Finally! La donna del lago at ROF, with Juan Diego Florez, the singer of my life! He was in great shape, you could tell he was at ease, and he gave us an absolutely wonderful performance. But let’s start from the beginning. The first thing to say is that I had already seen a Donna del lago with JDF, in London, 3 years ago, and the lead was Joyce Di Donato. ‘Nuff said.
The opera was showing at the Adriatic Arena, which is the sports hall where the Pesaro basketball team plays (Scavolini Pesaro, they’re great), so I was a bit worried about the acoustics. I was pleasantly surprised: one can hear and see very well. It’s more messy than a normal theater, the bar is kind of very low key, but let’s not complain too much. There was also a douchebag who got up, left the theater, and came back, all during the aria Mura felici, I could have killed him, and I can’t understand why they let him back in. I don’t think this would have happened in a normal theater.
The production was by Damiano Michieletto, the genius who managed to get himself booed out of the stage at the Royal Opera House in London, with his Guillaume Tell. Everybody said this production in Pesaro was wonderful, and, to be honest, it did have some good things, but it did not convince me too much. The best thing was the scenery, visually very beautiful. The whole scene is in Elena’s house, which is crumbling and dilapidated, and then, at the end, the walls are lifted up half way, and it shows a wheat field, and big chandeliers come down from the top, to represent King James’ castle. The idea of the director was to begin the opera with Elena and Malcolm, now in their old age, remembering the story shown in the opera. So, during the whole opera there are these two elderly people roaming around the stage and reacting to what’s happening.
It is clear that Elena has some regrets regarding Uberto/King James, and Malcolm is not exactly ecstatic about that. The idea is good, but these two old people getting upset on stage don’t add very much to the experience, and are quite distracting. Everything else was pretty traditional, and the costumes were nice.
The conductor Michele Mariotti was absolutely exceptional, and on this I must agree with my fellow florezido Ludwigvolks. He managed to extract an incredible performance from the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, a wonderful interpretation. Never this score (which does have some faults) seemed so much like a unique thing, with sophisticated details. Every musical phrase had its meaning, the support to the singers was amazing, and in the ensemble moments there was a unity of intents, and a harmony which were simply exceptional. For Rossini, I really don’t know who can do better, nowadays.
Juan Diego Florez comes back to the role of Uberto/Giacomo, and I love him more and amore. His voice has changed, but not so much as some reviews seem to imply. The coloratura maybe does not have the overwhelming “machine gun” quality that it used to have, this is true, but it’s not necessarily a fault. The phrases are more fully carried out, more accomplished, every phrase has a beginning, a development and an end, and the coloratura is only one of the components of the performance, much more embedded in the musical expression. In my opinion, this improves the interpretation, and the character comes out much more complete and fascinating. His elegance, his style, are things that we take for granted, but the reasoned construction of each phrase, including dynamics, accents, are all perfect. I know his voice is going elsewhere, but I really hope he will keep singing Rossini. At least every once in a while. Please. Pretty please.
Elena was a student of the Accademia Rossiniana at her debut, Salome Jicia, and she gave a good performance. The voice is there, the high notes a bit too metallic for my taste. The technique is good, the projection very good, and the coloratura is all there. In my opinion she’s still a bit immature. Especially in the duets with Florez the comparison was a bit merciless: his phrases were a wonder of sophistication and elegance, she sounded almost as if she was reading the music. But she’s young, and she will learn. Her Tanti affetti came out really good, even if not overwhelming. Joyce, we miss you so much.
Tenor Michael Spyres was Rodrigo, and I liked him better than when I heard him the first time in this role. He’s still a bit weak in the high register, but in the high-C competition with Florez (Misere mie pupille) he played his part admirably. His central register is very powerful and gives him great presence, he gave us a really good interpretation of his character, confident and authoritative.
Malcolm was Varduhi Abrahamyan, whom I had already heard as Ruggiero in Alcina, and as Adalgisa in Norma. She is really extremely good, a very confident voice and personality. But, I think, she’s better in Haendel. The aria Mura felici (my favorite piece of this opera) was wonderful, but it didn’t give me much feeling, not so much emotion. Rossini (so I am learning) is a very touchy composer. It’s not enough for a singer to sing his music. The singer must fall in love with him, and understand him through and through; Abrahamyan in my opinion is not at this stage yet.
Bass Marko Mimica was Duglas, Elena’s father, and he collected a lot of applause, but I thought he was a huge screamer. His performance was plagued by lots of puntature acute, and he has an enormous voice, but not much more.
The rest of the cast, Ruth Iniesta as Albina, and Francisco Brito as Serano and Bertram, were very precise and quite nice.
Thank you, Maestro Mariotti and Maestro Florez, for a wonderful Donna del Lago!