La Gazza Ladra (8/19/15), La Gazzetta (8/20/15), L’Inganno Felice (8/21/15)
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La Gazza Ladra (8/19/15), La Gazzetta (8/20/15), L’Inganno Felice (8/21/15)

Rossini Opera Festival

In Review PEsaro L'Ingannohdl 1115
L'Inganno Felice, heartwarmingly humorous at Pesaro
© Studio Amati Bacciardi

FOR THE SECOND TIME in three years, the most gratifying staging at the Rossini Opera Festival was the revival of a production conceived more than two decades earlier. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s Occasione Fa il Ladro, given its premiere here in 1989 and restaged in 2013, was followed up this year with Graham Vick and Richard Hudson’s Inganno Felice (first seen in 1994). Compared to the latter, Damiano Michieletto’s Gazza Ladra, with sets by Paolo Fantin, and Marco Carniti’s Gazzetta, designed by Manuela Gasparoni, revealed less trust in the original dramaturgy, less humanity in the delineation of the characters (who were upgraded in class and sophistication but lost their nineteenth-century charm) and a tendency to subordinate psychological coherency to the brittle (and sometimes clichéd) demands of modish theatrical effect.

The most striking musical achievements at this year’s festival were Denis Vlasenko’s conducting of L’Inganno Felice (seen on Aug. 21 at the Teatro Rossini), which excelled in transition, instrumental subtlety (the Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini was at its best) and grasp of musical architecture; Juan Diego Flórez’s unique combination of caress, daring and aplomb in concert performances of the Messa di Gloria and the early cantata Il Pianto d’Armonia sulla Morte d’Orfeo (at the Adriatic Arena on Aug. 18); Michele Mariotti’s Michelangelesque reading of the Stabat Materat the Teatro Rossini (with American tenor René Barbera and the Orchestra and Chorus of Bologna’s Teatro Comunale responding with equal inspiration); and the brilliantly timed physical agility of the Neapolitan actor Ernesto Lama in the mimed role of Pomponio’s servant Tommasino in La Gazzetta (competently conducted by Enrique Mazzola at the Teatro Rossini on Aug. 20). (This is a role absent in the score, but it was perfectly integrated into a production that, at its best, proved faithful to the commedia dell’arte tradition.)

There were a number of other performances fully worthy of this festival at its best. (This was the final edition under the artistic direction of Alberto Zedda, who will be succeeded by Ernesto Palacio.) Bass Carlo Lepore dominated the stage with infectious vitality as Tarabotto in L’Inganno Felice, while baritone Davide Luciano (Batone) offered a rare example of full-voiced legato coloratura singing in his long solo. The two singers interacted memorably in their patter duet. Barbera — who combines a genuine florid technique with a vast range, excellent dynamic control and a warmly Italianate timbre — made much of the role of Giannetto in La Gazza Ladra, although Carla Teti’s costume didn’t really suit Barbera’s physique. The emotional focus of the opera was blurred by the oneiric emphasis of Michieletto’s production, which presented the story of Ninetta as a dream of the graceful mime (Sandhya Nagaraja) who played the magpie, often stealing the limelight from the principal characters. This happened less intrusively than in 2007, when the production was first unveiled, because the main singers in 2015 were stronger in personality. Nino Machaidze has a rather metallically vibrant voice for Ninetta and (like the dynamic bass Alex Esposito, playing her father, Fernando) tends to aspirate her coloratura, but she did bring to the role welcome intensity of tone and facial expression, and she was strongly supported by Simone Alberghini as Fabrizio, Teresa Iervolino as Lucia and Matteo Macchioni as Isacco. There was also strong, stylish support in the pit from Donato Renzetti, whose genuine warmth of feeling was clearly felt in the overture and accompaniments, even though the acoustic of the Adriatic Arena (on Aug. 19) tended to favor the orchestra over the singers. 

In Review pesaro Gazzetta hdl 2 1115 
Commedia dell’arte tradition: La Gazzetta at Pesaro
© Studio Amati Bacciardi

La Gazzetta was this year’s only new production, and the performance was in some ways revelatory, for the newly rediscovered Act I quintet clarifies the action of this comedy (the work now deserves regular revival), and Carniti’s unfolding of the plot, though gimmicky at times, was much more pertinent than the hyperactive business devised by Dario Fo in this same theater in 2001. Nicola Alaimo, decidedly comfortable in the Neapolitan dialect employed by Don Pomponio Storione, gave his finest performance so far at the festival — a generously conceived buffo portrayal in primary colors. Equally appreciable was Maxim Mironov as Alberto; the Russian tenor has greatly matured over the past ten years and is now as communicative in gesture and visage as he is in phrasing. The secret couple formed by Vito Priante (Filippo) and Hasmik Torosyan (Lisetta) appeared too slickly cynical to engage the sympathies of the audience, but Dario Shikhmiri as Anselmo and Andrea Vincenzo Bonsignore as Monsù Traversen appeared well attuned to the words and music.

Overall it was L’Inganno Felice, the most moving of Rossini’s early farse, that proved most heartwarmingly humorous. And although soprano Mariangela Sicilia lacked individuality of timbre as Isabella and tenor Vassilis Kavayas proved too technically fragile to lend authority to the role of her long-lost aristocratic husband, all the characters derived credibility and psychological interest from a set and costumes that clearly established the action in the seaside mining community described in Giuseppe Foppa’s libretto. —Stephen Hastings 

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