Friday, November 12, 2010

Spectacular evening of belcanto in Paris

Otello (in concert), Théâtre des Champs Elysées - Paris, November 11 2010

Anna Caterina Antonacci, John Osborn, and Dmitry Korchak

Evelino Pidò ..... conductor

John Osborn ..... Otello
Anna Caterina Antonacci ..... Desdemona
Marco Vinco ..... Elmiro
Dmitry Korchak ..... Rodrigo
Jose Manuel Zapata ..... Iago
José Maria Lo Monaco ..... Emilia
Tansel Akzeybek ..... The Doge of Venice
Fabrice Constans ..... Lucio

Chorus and Orchestra of Opéra national de Lyon

To me it was a surprise to realize that this opera is nowadays a rarity. Apart from the Rossini Opera Festival, it is very rarely performed. A notable exception was a recent production at Opéra de Lausanne. I could see two reasons for that: 1. Librettos for the opera seria by Rossini are extremely weak and it takes more than an inventive and enthusiastic director to make something coherent and dramatically acceptable to today's audience; 2. You need three very high profile tenors specialized in the Rossini repertoire who could be able to sing this extremely difficult roles.

I personally prefer to see this opera performed in concert than clumsily staged like it was the case with a recent production of La donna del lago at the Paris Opera. Libretto for Rossini's Otello is very weak too and it is hard to produce a dramatically appealing show (after having seen Rossini's Otello, Lord Byron wrote about the massacre of Shakespeare's play).  A good concert performance shifts the focus away from the libretto. Last night's concert performance of Otello  at Théâtre des Champs Elysées (TCE) is an example of how to celebrate Rossini. The concert was organized in collaboration with Opéra National de Lyon, and judging from more than 30 microphones placed on the stage I guess a CD pack will be released sometimes in 2011. [ Serge Dorny, one of the best artistic directors today and currently intendant of Opéra de Lyon, was in the audience. ]

Last night all the elements were united to make an unforgettable belcanto evening. First ingredient was a very good orchestra -- which is not that often the case in belcanto repertoire. Evelino Pido was in his 'Olympic form' -- rarely this attentive, fully engaged and constantly focused [I detected only one decoherence in Act-1]. The chorus was perfectly tuned with the orchestral intensity, resulting in a brilliantly composed sound, with all its components discernible.

Evelino Pido

Before talking about the big guns, I would like to mention the performance of Tansel Akzeybek and José Maria Lo Monaco who were very good, not at all intimidated by the importance of the event (TCE was full!) or the high profile of the cast they were in.  When you see the second roles so well sung you know that something special is bound to happen... Marco Vinco, in very good form too, and his singing was far more convincing than in recent L'italiana in Algeri.

Tansel Akzeybek and José Maria Lo Monaco

The stuff the three big tenors delivered last night was enormous and in no way nor by any standard less good than J.D. Florez at his best, or other Rossini specialists -- A.Siragusa, L. Brownlee, M. Mironov, G. Kunde, C. Lee...  It was so grand that one could even build a case to claim the opposite, but that is not the purpose of this post...

Dmitry Korchak

The most difficult role in this opera is undoubtedly the one of Rodrigo, last night sung by Dmitry Korchak. Dmitry has a beautiful voice, wonderfully projected, astonishingly flexible and his interpretative skills are simply impeccable. If you looked for a perfect Rossini tenor, Dima is your guy. Bravissimo! His dexterity, ease with high notes and perfect control over the lower register are impressive. To see him sustain that level of singing in such a long role like this makes your jaw drop in awe.  His duet with Iago was the highlight of Act-1, which also drew our attention to the awesomeness of Jose Manuel Zapata, another huge Rossini tenor whose presence and ease in singing were not only a good match with Korchak, but also perfectly suitable for the role.

John Osborn

John Osborn accepted the challenge and threw himself like a lion in Act-2, to sing with delightful intensity that I've never heard him display [to this extent] before. What a wonderful singer he is! His duos with Korchak in Act-2 and 3 were the best Rossini singing I was ever given to listen to. Bravissimi!

 Jose Manuel Zapata and Anna Caterina Antonacci  (Sorry for the blurred photo!)

My biggest surprise was Anna Caterina Antonacci (ACA) who I didn't expect to sing the role of Desdemona this great. She used to sing the selected Rossini roles many years ago, and I thought her voice evolved in a direction that would make her unfit for this role. Moreover the stakes were extra high for her as she is one of the operatic sweethearts in Paris: a mediocre performance in front of the Parisian crowd was the last thing she would've wanted to do... So going to the concert I thought her  accepting to sing this Desdemona was making a mistake. Now,  I am more than glad to recognize that I was dead wrong and that ACA was simply magnificent throughout the whole evening. The reason why we love Joyce DiDonato singing these roles (Elena, Desdemona) is her capacity to stretch her dexterous mezzo voice and catch all the needed soprano notes. ACA does it from the opposite end and while at ease with  high notes she has no trouble to dig deep to the lower register (she's the best Carmen today and started her career as mezzo). She was visibly relieved after finishing her acrobatic aria in Act-2, looked extremely focused throughout the concert, and I can only imagine how tiring --but ultimately rewarding-- the evening was for her. Bravissima!

This "Rossini Slamdunk tenor fest" and super-Desdemona electrified the auditorium and the crowd quite naturally crowned the evening by long and huge ovations.

The concert will be radio broadcast on Saturday, December 4 2010 starting from 19:00 (cet) on this link. Do not miss that!

Incredible Mr. Korchak...

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was fantastic; I'm sorry I couldn't have been there. Thanks for the link!