-on-that-pillow” than really acting. To make things worse, the sets required lots of operation and showed dubious taste (zodiac patterns, starlit-sky lamps, red-and-blue lighting, tons of golden foil…). Act IV alone was so schmaltzy (Desdemona’s ghost wondering around and leading Otello to their postmortem love idyll) that one had to close one’s eyes to actually feel moved by the music.


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Damiano Michieletto’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni for the Teatro La Fenice could suggest a certain restraint in its cold colours, entirely indoors setting and elegant boiseries, but the nightly atmosphere proves to be a space of unbridled passion: Don Giovanni’s assault on Donna Anna is extremely violent, the Commendatore is beaten to death with his own walking stick, the peasants in Zerlina and Masetto’s wedding are heavily drunk and the closing scene is no feast, but a quite graphic orgy. Michieletto has a good instinct for character development and, with excellent acting from all involved, sheds interesting light on every figure, particularly Donna Anna, whose Or sai chi l’onore is a nightmarish vortex of guilt and passion in which the first scene is revived in an atmosphere of  unavowable desire, whereas Non mi dir is a statement of love not to Don Ottavio, but to her own father’s coffin. Similarly, Zerlina sings Vedrai, carino to an imaginary Don Giovanni, while Masetto is left alone to take care of his wounds. Still more interesting is the tormented Leporello, (nervous tics and stammer included) whose guilty vices are repressed by social inferiority. In the end, only Don Giovanni himself is rather clichéed in his my-candle-burns-at-both-ends manic, almost suicidal drive.

If the intelligent and often revelatory approach does not finally delivers the goods, it is because the director is ultimately too simplistic in his partiality for Don Giovanni as an image of every one’s repressed desires. Some of the evening’s less efficient scenes invariably involved Don Giovanni’s “symbolic” appearances, such as when he quite sillily pushes everyone on stage to the ground as an invisible force during the sextet Sola, sola in buio loco.

Conductor Antonello Manacorda is an alert Mozartian who understands the theatrical and musical meaning of every phrase in the score without being overwhelmed by his understanding. His tempi are swift and his orchestral sound is transparent and flexible. Most important, the right expressive atmosphere is settled for every scene – the orchestra laughs at Masetto, sighs with Donna Elvira and sobs with Donna Anna. I would be curious to hear him with a more virtuoso ensemble. Although La Fenice’s orchestra has done a decent job, the strings lack refulgence to start with, especially in passagework, and some complex ensemble were not perfectly synched.

Aleksandra Kurzak’s flexible bright soprano is light-toned for Donna Anna. Or sai chi l’onore takes her to her very limits and, although she is never less than stylish, sensitive and pleasant to the ears, her top notes have become a bit breathy and glassy. This lovely artist should be more careful with her choice of roles and void the temptation of parts that will eventually take their toll on her vocal health. In any case, the audience should cherish the occasion to hear such clean coloratura in a difficult aria such as Non mi dir. Carmela Remigio’s high-lying soprano resents the lower tessitura of Donna Elvira. In this production, she is portrayed as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and I wished that this approach did not elicit from the singer the gusty phrasing, the erratic pitch and the parlando effects. In the end, her Elvira was one-dimensionally intense and unstylish. Irini Kyriakidou has a basically fruity, sexy soprano (she herself is really attractive too), but her high register spreads uncomfortably. Marlin Miller is a capable Don Ottavio who took some time to warm (Dalla sua pace lacked finish). His voice, especially in loud dynamics, does not sound round as a lyric tenor’s should, but rather metallic in a Spieltenor-like manner, though. Markus Werba’s Don Giovanni is devoid of nuance, and his baritone is too open-toned to suggest seduction. But he does have stamina. Alex Exposito’s voice seems to have shrunken at both ends since I last saw him in this same role. The general impression is of roughness, what unintentionally suits this production. Finally, Atilla Jun proved to be a powerful Commendatore.

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