Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two love stories over 2 dead bodies, in Florence: Gianni Schicchi and a Florentine Tragedy open in Athens

Going back to the Greek National Opera after so much time felt kind of awkward. It's a theatre that most Greek opera-goers love to hate. It's the theatre were I watched hundreds of performances since I was a child and it's the theatre that I have been visiting very rarely the last 2-3 years, for various reasons (that wouldn't fit in this post).

Attending opening night of this interesting double bill - Zemlinsky's
Eine florentinische Tragödie and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi reminded me some of the reasons but also surprised me positively.

Two fresh, modern productions that both had in common the excellent staging by John Fulljames, the interesting sets by Richard Hudson and some good singing.

First things first.

As we read you-know-where:

Eine florentinische Tragödie (A Florentine Tragedy) is an opera in one act by Alexander Zemlinsky, with a German libretto adapted by the composer from a translation of Oscar Wilde's play by Max Meyerfeld. It was premiered at the Hoftheater, Stuttgart, on January 30, 1917.

The scene is 16th century Florence at Simone's residence.

Simone, a Florentine merchant, suspects that he is being cuckolded by Prince Guido. He sells Guido a robe and offers the prince everything that is in his house. Guido chooses Bianca, Simone's wife. Simone takes her to her room and makes her do spinning. After he leaves, she declares that she hates him and wishes he were dead. Hearing this, Simone ponders further about adultery and death. He then leaves Guido and Bianca alone and the two lovers express their love. When Guido is about to go home, Simone challenges the prince to a fight. They fight to death: first with swords, then with daggers, before Simone finally strangles Guido. Bianca then rushes to embrace her husband and they are reconciled.

Philip Horst sang an imposing, virile, Hunding-like Simone, displaying a wonderful instrument, but seemed not to be at-home with the part. However, we would have to recognize that his, is a killer-part and not a very thankful one.

Fredrika Brillembourg, the unfaithful wife, a mezzo that we had the chance to hear singing the "Gymnasiast" (ok, the schoolboy) in the brilliant Athens Lulu three years agο, sang a passionate, secure Bianca and seemed to be at ease with a part that she has already sung quite a few times.

Bryan Hymel, playing a rock star rather than a Prince (as I suppose most Princes don't wear silver Puma sneakers), was an arrogant, naive yet lovestruck Guido who displayed a voice willing to shine but obliged to obey to Zemlinsky's dark score.

Mr. Hymel will be visiting us again in April to sing Arturo in I Puritani next to Eglise Gutierrez as Elvira.

It's a pity that all vocal performance was downgraded by the extremely loud playing of the orchestra that didn't seem to recognize any other sign on the score but fortissimo.
But then again, the transformation of the orchestra pit, that the administration of the theatre did so absurdly a couple of years ago and without any kind of study on the theatre's accoustic, clearly contributes to the orchestra's volume.

For Gianni Schicchi, the GNO picked only Greek singers with the exception of Marcus Glenn Shelton as Rinuccio (and I'm glad they did).

A very well tuned stage direction, some excellent lighting (by Bruno Poet) and a cast that seemed to be having a great time on stage were the ingredients to a wonderful performance.

Yanni Yannisis as Gianni Schicchi, Irini Kyriakidou as Lauretta and Marcus Shelton as Rinuccio delivered excellent performances, so did Christoforos Stamboglis as Simone and Mina Polychronou as Nella.

Special kudos to Irini Kyriakidou for a most moving rendition of "O mio babbino caro" and to Marcus Shelton for a lustrous "Avete torto".

Miss Kyriakidou has uploaded @ her tube, a video of herself singing Lauretta's aria. Enjoy

Parsi should excuse himself to you, sexy reader, for this being so short, but hey! I ve got a plane to catch in 3 hours! Just you wait...


Anonymous said...

Συνευρεθήκαμε ξανά :-) Που θα πάει κάποια στιγμή μπορεί και να γνωριστούμε.

Συμφωνώ και με το παραπάνω για ότι λές για την ακουστική και νομίζω πως κανείς (εννοώ από τους της ΕΛΣ) δεν δίνει την απαραίτητη προσοχή σε αυτό

Willym said...

Well you met us for dinner - great place by the way, good food and even better company - got this review written, packed and obviously made the plane. I am impressed! Have a wonderful time.

Aντώνης said...

Ωραίο τo Τζιάννι Σκίκκι, ε?? Εγώ το είχα δει πέρσυ μαζί με τα 7 θανάσιμα! Πήρες και το αεροπλάνο βλέπω... Άντε καλά να περάσεις!