Reviews

 

Le Nozze di Figaro di Mozart nel Cortile di S.Ivo alla Sapienza di Roma

 

 

da TeatriOnLine

pubblicato da FABIANA RAPONI il 22/07/2009

Tornano a Roma Le Nozze di Figaro di Mozart su libretto di Lorenzo da Ponte promosse dall’Opera Academy nell’ambito di Opera Estate 2009. E’ il suggestivo scenario architettonico mozzafiato del Cortile di S.Ivo alla Sapienza di Borromini, un tripudio al barocco ad ospitare uno dei capolavori del genio di Salisburgo. L’allestimento proposto è praticamente in versione integrale (salvo il taglio di qualche aria e di qualche breve recitativo): tre ore dunque di musica che scorrono via rapidamente e che lasciano il tempo di gustare ogni singolo momento. L’opera, su ispirata all’omonima opera di Beaumarchais, è scatenata, divertente, rivoluzionaria, inarrestabile e comica: la prima opera della trilogia dell’amore (che comprende anche il Don Giovanni e il Così fan tutte) viene riproposta per l’occasione con un cast di giovani talenti. La messinscena è assolutamente tradizionale e molto precisa in ogni particolare: nessuna rivoluzione o azzardo, ma solo tanto divertimento per gustare e apprezzare l’opera nella sua veste più vera.Vivace e all’insegna del brio e della dinamicità la tradizionale regia di Peter Atherton che gioca e punta sui tanti momenti comici dell’opera ricca di intrighi ed equivoci. La scenografia architettonica del cortile di S.Ivo alla Sapienza è semplicemente mozzafiato e le scene vengono arricchite da elementi che caratterizzano gli atti, dalla poltrona all’abito da sposa di Susanna. Delizioso in particolare l’allestimento del giardino nel quarto atto. D’epoca anche i bei costumi che contribuiscono a delineare un vero tuffo nel passato: ottima anche la scelta di realizzare l’abito da sposa in stile spagnolo con tanto di mantilla. Brillante l’esecuzione dell’International Chamber Ensamble diretta dal maestro Francesco Carotenuto che opta per una lettura velocissima della partitura volta a rispecchiare perfettamente il carattere dell’opera. Un cast di giovani talenti nel complesso ben immedesimati, spicca soprattutto Katherine Gunninck nel ruolo dell’infelice Contessa: dotata di una bella voce è anche molto brava nell’interpretazione del personaggio mentre il ruolo del Conte avrebbe richiesto forse un maggior carisma a livello interpretativo. L’opera ideale per avvicinare i neofiti e per deliziare gli appassionati. In scena fino al 25 luglio.

 

A Fresh Mozart in the Conservatory Courtyard

AMERICAN VOICES FOR DON GIOVANNI
Bravo to the Orchestra “Ad Libitum Sinfonietta”

Large audiences gathered at the Courtyard of the Conservatory for the production of Don Giovanni by Mozart, fruit of a collaboration between the Conservatory “Dall'Abaco, ” The University of Virginia, Operafestival di Roma, and the “Ad Libitum Sinfonietta,” under the direction of conductor Maestro Carlo Miotto and stage director Louisa Panou.

This was the final product of the labor of a proficiency course of a group of students from North America that came to our country in order to deepen their understanding of the language and of a culture that produced the Italian Eighteenth century opera and one of the greatest masterpieces of the genre. It is fair to admit that it was immediately obvious the profound study that went into understanding and interpreting the complex text of Lorenzo da Ponte both from the point of view of the Italian diction, generally very good, in some cases indeed exceptional, and from the point of view of the stage direction, in the skillful outlining of the characters.

Mozart’s masterpiece was rendered in all its freshness thanks also to a group of good singers (in some cases it was difficult to believe that these were students in their first stage experience). The singers were able to unite a solid vocal technique with the necessary confidence on stage. First, we would like to mention Jennifer Hilbert as Donna Anna, gifted with the most beautiful voice and security in the virtuoso passages in her arias and frequent duets with Don Ottavio. This role was very well sung by Jeffrey Larson, intent to pursue the difficulties of the role and indeed able to do so brilliantly, but as far as acting a little bit uneasy. Elisa Cancel's Donna Elvira invested the role with a crystalline timbre of the high notes and the dramatic interpretation of the character (the aria “Ah! Fuggi il traditor” was very beautiful). Marissa Famiglietti was the most fortunate choice for Zerlina, gifted with a well-proportioned voice even if not very powerful.

From the point of view of the male section, it was a personal triumph for Leporello. Sung by Chuck Taylor and notwithstanding sometimes his innocent interpretation of the character, he let us enjoy a powerful, well trained voice and exceptional acting gifts. Peter Atherton combined excellent singing and acting in the role of the protagonist Don Giovanni. He was able to give life to this difficult personality. The cast was completed with the “Il Commendatore” of Matthew James, correct and dutiful, better in the second act, whose authority was somewhat overshadowed by the continuous forcing of his voice. Masetto by Michael McGee was very convincing, but the most inexperienced as far as singing goes.

Conducted by the firm hand of Carlo Miotto, the outcome of the orchestra “Ad Libitum,” composed for the most part of young Italians, and of the choir of “Operafestival di Roma 2002,” composed of young Americans, was generally positive. Warmest success for all the excellent very young interpreters.

—Chiara Zocca

 

Bravissimo!

Students, faculty sing praises for summer opera program in Rome

By Jane Ford

On a cold Saturday morning in January, Alexis Keyser entered Garrett Hall, found a secluded spot in a stairwell and began to warm up. Her voice echoed in the stairwell and spilled over into the main hall.

Keyser, a second-year student majoring in music and psychology, came to audition for a part in the summer production schedule of the Operafestival di Roma.

The festival is a labor of love for Louisa Panou-Takahashi, director of U.Va.’s Opera Workshop and voice lecturer in the music department. Panou-Takahashi created Opera-festival in 1995 to provide professional opera experience for students, young artists starting their careers and faculty members seeking an opportunity to display their talents.

Keyser, who plans to be a professional opera singer one day, is hoping to be one of 55 chosen for the company. The competition is fierce.

More than 300 auditioned for roles as leading or supporting singers, as members of the ensemble or to participate in the recital programs. The troupe includes students from all over the world. Audition sessions are held in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington, Richmond and Charlottesville.

“It is a professional production,” said Panou-Takahashi. “The U.Va. students who attend are very proud of their results.”

The program won the 2002 National Opera Association Award for best production among university and regional theaters.

Beginning in late June, the troupe will spend five weeks in Rome where they will begin rehearsals for this year’s repertoire: “L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love)” by Gaetano Donizetti and “Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica)” by Giacomo Puccini, plus chamber music concerts, Broadway concerts, vocal recitals and opera-scene performances.

Accommodations are in a three-star hotel where the daily routine includes three weeks of master classes, coaching, lessons in lyric diction and voice, and rehearsals. “The relationship [with the hotel] is a wonderful partnership,” said Brandee Martin, a U.Va. fourth-year student majoring in music and Spanish. She attended the program the past two summers and praised the family-run hotel. “They even threw a Fourth of July party for us.

“But the best part is the performance space,” said Martin. “The acoustics are wonderful.” The troupe performs with a professional Italian orchestra in the courtyard of the Palazzo della Sapienza with the 15th-century church of Sant’ Ivo alla Sapienza as the backdrop.

“When you hear the orchestra start up at the first rehearsal in the church courtyard and look at the stars up in the sky, it’s just a wonderful feeling,” said R. Lee Kennedy, U.Va. associate professor of drama.

Although romantic, performing in the courtyard provides challenges, and planning begins long before everyone assembles in Rome.

No scenery is allowed in the courtyard, which means lighting, costumes and staging take on special roles.

Kennedy has designed the lighting for four seasons, since 1998. He took graduate drama students with him in 2000 and 2002.

“The broadening of their experience is fantastic,” Kennedy said, “and it is great credit to see international opera work on their resumes.”

Last year, three U.Va. music majors and a drama student and professor participated in the program. They received scholarships made possible by matching funds from the International Studies Office.

William Quandt, U.Va. vice provost for international affairs, said he is pleased to be able to “support a project that allows U.Va. faculty and students to have an international experience that will broaden their horizons and engage U.Va. in international educational and cultural activities.”

The logistics of bringing all the parts together takes time and careful planning. The participants must learn their parts, costumes need to be constructed and props gathered.

Dorothy Smith, a 1996 M.F.A. drama department graduate in costume design, said, “You have to think of every contingency and take the things with you.” Smith begins her work early in the planning process. An expert in period costumes, Smith said she “loves the convention of glitter that is part of the spectacle of opera.”

The costumes are constructed in Charlottesville from measurements the singers send to Smith. In Rome, she and five assistants do the final fittings in the costume shop they set up in the hotel. “We create a professional atmosphere and make them feel like stars,” she said.

The star behind the scenes is Panou-Takahashi. Her attention to detail and support and respect for each troupe member is evident, even at the auditions.

Katie Polit, part of the ensemble chorus last summer, came to the Charlottesville tryouts from Carnegie Mellon University, where she is a senior. When it was her turn to sing, Panou-Takahashi asked her to sight-read an unfamiliar piece. At the piano, Panou-Takahashi did a quick run-through with her, singing the other part. Polit then tried the piece on her own.

“Basta! Basta! Good,” Panou-Takahashi said and gave Polit a big hug.

— April 2003

 

Courtyard of the Conservatory
A Delightful Show of Music, Theater, and Dance

BEAUTIFUL AFRESCO OF AMERICA

Operafestival di Roma offers us a gift of rhythm and spontaneity.

From the frontier to the waterfront, from the thousand lights of Times Square and the breathtaking heights of the Empire State Building (before the Twin towers the highest building in the world) to the proletarian and violent New York sung by authors such as Arthur Miller or Hubert Selby, Jr.

Mainly it was a great historical and sociological affresco of America, in addition to being a most delightful spectacle of music, dance and theater offered at the courtyard of the Conservatory, crowded to its seams. The ensemble of Operafestival di Roma, consisting mainly of students from the University of Virginia, was directed by Kathleen Arecchi, who also is a member of the voice faculty of the program.

During selections from “Chicago” (composed by John Kander, which was a great success in the 70s under the direction of Bob Fosse) one could plainly hear the evident links and credits to the operetta of the old Europe. But listening to scenes from “Music Man” by Meredith Wilson and “Oklahoma” by Rodgers-Hammerstein, one immediately recognized the all-American nature of the musical. From the musical point of view, for example, in “Lida Rose” elements from the gospel and from the culture of the West immediately come to mind, those nostalgic and languid ballads sung by the “belles” of the frontier in the saloons of Arizona and California to cowboys in search for gold. In the optimistic naivete, outrageously rowdy, full of good will but also of the desire to have fun, it reminds us of the later America of the “Radio Days” of Woody Allen. In “On the Town” (the score by Leonard Bernstein, decisively more elaborate and complex) we are in a different genre, not the Broadway of vaudeville or ragtime or of New York inhabited by pioneers on coaches pulled by horses. We are now in the 40s, during the apogee of the development of the metropolis and, not by chance, of the musical. One of the three sailors that disembark into a night of dreams in the city (they have to come back to their ship at the port by 6:00 in the next morning) has certainly the impudence of Frank Sinatra. The girl that sings to him “Come Up to My Place”) has the mischievousness and sassyness of the big metropolis. He, a provincial, would like to see all the “sacred” sights of Manhattan, from the Empire State to Radio City; she, more practical, would like to take him home to her apartment. In “Street Scene” by Kurt Weill, we see the other face of the coin. The multi-ethnic suburbs (Italians, Jews, Latin-Americans and so on) of the Big Apple, crushed and immobilized by the summer heat, split open suddenly by a homicide, and then returning back to the first scene, free only to “dream of luxuries and those riches, available in the next turn, a few blocks away.

The excellent pianist, Judith Stillman, accompanied the entire program during this tour de force of more than two hours playing for forty solo singers with operatically trained voices, choir and dancers/actors. The entire work was very well put together, with rhythm, spontaneity and warmth. In the midst of this, there were certain individuals of exceptional talent. It was a testimony of a tradition, that of the musical, very popular and present in the American colleges.

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