miércoles, 10 de junio de 2009

La Fanciulla en Opera News online

A destiempo, pero que quede constancia
SEVILLE — La Fanciulla del West, Teatro de la Maestranza, 3/21/09

Once in a while it's a relief to watch an opera in a traditional, lavish production set in the time and location the authors intended. It's all the more pleasurable when the work in question has not been seen in a while.

This is what happened at Seville's Teatro de la Maestranza with Puccini's all but neglected masterpiece, La Fanciulla del West (seen Mar. 21). The Maestranza's young, energetic musical director Pedro Halffter has managed over the years to deliver a consistent flow of standard pieces, new operas and old rarities: his small, second-tier theater is now firmly on the maps of Spanish operagoers.

In celebration of the composer's 150th-anniversary year, the theater imported Giancarlo del Monaco straightforward production for Rome Opera, complete with elegant period costumes, painted mountains, falling snow and the surprising participation of a white horse — a beautiful member of the famous local horse show La Cuadra de Sevilla.

For this Fanciulla — the opera has not been presented in Spain for a quarter century — La Maestranza went out of its way to produce a strong double cast, something they almost never do. I saw the first one, with verismo heldentenor Marco Berti, American soprano di bravura Janice Baird and the exciting young baritone Claudio Sgura, but the alternative one seemed just as promising, with the inseparable operatic and real-life couple Daniela Dessì and Fabio Armiliato as Minnie and Ramerrez and veteran Silvano Carrolli as Rance, the role he sang in Rome when this production was new.

In this brave, forward-looking opera, Puccini gave his prima donna what all of his heroines get — scenes to shine in for every act, a strong-willed personality and a tragic destiny — until the happy end, which comes as a surprise, as if she were fulfilling the impossible dream of Tosca, Mimì or Manon. Even if she has no great aria and no hummable tunes, Minnie is a wonderful character. She keeps the quarrelsome gang of cowboys at bay in Act I, fights for her lover and defeats the sheriff with tricky cards in Act II and comes in at the end of the opera to soften the cowboys' hearts and have her bandit released. Janice Baird did all that with a potent, well-focused if not particularly appealing voice. Like the character she was portraying, it was a voice to admire rather than to fall in love with.

As her bandit lover Dick Johnson, Marco Berti gave a performance that produced the opposite effect: his singing was much more convincing than his acting. His shape keeps getting rounder, and his stand-and-deliver acting mode seems démodé. His stiffness could be taken for a version of the poker-face Western baddie, but he looked out of place among his more expressive colleagues. However, his voice has the vibrancy, richness and "ping" of a true spinto tenor.

Berti's romantic rival, the sheriffo Jack Rance, was played with committed pathos by lean, young Sgura. The baritone started in shaky mode, but his potent, meaty voice grew in confidence as the evening progressed. His confrontation with Minnie in Act II had the dramatic impact of a classic movie Western.

The mining-camp denizens were sung with idiomatic precision and brio by a band of veteran Spanish singers and the members of the theater's chorus. Halffter produced a high-octane yet nuanced reading of the score, and the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla — which plays with him all year round in symphonic concerts and opera — proved to be a well-oiled instrument in his able hands.


No hay comentarios: