Tag Archives: Mariame Clement

Enjoyable Don Pasquale

30 Jul

Glyndebourne’s Don Pasquale has returned for its fourth run – twice on tour and, now, twice the Festival. I saw the latest run on 30th July.

Mariame Clement’s production, backdated to a Chardin-ish 18th century is a cynical piece of work.  Malatesta is clearly having an affair with Norina and will also continue to do so after the marriage with Norina (unlike previous incarnations, she no longer runs off with him at the end).  I found myself disliking it very much at its last outing on the tour.  It didn’t seem so bad here – though I find the idea of Malatesta and Norina going into a bathtub pretty fully clothed a bit unlikely.   I’m not sure about the chorus as an audience.  Bits and pieces have been changed but, at this run, it seemed to get the piece generally about right – a cynical comedy where nobody comes out particularly well.  It’s clearly been built for the tour rather than the festival but the acting is strong and the performance held its own.  The audience enjoyed itself.

The cast was adequate.  Renato Girolami acts Pasquale rather well, though not quite Corbelli.  Vocally, he sounded under-powered but put the words across pretty well.  Andrew Stenson as Ernesto did a perfectly decent job but I can’t particularly imagine wanting to hear him in anything else. Andrey Zhilikhovsky acted a nasty, sinister, sexy Malatesta and sang pretty strongly.  It’s not the largest or most beautiful of voices, but he made a stylish Malatesta who certainly held the stage as the manipulator.

He was matched by Lisette Oropesa as Norina.  She struck me as having the biggest personality and a really attractive voice that was pretty much ideal for the role.  She sang very stylishly and gave a lot of pleasure with accurate coloratura and strong pointing of the words.  I’m not sure that she made Norina a particularly sympathetic character, but she probably isn’t.

Giacomo Sagripanti conducted an alert, performance.  The chorus was in splendid form and so was the LPO.  The performance zipped along at just the right speed and there was no question that I was watching one of the finest Italian comic operas even if I could imagine performances which were vocally a bit more accomplished and productions a bit less cynical.  It’s worth a visit.

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Premiere of Poliuto

21 May

I’m just back from the first night of Glyndebourne’s new production of Donizetti’s Poliuto – the British premiere of the Italian version.  I loved it.

It’s fascinating to compare the piece to Les Martyrs.  It’s more concise, a more human drama – the love triangle is more interesting here and you still get the strong sense of religious conflict.  The French one is longer, has a much greater role for the governor, Felix, than in the Italian version and there is, obviously, a greater sense of the public, though the difference here is not as great as I’d anticipated – there’s a very strong role for the chorus in this piece.  In a less strong performance the weaknesses in Cammarano’s libretto might be more apparent – Poliuto is out of the action for quite a lot of time after the first scene; you never get any sense that the evil high priest Callistene is in love with Paolina until she mentions it in the last scene and so a lot of the motivation for the second Act is a bit unclear.  Maybe Paolina’s conversion could be signaled a bit earlier.  And musically the French version is more ambitious, more spacious.

But there’s lots of glorious music here.  The arias are strong and well placed with great opportunities for all the main singers – Poliuto’s Act II aria is a really strong study of jealousy, and I thought that Severo’s entrance aria was among his most grateful baritone numbers.  The duets, particularly, enable the singers to strike sparks of each other.  I was particularly taken with the duet in Act II for Severo and Paolina and the final one for Poliuto and Paolina.  The finale to the second act is one of Donizetti’s strongest – another glorious sextet followed by a really exciting stretta.  I defy anyone to leave a performance without at least those two ringing in their ears.  This is Donizetti at his best and I felt that the Verdi of Aida and Don Carlos was not that far away.

Mariame Clément’s production struck me as outstandingly good.  She’s set it in a totalitarian state, probably in the 1930s, to judge by the costumes.  The sets are a set of massive blocks, on which videos are delicately projected to suggest location.  It feels like a fascist state and one where people are afraid.  She uses them really well to enable the more intimate scenes to be nicely downstage and to suggest different locations, even images.  There’s a fluidity about it – locations switch easily and she manages to get more out of scenes than you’d think possible.  In Severo’s entrance aria, she uses the silent chorus to suggest how his speech is really going, while he sings privately, to us, about his love for Paolina and it moves effortlessly in the next scene with Felice and Callistene.  In Callistene’s Act III aria about using the people for his ends, we suddenly see his soldiers dancing at a cafe with the unthinking population.  She doesn’t shrink from the viciousness of the state: this is a police state and you’re left in no doubt about the fate of the Christians in this society.  It works with the music and this struck me as a very classy staging indeed.

Provided that you don’t demand Callas and Corelli, this was musically hugely satisfying.  Enrique Mazzola had the piece absolutely under control and the LPO played their socks off for him.  He made you realise how good Donizetti is at suggesting atmosphere and finding the right instrument for the emotions.  He accompanied the singers really sensitively.  This was as fine a reading as Elder’s of the French version last year.

In the title role, Michael Fabbiano was very good indeed.  Perhaps he didn’t need to sing quite as loudly as he did early on but he seized on the anger and intensity of the emotions – a fascinating mixture of human jealousy and religious fervour.  His Act II aria was a highlight, as was the prison duet with Paolina.  Ana Maria Martinez doesn’t strike me as a natural bel canto singer and the voice has lost some of its sweetness since she sang Rusalka here, but there’s an intensity about her acting and a conviction about her singing that made this a really satisfying performance to watch and here.  You believed in the two of them in that final duet.

The discovery of the evening, however, was Igor Golovatenko as Severo.  Here is a really wonderfully schooled baritone who sang with outstanding style.  He has that great legato line that you need for Donizetti baritones and I imagine that he’ll also be a fabulous Luna, Posa and Belcore.  He understood what the role was about and conveyed the intensity of the man’s love for Paolina.  This was one of the most exciting baritone debuts here that I can recall.

At his curtain call, Matthew Rose seemed rather upset – easily the most graceless acknowledgement of applause that I’ve seen.  I thought he sang Callistene really well and suggested aptly the political manouevring.  As Nearco, Emanuele d’Aguanno was impressive.  The chorus sang and acted excellently.

I found this a wholly compelling, fascinating performance that rose above the cliches that people peddle about Donizetti – this was about politics and human emotion and this production conveyed a vision of the opera with absolute clarity and, for me, real success.  I hope Glyndebourne is planning a revival (or how about trying Les Martyrs so we can compare properly?) but, just in case they’re not, there are still tickets left, so I’d snap them up.

If you do, you’ll see that they’ve been playing about with the garden and have put up a rather ugly box of an art gallery.  New bits of garden never look their best in their first year and I’m not convinced that the rather camply baroque topiary yew plants quite fit into a garden that’s built on a grander scale, but the rose garden looks much more promising. Irrespective of that, this seemed to me to be one of the best Glyndebourne new productions for a while