Tamara Wilson and Michele Pertusi Are Standouts in the Always-Challenging Ernani
Verdi, Ernani: Orchestra and Chorus of the Théâtre du Capitole / Evan Rogister (conductor), Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse, 12.3.2017. (JMI)
Ernani – Alfred Kim
Elvira – Tamara Wilson
Don Carlo – Vitalij Bilyy
Silva – Michele Pertusi
Don Riccardo – Jesús Álvarez
Giovanna – Paulina González
Jago – Víctor Ryauzov
Director – Brigitte Jaques-Wajeman
Sets and Costumes – Emmanuel Peduzzi
Lighting – Jean Kalman
Ernani is one of Verdi’s best early operas, but for a long time it has not enjoyed much favour with opera houses. Undoubtedly, its uneven libretto and the need to have four great singers in the cast, similar to what Il trovatore demands, explain some of this rarity. In the last ten years there have been few occasions to enjoy this opera under the right conditions and, unfortunately, that was the case in Toulouse as well.
The new production is by Brigitte Jaques-Wajeman, who returns to the Capitole following her staging of Don Giovanni, which has been seen here on several occasions. Her work is somewhat minimalist and not particularly appealing. There is basically a single stage, with a few trees in Act I and a metallic curtain in the cathedral scene, and the action seems to have been brought, more or less, up to modern times. The atmosphere is very dark and the lighting not particularly inspired.
This sort of minimalist production requires some pretty clever stage direction, but that was not what happened here. The actors appeared to receive little guidance, and the same was true in the crowd scenes.
Daniel Oren had been announced as conductor, and he is always interesting in this sort of opera. However, he was replaced by Evan Rogister, who has worked quite a bit in recent years with the Berlin Deutsche Oper. His reading was unconvincing: the tempi were especially accelerated during the first half of the opera, with the added inconvenience of a clear abuse of orchestral volume. Early Verdi (and particularly this opera) makes great demands on the singers and requires careful conducting. The orchestra was good overall, apart from its excess of volume; the chorus did well but it too was rather loud at times.
Ernani, or Don Giovanni d’Aragona, was sung by Alfred Kim. He has a sonorous voice but invariably sang forte. There were no nuances in his singing, and he was a rather wooden interpreter on stage.
Much more convincing was the performance of soprano Tamara Wilson in the part of Elvira. Her voice has amplitude and is very well suited to the character. She is also an artist who knows how to sing, offering the few piani that could be heard during the performance.
Baritone Vitalij Bilyy exhibited the same defects as Alfred Kim. His baritone is nicely suited to the part of Don Carlo, except for an abuse of open sounds: it was as if he feared he wouldn’t be properly heard in the house. This insistence on showing off his voice made his singing monotonous: there were none of the nuances that the character requires.
The best vocal performance among this quartet came from Michele Pertusi in the role of Silva. He always sang with gusto and an elegant line, giving due intention to all his phrases. In a larger theatre, his voice may seem a bit small, but this was not the case in Toulouse: he gave an excellent performance.
There were good contributions from all of the secondary characters.
José M. Irurzun