Giacomo Puc­cini’s Opera Hits Ser­e­nade Opera Gal­le­ria

Oman Daily Observer - - SPORT -

The lat­est in ROHM’S se­ries of free lunchtime recitals in the Opera Gal­le­ria pre­sented a spe­cial gourmet con­cert of Puc­cini del­i­ca­cies. The pro­gramme pro­vided a taste of Ital­ian gas­tron­omy with Puc­cini as the chef, the au­di­ence as din­ers and the soloists of Fes­ti­val Castell Per­al­ada as the ex­pe­ri­enced, highly tal­ented wait­ers, de­liv­er­ing the de­li­cious menu.

The Yamaha grand pi­ano was el­e­vated on a small im­pro­vised stage in the court­yard and plenty of chairs were pro­vided for the im­promptu au­di­ence — though so many peo­ple at­tended last Satur­day that some had to stand. Un­usu­ally the ex­tracts were in­tro­duced by the Ital­ian Opera jour­nal­ist, Fabio Laro­vere, pro­vid­ing con­texts for each song in the story.

The show be­gan with the vain Manon Lescaut in an Eigh­teenth Cen­tury French con­vent, in an aria sung from her high­est regis­ter in strong, declam­a­tory style to her im­pos­si­bly soft con­trol, by Ital­ian so­prano, Raf­faella An­geletti. In a switch to the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury, Gior­dano Lucà proved a fear­ful Dick John­son, the ban­dit from ‘La Fan­ci­ulla del West.’ With clear dic­tion in, ‘Ch’ella mi creda’, the pow­er­ful melody was some­times em­pha­sised by Puc­cini’s sig­na­ture dou­bling in the pi­ano.

High above on the up­per floor, An­geletti’s im­pos­si­bly high so­prano was pro­jected down to earth — or rather a wait­ing Calaf — in Tu­ran­dot’s bit­ter heart­felt aria, de­claim­ing why she will never marry. It con­cluded with a su­perb duet in their high­est reg­is­ters, per­fectly matched. The En­trée course con­cluded with Bari­tone, Manel Esteve in Frank’s tragic aria from “Edgar”. Esteve pre­sented, ‘Questo Amor, ver­gogna mia’ with his ar­rest­ing warm, rich vo­cal qual­ity and such pow­er­ful dra­matic ges­ture that the au­di­ence was drawn in by the sheer pas­sion of his per­for­mance.

Side dishes came in the form of ‘Gianni Schic­chi’ ex­cerpts. The much loved and of­ten per­formed, ‘O mio bab­bino caro’ was given a fresh, ten­der in­ter­pre­ta­tion by Raf­faella An­geletti as Lau­retta. Lucà per­formed a con­vinc­ing 14th cen­tury Rin­uc­cio in the lighter mood of, ‘Florence is like a flow­er­ing tree’, fin­ish­ing with Manel Esteve’s com­pelling de­liv­ery of the Opera Se­ria, ‘Era Uguale la Voce? Ah! Vit­to­ria’.

Sadly these fine solo singers will not be ap­pear­ing on stage in Puc­cini’s 1904, ‘Madama But­ter­fly’ at the Royal Opera House Mus­cat next week­end — there will be other soloists — but be­ing so close to the per­form­ers had its own spe­cial magic, and grad­u­ally the au­di­ence warmed and bonded with these top-notch per­form­ers.

The Main course of the pro­ceed­ings was to fol­low, in fa­mous num­bers from the forth­com­ing pro­duc­tion. The lengthy duet be­tween Pinker­ton and Sharp­less — the US Con­sul — from Act One, ‘Dovunque al Mondo’ in­cluded a mu­si­cal quote of the ‘Star Span­gled Ban­ner’ to give the Amer­i­can con­text of the pro­tag­o­nists — “Amer­i­cans take lib­er­ties with na­tives through­out the world with­out re­gard for the con­se­quences” — with spine-tin­gling ef­fect.

The sec­ond, more poignant Love Duet, ‘Voglatemi Bene’ from Act Two un­der­lined the in­no­cent tragedy of Cio-cio-san’s fate and Pinker­ton’s cal­lous dis­re­gard for But­ter­fly with some stun­ning en­sem­ble singing, blend­ing voices with pal­pa­ble chem­istry be­tween An­geletti and Lucà. ‘Un bel dì Ve­dremo’ is one of the most well known yet mov­ing mo­ments in the reper­toire, and Raf­faella in­stilled so much pathos into the aria, she made it her own.

In a breath-tak­ing sur­prise, the Cho­rus of the Fes­ti­val Castell Per­al­ada, dressed for Satur­day shop­ping, ap­peared from be­hind with the fa­mous ‘Hum­ming Cho­rus’ which opens Act Three. They moved silently to the front in seam­less mo­tion, barely open­ing their mouths in the evoca­tive acapella ‘In­ter­mezzo’ and re­ceived a rous­ing ova­tion which ef­fec­tively broke the spell.

The ‘Let­ter Scene’ be­tween the Con­sul, when he in­forms But­ter­fly that Pinker­ton’s ship has ar­rived in the har­bour, was of Shake­spearean pro­por­tions of pathos and in­evitabil­ity. It was re­flected by pen­ta­tonic melodies from the pi­ano to em­pha­sise her ori­en­tal sim­plic­ity as the let­ter is read, and again uni­son singing with the pi­ano at the be­trayal of this gullible beauty. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the whole recital was the bril­liant Ital­ian pi­anist, Marta Pu­jol, who per­formed flaw­lessly through­out. Whole tone pas­sages sug­gested the flu­id­ity of his moral fi­bre in Pinker­ton’s short Aria, sung with in­tense feel­ing and ges­ture from Gior­dano Lucà. The Fi­nale of the per­for­mance was Cio-cio-san’s chal­leng­ing, ‘Tu, tu pic­colo id­dio!’ as she says good­bye to her lit­tle son in a prayer-like plea to God. It is an ex­ceed­ingly hard aria to sing, in a sus­tained high tes­si­tura, yet An­geletti did it per­fect jus­tice de­spite an emerg­ing throat ir­ri­ta­tion. In the acous­tics of the gal­le­ria and prox­im­ity of the au­di­ence to stage the dy­nam­ics of the per­for­mance reached strik­ing lev­els, and one is aware of the skill and abil­i­ties of these vis­it­ing opera singers which Mus­cat is priv­i­leged to ex­pe­ri­ence. It pro­vided a tempt­ing taster for the full pro­duc­tion next Thurs­day and Satur­day — but the pub­lic is well warned to come armed with tis­sues!

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