Thursday, 23 February 2012

Don Pasquale at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées

 Opera Today : Don Pasquale at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées 
By Frank Cadenhead
The director, Denis Podalydès, a regular at the Comédie-Française, here stages his second opera and the characters had carefully defined roles but he stuck with the traditional path of “opera buffa” with its broad gestures and overwrought emotions./.../

Singing, in addition to the splendid Don, was at a high level. Italian tenor Francesco Demuro gets he first big aria, “Sogno soave e casto,” in the first minutes of the opera and there was a vague unease and occasional imprecise intonation we did not see later where his voice was rich in color and pleasing to the ear./.../
Soprano Désirée Rancatore has recently developed into a serious star and, forced high notes excepted, gives a near-perfect reading of the self-assured girl, and, like her tenor lover, is young and appealing in the role. A very strong reading of Malatesta by Gabriele Viviani completes a exceptional vocal quartet.
/.../ The Orchestre National de France, one of France’s top orchestras, was in the pit and onstage was the excellent Radio France Choir. The dynamic conductor Enrique Mazzola, on opening night, did not have the orchestra’s undivided attention and attacks were imprecise. 
Opera Cake: Bel Canto 1: Don Pasquale in Parigi (o cara)
In this production Don Pasquale is a small business owner; he and his employees sell the lamps from his multifunctional van. The action is set in Italy in the 50's-60's which you can easily guess from the fashion of/on the protagonists (Christian Lacroix) /.../ I don't think the show would have been as interesting if the cast was not so involved. It's a comedy, you need good acting! Alessandro Corbelli is the first name that comes to my mind when one of these characters from the Italian operas is mentioned. He has a talent for la comedia dell'arte, his buffoonery seems authentic, and the warmth he radiates by his scenic presence and his singing is always a guarantee for a good show. /.../Désirée Rancatore sings loud, clear and adds extra high notes to most of the stanza-endings in her arias. She visibly enjoys herself on the stage and manages to communicate that to the crowd. Brava! As far as  Francesco Demuro is concerned, I am an inch away from saying "I told you so!" ;) Beside his beautiful singing, he puts his guts and his heart in his interpretation -- with the voice at ease in all registers he's got it all.
/.../Gabriele Viviani was a complete discovery for me. A plushy sound baritone who can act and whose Malatesta in this production is explicitly a Mephistophelian character. Bravo!
Always reliable Enrique Mazzola did a very good job with timings, always gentle to the singers, and never offered those easy "firemen" brass-endings that often parasite the belcanto operas.

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