La Coruña Mozart Festival’s Budget Rediscovered Opera

La Coruña Mozart Festival – D. Terradellas, Sesostri, Re d’Egitto: Soloists, Orquesta Real Compañía de Ópera de Cámara de Barcelona. Conductor: Juan Bautista Otero. Teatro Colón de La Coruña 29. 5.2011 (JMI) Concert Version


Sesostri: Sunhae Im
Nitocri: Verónica Cangemi
Amasi: Kenneth Tarver
Artenice: Mari Eriksmoen
Orgonte: Rafaella Milanesi
Fanete: Ed Lyon

La Coruña’s Mozart Festival is not living through its best time just now because it is significantly affected by budget cuts. A few years back the festival offered two or three fully staged operas, at least two of them by Mozart, as well as other concerts and recitals. This year there is no staged opera at all , a planned Traviata having been cancelled and replaced by a Verdi concert with the same singers. The only operas remaining are La Clemenza di Tito and Sesostri, both in concert version.

Sesostr i is the last opera composed by Barcelona born Doménec Terradellas, ​​who lived between 1713 and 1751, dying just after the premiere of this opera in Rome. His career developed mainly in Italy, and in Spain today he is mostly unknown. Sesostri had its Barcelona premiere in 1754 but did not return there until December 2010, when it was offered in concert and without its recitatives at the Auditori. Now it comes to La Coruña with the same musical team that brought this totally forgotten score to light. It’s a typical baroque opera, with many arias di bravura and plenty of da capos, although there are some pages that actually sound closer to Mozart. The work is quite easy-listening and it has some really interesting moments. It does lack the exceptional inspiration of a composer like Handel, but I think it’s its music is certainly worthy of the been rediscovery 

Sesostri seems to have been a Pharaoh in the 12th century BC, briefly mentioned by Herodotus and citing a bitter struggle between two brothers in ancient Egypt. This serves as the basis for the libretto of this opera, which is both remarkably complicated and highly implausible. Sesostri is the youngest son of Pharaoh Aprio, deposed by his Prime Minister Amasi who murdered both the Pharaoh and five of his 6 children. The youngest one, Sesostri himself, managed to escape and was raised by Fanete, as influential and loyal man to the murdered Aprio. Fanete’s daughter, Artenice and Sesostri are in love, although she is claimed by the former Prime Minister (now Pharaoh ) Amasi as his wife, after he has been rejected by Nitocri, Aprio’s widow, who very understandably hates him. As might reasonably be expected, Amasi himself is killed and Sesostri and Artenice become the new rulers of Egypt. This is not one of history’s most exciting libretti!

Juan Bautista Otero was responsible for the rediscovery of this opera and was the conductor in Barcelona. Here he led his Barcelona Chamber Opera group who played on original instruments that had to be tuned several times during the concert. Juan Bautista Otero certainly knows this score inside out, but that does not completely prevent interest from drooping here and there. The orchestra seemed to me to an interesting group, but one that fell rather short of the truly outstanding baroque orchestras. All in all however, this was an enjoyable performance.

The vocal cast included some new singers, who were not present in Barcelona. Together with the orhestra and the some of the original cast, they formed a remarkable and homogeneous group who between then delivered an excellent result.

The protagonist Sesostri not only gives the title to the opera but also has a lot to sing, no less than 5 arias, a trio and the short final ensemble. As in Barcelona Sesostri was Korean soprano Sunhae Im, who gave a remarkable performance, although she seemed to me rather too light for the character. I would like to see this character sung by a different kind of soprano.

The Argentinean soprano Veronica Cangemi was Queen Nitocri, and her performance was quite surprising. This character has several bravura arias and is full of hate and revenge reminding me much of Elettra in Idomeneo, although Nitocri has much more to sing. I had always seen Veronica Cangemi in very lyrical roles, where she has been a most tasteful singer which is why I was surprised to see her in something so very different. Ms. Cangemi was in fact very convincing, easily able to transmit all the strength and feelings of the vengeful queen across to the audience. Though her voice was a little tight here and there, overall this was very pleasing performance.

Kenneth Tarver repeated his role sas the evil Amasi and he was really good, especially in his bravura aria of the second act, where he coped easily with all the difficulties of the score  

Another newcomer was the young (27) Norwegian soprano Mari Eriksmoen as Artenice. She confirmed the excellent impression she left last month as Blondine in Frankfurt. Artenice has three difficult arias and she managed them brilliantly. She is a light soprano with a very appealing timbre who always sings always with an easy gusto.

Orgonte, Fanete’s assistant, was the Italian soprano Raffaella Milanesi, who was the only one vocalist singing without score. At first I thought the role would have been better sung by mezzo soprano, as Ms. Milanesi’s tone was rather lacking at the bottom of the range and she was also short on in vocal volume during Act I. Things improved considerably in the last two acts, where she was excellent.

Finally, the British tenor Ed Lyon sang Fanete without making any great impression in the first act, but going on to triumph in the second with an aria that m ay be the most difficult piece in the opera.

The Teatro Colón was filled to about 2/3 of its capacity and the audience gave a very warm reception to the artists, with cheers to all of them, especially to Mari Eriksmoen and Veronica Cangemi.

José Ma. Irurzun