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Home Culture Anna Netrebko and Ludovic Tézier stand out in the Neapolitan revival of ‘La Gioconda’ | Culture

Anna Netrebko and Ludovic Tézier stand out in the Neapolitan revival of ‘La Gioconda’ | Culture

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The Gioconda enjoys an interesting renaissance. This title by Amilcare Ponchielli, released in 1876 and revised for three years until its final version, is often remembered today for its popular Dance of the hours, from the third act. An exquisite ballet number that Walt Disney popularized in his film Fancy, with unforgettable hippos dressed in tutus. But we are talking about the main post-Verdi title of Aida and prior to the verismo of Mascagni or the emergence of Puccini. An Italian version of the grand opera French, in the Scribe model, with that infallible combination of massive choral scenes, a spectacular historical setting, abundance of contrasts and a central ballet.

In less than three weeks, two new productions of The Gioconda, both at the Salzburg Easter Festival and at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. In the first case, the opera debuted in Mozart’s city on March 23. At the Parthenopeia, the main musical event of the year took place on April 10, with the return of this title 47 years later. Both productions will continue in future seasons, respectively, at Covent Garden in London and at the Liceu in Barcelona, ​​where curiously this opera was performed exactly five years ago.

From left to right: baritone Ludovic Tézier, soprano Anna Netrebko, mezzo Kseniia Nikolaieva (crouching), bass Alexander Köpeczi and tenor Jonas Kaufmann at the end of the third act of ‘La Gioconda’, on April 10 at the San Carlo Theater in Naples.© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of (© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of)

But the revival of this Ponchielli title is also related to the availability of great voices. This is demonstrated by the presence, in both productions, of an important cast led by the star couple of Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann, who were debuting in their respective roles of La Gioconda and Enzo Grimaldi. In fact, the Neapolitan theater turned the general rehearsal, on the 7th, into a special performance dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Russian diva in opera, since she made her debut in Saint Petersburg, in April 1994, as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. The singer from Krasnodar has broadened and darkened her lyrical soprano voice to encompass more and more repertoire of pushed.

It was clear, at the premiere on April 10, with a great performance that stood out especially in the fourth act. Netrebko faced with great determination this complex and dramatic character developed by Arrigo Boito in his script based on the drama Angelo, tyrant of Padua, by Victor Hugo. A street singer who sees her blind mother publicly slandered her, she faces the betrayal of her lover, she tries to murder her rival to help him save her life and she ends up committing suicide to avoid be subjugated by an evil person.

The soprano Anna Netrebko during the first act of 'La Gioconda', on April 10, in Naples.
The soprano Anna Netrebko during the first act of ‘La Gioconda’, on April 10, in Naples.© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of (© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of)

The Russian took the famous aria to her home field Suicide!, with its difficult changes of register and phrasing. He turned some slight initial inconsistencies into part of the character’s desperation. And it culminated with such power, in the bass and treble, that he garnered the biggest ovation of the night. Thereafter, he led the lyrical climax of the evening, with the trio This last kiss, where he says goodbye to Enzo and Laura, his lover and rival, whom he had helped flee, before facing death. And she crowned her performance with an admirable final duet with the evil Barnaba, with that hypocritical seduction in flowery song before stabbing himself with a dagger.

The other big winner of the night was, precisely, the sensational Barnaba by baritone Ludovic Tézier. The Frenchman, who sang a great Rigoletto this season at the Teatro Real, built the cynical confidant of the Inquisition with Verdian baritone mortar. A character closer to Iago, Othellothat of Scarpia, of Tosca. For this reason, Tézier elevated the nihilistic monologue with a burnished tone The monument! which is so reminiscent of the perverse character that Verdi would create from another Boito libretto.

Loose Kaufmann

On the contrary, Jonas Kaufmann was less convincing than Enzo Grimaldi. The German tenor nobly faced the most demanding passages in fortissimo in the high register, but his voice soon began to sound tired and brittle. However, his musicality was a constant in singing. legato where he exhibited admirable handling of half voices. His famous romance of the second act culminated, Sky and sea, with a wonderful pianissimo regulator on the high G. For her beloved, Laura Adorno, there was Eve-Maud Hubeaux, who replaced Anita Rachvelishvili and had just sung the aforementioned Salzburg production.

This mezzo Swiss woman with a homogeneous tone handled Laura’s immense range with solvency. But her construction of her character did not convince her and she barely emerged some intensity in the third act scene when her husband Alvise Badoèro orders her to kill herself with poison. That sadistic head of the Venetian Inquisition was the Romanian bass Alexander Köpeczi, a singer as solid as he was impersonal. And the sixth main character of this complex opera, La Cieca, was the mezzo Ukraine Kseniia Nikolaieva, more consistent giving life to the poor blind mother of La Gioconda.

Soprano Anna Netrebko singing her aria 'Suicide!'  in the fourth act of 'La Gioconda', last Wednesday at the San Carlo in Naples.
Soprano Anna Netrebko singing her aria ‘Suicide!’ in the fourth act of ‘La Gioconda’, last Wednesday at the San Carlo in Naples.© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of (© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of)

The third winner of the night was musical director Pinchas Steinberg, who defended the innovative details of Ponchielli’s score from the pit. Apart from accurately accompanying the voices and ensembles, the Israeli maestro knew how to create exquisite atmospheres at the head of the Neapolitan theater orchestra. He stood out in the last two acts and, especially, in an excellent Dance of the hourswhich he directed, marking all the details and culminated with a gallop hectic The main choir of the Neapolitan theater, even with its children’s section, was another strength from its first intervention Parties! Bread!in the spectacular opening scene set at the Venetian carnival.

Romain Gilbert’s stage direction is based on the success of maintaining the Venetian location and its historical setting, two fundamental aspects of this opera. But the young man manager French, who made his debut in the San Carlo, did not want to exploit the popular image of the city of canals either. A more terrifying semblance closer to the time of the Inquisition, which portrays the simple neutral tone scenery signed by Etienne Pluss. A monotony that does not give up evoking the different scenarios of the action by adding details as colorful as fire.

AFire on Enzo Grimaldi's boat at the end of the second act of 'La Gioconda', last Wednesday in Naples.
AFire on Enzo Grimaldi’s boat at the end of the second act of ‘La Gioconda’, last Wednesday in Naples.© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of (© ph.Luciano Romano / Theater of)

The touch of color is provided by Christian Lacroix’s refined costumes, especially in the female protagonists. Valerio Tiberi’s lighting also adds variety to the scene and Vincent Chaillet’s choreography is a nod to commedia del arte. Not by chance, the Dance of the hours It stars Columbina, Harlequín and Pantalón flanked by six couples of dancers. There is an obsession with constant movement, with extras that interact with the protagonists, although Gilbert knows how to stop the action to enhance the concerted end of the third act.

Among the own ideas, apart from turning the scribe Isèpo into a harlequin or reinventing the ballet’s plot, the ending is surprising. I mean the spectacular turn of events which involves the appearance of the ghost of La Cieca, once Barnaba shouts at the corpse of La Gioconda that he has killed her. A supernatural element far removed from the spirit of this opera.

‘The Gioconda’

Music de Amilcare Ponchielli. Libretto by Tobia Gorrio (pseudonym of Arrigo Boito).

Anna Netrebko, soprano (La Gioconda), Jonas Kaufmann, tenor (Enzo Grimaldi), Ludovic Tézier, baritone (Barnaba), Eve-Maud Hubeaux, mezzosoprano (Laura Adorno), Alexander Köpeczi, bass (Alvise Badoèro), Kseniia Nikolaieva, mezzosoprano (La Cieca), Lorenzo Mazzucchelli, bass (Zuàne), Roberto Covatta, tenor (Ispe).

Choir and Orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo. Musical direction: Pinchas Steinberg. Stage direction: Romain Gilbert. San Carlo Theater in Naples, April 10. Until April 17.

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