Thursday, June 9, 2011

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (5) Verdi by Noseda

I vespri siciliani (excerpts), Théâtre des Champs Elysées, May 25 2011

Michele Pertusi, Sondra Radvanovsky, and Gregory Kunde

Gianandrea Noseda ..... Conductor

Sondra Radvanovsky ..... La duchessa Elena
Gregory Kunde ..... Arrigo
Michele Pertusi ..... Guido di Monforte

Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Regio di Torino

There are two kinds of great conductors: (i) those capable to establish a particular kind of complicity with the orchestra and with time they manage to produce sounds that sit naturally with every member of the orchestra, and becomes special, peculiar, to soon become irresistible to the attentive spectators; (ii) those who can come and spend a couple of days with an orchestra and impose their authority or other form of charisma [how to distinguish charisma from authority is a philosophical question] that helps boost the orchestra to deliver something special.
Well, we shouldn't forget the third kind of conductors, i.e. those who show up on the day of the concert and rehearse only a fraction of what they would perform later in the evening.  Those are of course not  great conductors, although they are treated as such [PR can take you anywhere!]

 Gianandrea eccellentissimo Noseda

Talking about great conductors, Gianandrea Noseda is definitely both (a) and (b) kind of great. This concert was a treat because he was in Paris with his orchestra from Teatro Regio, and with a superb chorus from the same house. I am sure you've already noticed that I am not so crazy about Verdi in general [I believe Luisa Miller and Forza del destino are atrocious operas, for example], but I do like very much Falstaff, I like Otello and Macbeth, and I still manage to find something fascinating in the social background of La Traviata. It is not that I dislike the rest of Verdi: it's simply less appealing to me, and the way it is often performed [with shout-fest and orchestra sounding like on a firemen's parade.] Apart from Teodor Currentzis and Paul Daniel, I don't actually remember to have listened to an extraordinary orchestral performance of any Verdi's opera. Among Italians, Daniele Gatti can sometimes be miraculous in this repertoire, but no one gets close to the level of a steady brilliance of Gianandrea Noseda.

The program of this pretty memorable concert started by 4 Sacred Pieces by Verdi, unknown to a broader public (me included). What better a way to discover that music but with Noseda, his orchestra, and a wonderful chorus. I am quite amazed that Verdi-freaks are not talking about this gems more often instead of perpetual Rigoletto-ing... To me this part of the concert was what I liked the most although the second part was brilliantly performed too.

Sondra Radvanovsky (Elena)

The second part was like "The best of I vespri siciliani" -- a collection of excerpts from this rarely performed Verdi's opera,  originally written in French but here performed in Italian. This opera was recently presented in Turin, in a very good production mounted to celebrate 150 years since the unification of Italy. I saw that show that I'll blog about sometimes in June/July. As for this concert, I heard some people complaining about it being "The best of", instead of the full opera in concert. I disagree and believe that a choice to present only the best parts was spot on.  Without its scenic component, this opera could easily fall flat because of its several long patches that keep the spectators involved only if the scenic part on the stage is well constructed. So, props to Noseda for this decision.

The role of Elena is like tailored for Sondra Radvanovsky, who has that special talent for the verdian soprano roles. Even though her bolero (her first aria) was not at the level of what she would sing after, it was still thrilling to listen to her richly toned voice easily surfing on the orchestra. They performed the full 5th act in which she was absolutely splendid.

Gregory Kunde (Arrigo)

Gregory Kunde made a huge statement by this role. It is his first Verdi role, and it is not the most bel-canto-like Verdi. Each time he strays into a non-bel-canto repertoire, he does it intelligently and  regularly impresses everyone: his Enée in Les Troyens conquered the Paris opera-goers 8 years ago, so that his every next appearance in Paris is expected with some kind of excitement. People simply love his singing. And he loves them back by his engaged and wonderful performances. His Verdi-debut sounded majestic. While the bel-canto expertise helped, the power of his voice admirably matched the Sondra's. Michele Pertusi was very good too, but Sondra and Gregory were a notch better.

G.Noseda demonstrated how one should play Verdi's operas: his orchestra sounded vigorous but neat, the singers never getting drowned by the orchestra or left alone, and the chorus was like a perfect fit. Maestro Noseda, sei grande!

In the end the crowd went wild and wouldn't let the performers go. After many calls Noseda finally decided to offer an encore and repeat the 5th Act of I Vespri (what an encore, eh?!)  That ended with a standing ovation from the crowd -- which is an extremely rare thing to happen in concert halls in Paris.

Here is one aria from this opera that you might like, sung by Sondra Radvanovsky:


  1. Hmm, were we at the same performance? I agree about Radvanovsky, and that Noseda is a good conductor. But to me it sounded like a pick-up performance, very uneven, especially the 4 Pezzi Sacri.

  2. So you see: different folks, different strokes. ;) I particularly liked the first part actually. The second one was exciting but that's not the music I particularly enjoy. The fact that the crowd responded so well to that brought 'the electricity' in the air, so...
    But you're of course welcome to disagree. Cheers