Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gatti, Antonacci, Lemieux, Reiss & Tutto nel mondo è burla

Daniele Gatti conductor
Mario Martone director

Anthony Michaels-Moore  Falstaff
Anna Caterina Antonacci  Alice Ford
Paolo Fanale  Fenton
Caitlin Hulcup  Meg Page
Chen Reiss  Nannetta
Francesco Ellero d'Artegna  Pistola
Marie-Nicole Lemieux  Mrs Quickly
Jean-François Lapointe  Ford
Raul Gimenez  Dr Cajus
Patrizio Saudelli  Bardolfo

I am not really what you'd call a Verdi fan. I do like Don Carlo(s) [in spite of its outrageous historical inaccuracies], and  La Traviata [OK, I first laugh but when it's well sung and/or cleverly produced I surrender to its beauty].  Oh I also take a secret pleasure listening to Aida, and I like the orchestration in Macbeth. I don't avoid the other Verdi operas, but in no way I could imagine myself making a trip to another city just to see Rigoletto or La Forza del Destino, Il Trovatore, Nabucco, or Un Ballo...

With that being said, I admit I LOVE Falstaff. It's a musical monument among the Verdi operas. It's full of small musical patterns, sequences which are overlapping one another and result in a splendid musical collage,  perfectly matching the dynamics & spirit of the underlying comedy. This is also what makes this opera so hard to produce well: in almost all productions I've seen live or on DVD,  the music regularly decouples from the stage action. Either there is too much focus on  synchronizing the chorus, singers and the orchestra and the dramatic action gets lost from the mix, or the comedy sends the music to the background and the show rapidly becomes boring.

This production is IMO a rare success of Falstaff. Mario Martone found a magic formula while being  helped by the superb cast during the creation of this show [premiered in June 2008 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées].  

This time the cast is quite different from 2008 when we had Alessandro Corbelli, Ludovic Tézier, Francesco Meli and Amel Brahim-Djelloul. Now, in their respective roles we have  Anthony Michaels-Moore, Jean-François Lapointe, Paolo Fanale and Chen Reiss. The first two singers were announced indisposed last night, but they both decided to sing anyway. I am sorry that I couldn't listen to the top live performance by Michaels-Moore, but I hope this will happen on some other occasion. He was OK but the sore throat prevented him to smooth through the piani or to give more nuances to his Falstaff. He was mostly pushing to his comfort [mezzo-forte] zone, just to get through the show. Lapointe handled  his sore throat better, and while he's maybe not in the league with Tézier, he's a very fine singer too. Paolo Fanale is a new young Italian tenor, who's not quite a match to Francesco Meli, but he did very well last night.

My biggest surprise was the magnificent Israeli soprano, Chen Reiss! Her voice is just about perfect for Nannetta: it's light, it's crystal clear, sounds effortless in the high register, and has got no vibrato at all (!)  Anna Caterina Antonacci (ACA) and Marie-Nicole Lemieux sang their respective roles in 2008 and last night they both were at their absolute best. It felt like they were on their own turf and you could sense more spontaneity in their acting, and they were visibly having fun while singing impeccably. ACA is the best Carmen in business, arguably the best singer of the French repertoire today, but her Alice Ford must be considered as the best in business too.   

In 2008 the conductor was up and coming Alain Altinuglu and he was praised by everyone. In this revival Sgr. Daniele Gatti is in the pit with his Orchestra. You cannot ask for anything better than that, because simply there is no better. Gatti keeps all the pack in a perfect unison and all the layers of this beautiful score are perfectly exposed.

If you are in Paris or plan to come, don't miss this gem. It's wonderfully sung and played in a production that works -- which rarely happens with this opera.

Last Scene (left: Reiss & Fanale, center: Lapointe & Hulcup, right: Lemieux, Michaels-Moore, Antonacci)

Chen Reiss - excellent Nannetta

Marie-Nicoel Lemieux ROCKS! (you see a chunk of Paolo Fanale too)

Anna Caterina Antonacci is somewhat untypical but brilliant a singer, and one among a handful who you can call a true artist

Between Michaels-Moore and Antonacci: his awesomeness Daniele Gatti


  1. Mouais, la production est quand même très TCE, avec ces praticables moches en arrière-scène, et ce que fait l'orchestre n'est pas génial. Mais c'est vrai, Chen Reiss, Lapointe (que je ne connaissais pas) et l'ensemble de la distribution (j'ai eu Maestri) en font un spectacle nettement supérieur à ce qu'on a à Bastille ou Garnier... "Quand on n'a pas ce que l'on aime, il faut aimer ce que l'on a"...

  2. C'est ça. La dynamique de l'œuvre marche bien sur scène, et surtout Gatti sait faire vivre cette musique. Avec des bons chanteurs qui sont à l'aise comme acteurs --> on sort content.

    Ce n'est pas un spectacle inoubliable mais c'est bien fait. Rater Falstaff c'est très facile car c'est trop vite pour un opéra.

    Mais la musique est très belle & loin du pathos verdien habituel.