MILAN: La Gazza Ladra
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In Review > International

La Gazza Ladra

Teatro alla Scala

In Review Gazza Ladra Scala lg 717
Michele Pertusi and Rosa Feola in La Gazza Ladra
© Brescia/Amisano–Teatro alla Scala

WHEN ROSSINI'S Gazza Ladra had its world premiere at La Scala, in May 1817, the theater’s then-ample forestage (eliminated in the early 1920s) would have enabled singers to exploit the musical resonance of the auditorium to much more enveloping effect than is possible today. In Rossini’s day, the accompanying sonorities of the orchestra would have been less densely dominating in texture—which may explain why this moving melodramma, which proved an enormous success with the Milanese audiences two centuries ago, was greeted with considerably less enthusiasm when revived this season. 

Gazza Ladra was performed uncut and with appreciable precision (the critical edition was used), but music director Riccardo Chailly’s leadership on April 18 lacked both the charm and the pathos that the score cries out for, and the playing of the Scala Orchestra often sacrificed emotional involvement to mere efficiency. 

There was greater imaginative engagement on the part of Oscar-winning director Gabriele Salvatores, whose production was at times fussy but remained generally clear in intent and well-aligned to the spirit of the music. The fussiness derived not so much from the elaborate action assigned to the thieving magpie herself (played by the rope-swinging acrobat Francesca Alberti) as from the use of the Colla Company’s otherwise delightful marionettes to present the story during the overture and interact with the singers in key moments. But the period set and costumes designed by Gian Maurizio Fercioni—and hauntingly lit by Marco Filibeck—created just the right atmosphere for this increasingly dark drama, in which a servant girl risks being sentenced to death for a minor crime she never committed. The action devised by Salvatores was intelligently poised between psychological realism and theatrical stylization, with the backstage machinery made visible to the audience.

Soprano Rosa Feola, in a role that became a favorite vehicle for star singers in the nineteenth century, has an appropriate voice and physiognomy for Ninetta, but she failed on this occasion to explore the full emotional range of the part or to display the sort of impromptu virtuosity that can lend extra musical interest to her opening aria. The two mezzo-sopranos—Teresa Iervolino (Lucia) and Serena Malfi (Pippo)—only intermittently lent their characters real individuality of utterance. 

Baritone Paolo Bordogna performed with superior fluency and a vivid stage presence but lacked the psychological maturity and vocal amplitude to reveal the full humanity of Fabrizio Vingradito. Bass-baritone Alex Esposito, as in Damiano Michieletto’s 2007 Pesaro production, brought remarkable declamatory vigor to Fernando Villabella, Ninetta’s outlawed father, but his phrasing was limited in its range of color, and his coloratura lacked a proper legato binding. As Ninetta’s beloved Giannetto, Edgardo Rocha looked plausible but failed to compensate for his rather nasal voice with phrasing of real accomplishment. Tenor Matteo Macchioni offered a splendid cameo as the salesman Isacco. The most experienced performer onstage was bass Michele Pertusi, who lacked the lowest notes for Gottardo but otherwise sang and acted with consistent authority, although his personality was too benign for the mayor’s rakish abuse of power to seem really threatening.  —Stephen Hastings 

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