In Review > International

Andrea Chénier

BUENOS AIRES
Teatro Colón
12/10/17

In Review Buenos Aires Chenier hdl 318
Andrea Chénier in Buenos Aires, with José Cura and María Pía Piscitelli
© Prensa Teatro Colón/Máximo Parpagnoli

AFTER SHAKY BEGINNINGS, the legendary Teatro Colón saved its production of Andrea Chénier (seen Dec. 10), the theater’s much-promoted final opera of 2017, with ingenuity, old-fashioned craftsmanship and the collaboration of local talent. But it couldn’t have been easy.

The production’s originally announced star tenor, Argentine native Marcelo Álvarez, had been due to make his long-anticipated company debut as Chénier, but he canceled before rehearsals began. The company then enlisted another Argentine tenor, José Cura, an international star who has also worked as stage director and conductor in Buenos Aires. 

Then, less than a month before the premiere of the new production, its scheduled director, the acclaimed Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, withdrew from the project. (Martel’s latest film, Zama,was submitted by Argentina for the foreign-language Oscar.) The Colón Andrea Chénier, which would have been Martel’s first opera staging, had raised considerable expectation, since Umberto Giordano’s blockbuster verismo opera represents an artistic style far removed from Martel’s intimate portrayals of the complex Argentine social landscape.

On short notice, a team led by veteran Argentine stage manager and régisseur Matías Cambiasso was hired; he adapted all available props and costumes to produce a workable Chénier. In general terms, it succeeded. 

The aristocratic party in Act I looked like something from half a century ago, with drapes and costumes and carpets in shades of brown, giving the mise en scène a homogeneous, gloomy look that extended to the orchestral playing, in the hands of Romanian maestro Christian Badea. Acts II and III, set amid half-destroyed monuments, with creative use of lighting design, were much better in theatrical and musical terms. 

The chorus sang vibrantly and urgently, and the principals led the tragedy to a compelling finale. The best were the local baritone Fabián Veloz, who brought a strong stage presence to his Carlo Gérard—the most interesting and complex character in an uneven opera—and mezzo Guadalupe Barrientos, who graced the small role of the maid Bersi with a strong, meaty voice, especially in the low register. 

María Pía Piscitelli’s Maddalena was sung with a fine, delicate legato and zest in the effective final duet. Cura’s performance was less hampered than on other occasions by his signature nasal projection. His upper notes rang full and silvery, and his acting, like the rest of the performance, improved as the guillotine moment approached.  —Roberto Herrscher 



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