I don’t spend a lot of time listening to disks of opera arias. I’s music I much prefer live and in context but right now a dose of good old fashioned verismo tenoring is very welcome! Piotr Beczala’s new CD Vincerò absolutely delivers it. There’s a reason this guy (normally) spends his time commuting between Vienna, Zurich, Salzburg and New York with the odd side trip to Bayreuth. He’s the real deal. There’s power to burn allied to control and proper ringing high notes. His diction is excellent too. There are no unnecessary histrionics, just top class delivery.
There are only two video recordings of Giodarno’s Fedora in the catalogue. There’s a classic 1996 recording from the Met and, now, a 2015 production from the Teatro Carlo Fenice in Genoa. The Genoa version, directed by Rosetta Cucchi, attempts to inject some serious ideas into the piece, which the Met production most certainly does not. Whether this is a good idea is questionable for Fedora, even though it contains some good numbers and some great melodies is, dramatically, about as clichéd as it gets. Cucchi attacks this problem in two ways. First, an old version of Loris Ipanov is on stage throughout observing the action and dies at the end. I’m not sure what this adds. Second, at various points a mime/ballet sequence is staged behind the main stage area. This seems like an attempt to link the narrative specifically to WW1 and the death of the Romanovs which seems odd as the ending makes no sense in a post-revolutionary context. So, I’m not sure the idea is sound and I’m not sure the piece would carry the freight even if it were. The rather quirky video direction by Matteo Ricchetti doesn’t help either as it’s often hard to figure out what is going on in total.
What’s become of David McVicar? His 2015 production of Giodarno’s Andrea Chénier for the Royal Opera House seems typical of his recent work. It looks expensive. It features a starry cast. He flirts with dramatic risk but in the last analysis it comes off as a bit tame and even sloppy. Basically when the principals are at the centre of the drama it’s compelling stuff but when they are not it’s not and there are curious inconsistencies.
There’s a performance of Dean Burry’s children’s opera The Scorpion’s Sting on Saturday 29th November at 11am at the ROM. It’s free with museum entrance and forms part of an Ancient Egypt themed day of special presentations. It’s being performed by the COC Ensemble Studio and is suitable for kids aged 8-14 or thereabouts. More details here.
Fanciulla is Puccini’s American opera. It’s set during the California gold rush and it was the first opera ever to premiere in New York, one hundred years and a couple of days ago. The soprano role, Minnie, is notoriously difficult to sing and so it isn’t produced all that often.