Andrea Chénier; Barber of Seville Review – B-flat brio and ballistic

When I interviewed Antonio Pappano in Rome in 2011, he jokingly admitted to being a cultural traitor. “I did productions of Wagner, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Britten and Birtwistle at Covent Garden,” he said, “but maybe not as many Italian classics as they expected me to.” During his second decade as music director of the Royal Opera he made amends, with new performances of works by Bellini, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini, and now he moves out with a revival of Giordano’s red-blooded Italian. Andrea Chenierwhich he conducts with stormy energy and tender compassion, fueled by three singers who provide their own fireworks display of ballistic B-flats and blazing high-Cans.

The characters are operatic archetypes, ricocheting between heaven and earth, metaphysical rapture and abject despair. Chénier, a poet who was guillotined in 1794 during the Terror, is here a great poet whose role is mainly composed of lyrical feats that he says he improvises on the spot. His soprano partner, the aristocratic Maddalena, writes him anonymous letters, unaccustomed arias, then completes their abstract business by joining him on the scaffold in sacrifice. Instructor Gérard has a lower terrain, specializing in oral rapture suited to the baritone vocal range. The falling cloth in David McVicar’s 2015 production depicts the execution of Robespierre by Chénier: Plato, he says, banished poets from his republic as well. Here, however, it is these high-flying opera singers who are questioning the fair faith of the revolution and must be stopped.

Italian opera is a sport as well as an art, and this is a championship game

Chénier’s first aria, in which he denounces the ancien regime at a rococo party, poses such a dangerous vocal challenge that I saw Plácido Domingo open his mouth to begin it and then suddenly turn off the stage. The curtain fell, a panicked call was made to the house doctor, then after 20 minutes Domingo returned, having suffered – we were told – a spasm of indigestion, not a nervous breakdown at the high notes that were to come. After the cancellation of two previous seasons, Jonas Kaufmann stands this ground while hurling playfully, with some refined diminuendo to confirm the poetic finesse of the character. Kaufmann is also a subtle actor, and his answers always seem to beg for a close-up: see for yourself when the production opens in theaters.

In typically narrative detail, Chénier Kaufmann waits on his way to the tumbril in the triumphant final bars of the opera, stumbles, and is raised and executed by Maddalena, Sondra Radvanovsky’s superheroine. Radvanovsky is always best when he is imperial, for example as Donizetti’s Elizabeth I i Roberto Devereuxor the nurse in Cherubini’s Size; here her voice lights up at the revolutionary tribunal where Chénier is condemned, and she ends the scene with a wild but precise scream of protest. Gérard is Amartuvshin Enkhbat from Mongolia, a shrewd actor but a great singer, whose descent from political correctness to half-way sensuous rapacity inspires nostalgia. Enkhbat is suddenly starry-eyed, and after his bouts of agony he calmly retreats to his desk in the courtroom and waits on a stage hand rigged like an ax to hand him a glass of water, and clears his throat with for the next one stencil only. . He deserves the consolation: Italian opera is as much sport as art, and this is a final.

Rossini on The Barber of Seville it shows a softer version of the Italian opera spirit, which can be heard by Figaro coming to open his barber shop saying “Lalalalera”, a series of insensitive syllables synonymous with enjoyment. At Opera Holland Park, director Charlotte Corderoy uses the clamorous overture to evoke a town whose residents are spilling onto the streets as they recover from last night’s revelry. Waiters bustle about collecting empties from the café tables, fruit sellers tune in to the sickle of an orchestra playing juggling games with Seville’s famous oranges, and on his way to work Figaro breaks to brush the hair of the spectators sitting in the aisle. encourage.

Cecilia Stinton’s portrayal makes Dr. Bartolo and his ward, Rosina, respectively grieving and grieving southern Victorian tourists. He is an energetic academic with a flaming case of sunburn who faithfully welcomes a portrait of the lonely queen, which he brought with him on holiday. She worries about shedding the restraints of a corset and is amused when a local showman drops his clothes to cool off in a fountain, claiming to enjoy it. Almaviva, crying, adds some pelvic thrusts to the show in the early morning he sings outside his hotel. Similarly, she sends him to a sex couch before their planned escape at the end of the opera. In a perfect family, Heather Lowe’s Rosina is excellent, wearing a flourish of beauty as she dashes about in a frenzy with a rebellious streak.

Holland Park last Tuesday was damp and cold, but it takes more than English weather to dampen the vibrancy of Rossini’s madness. This is new Barber of Seville exudes brio and bravura, words too natively Italian to have an equivalent but themselves in our eternally sonorous language.

Star ratings (out of five)
Andrea Chénier ★★★★★
The Barber of Seville ★★★★

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *