Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) (3) – Adelaide di Borgogna and Il Viaggio a Reims or ‘ROF Funeral Services’

ItalyItaly Rossini, Adelaide di Borgogna: Rossini Opera Festival (ROF), Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna: Conductor – Dmitri Jurowski; Sets, Costumes, Projections and Stage Director: Pier Alli  17.8.2011 (JB)

Ottone – Daniela Barcellona; Adelaide – Jessica Pratt; Berengario – Nicola Ulivieri; Adelbarto -Bogdan Mihai

Rossini, Il Viaggio a Reims, ROF, Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossigni: Conductor – Yi-Chen Lin; Costumes – Pepa Ojanguren; Staging – Emilio Sagi (rerehearsed by Elisabetta Courir) Accademia Rossiniana with outstanding performances by Elena Tsallagiva (Corinna) and Maria Aleida (Countess of Folleville) 17.8.2011 (JB)

Production Picture Credit © Studio amati bacciardi

Knowing as I do, the Artistic Director of the Rossini Opera Festival (ROF), Alberto Zedda, to be a gentleman of impeccable integrity, I feel sure that in these days he is conducting Dmitri Jurowski to IROF Funeral Services, just behind the theatre, where they will be able to supply the only suitable treatment to the Russian conductor, who has done all he can to massacre Adelaide di Borgogna.

Someone (could it have been Maestro Zedda in an unguarded moment?) whispered in Jurowski’s ear that in order to produce its effect, the Rossini phrase needs to be given plenty of time. But a little learning is a dangerous thing. This does not mean that every phrase should be delivered with a rallentando. There must be six hundred or more of them in Adelaide and to slow them all down amounts to a massacre.

Ever since I first heard the opera in 1984 in Martina Franca, I have always maintained that providing you have an outstanding soprano and mezzo-soprano, you have got the opera. Alberto Zedda conducted on that occasion. The casting was done by Rodolfo Celletti, at that time one of Italy’s leading singing teachers, who pulled out of his hat, Mariella Devia and Martine Dupuy. It was a memorable performance and was recorded for posterity.

But I must eat my words. You need a conductor with an understanding of Rossini too. ROF had Jessica Pratt as Adelaide and Daniela Barcellona in the trouser role of Ottone. Both were superb. Especially when you consider what they had to work against. La Barcellona is a world leader among Rossini mezzos, with a forceful personality, which shines through her performance. She is usually not backward at coming forward. Whatever prevented her from informing the conductor of the importance of keeping the phrases moving? Jessica Pratt is still making her career – and a very promising one it seems to be on this showing – but one may understand her reluctance at making alternative suggestions to a conductor.

As it has come down to us, the story of Adelaide is an intricate web of myth, folk-tale and history. In his staging, Pier Alli has taken the unusual step of playing all this for real: he lets us feel the strength of the many political manoeuvres which pile up against one another in the plot. The realism of wrong politics periodically gives space to pure theatricality. This is done through projections and period costumes. It works. See photo.

Another outstanding vocal performance came from Bogdan Mihai, the handsome Romanian tenor, whose immense range and rich vocal colours proved equal to the virtuoso demands of Adelberto’s stop-the-show aria, Grida, o natura.

You will see from all this that Jurowski did not quite manage to completely destroy Adelaide. Another proposal for this unfortunate conductor would have been to have him sign up for some lessons in conducting Rossini opera with the twenty-three year old Chinese conductor, Yi-Chen Lin, who was on the podium, making her debut at ROF with Il Viaggio a Reims.

Ms. Lin had a career as violinist before she took up her baton. This shows. She worked well with the Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini, getting sounds out of them never previously heard. She introduced some remarkable off-the-string bowing in a number of passages. For some reason, Italian string players find this difficult. So most conductors never attempt it. (Claudio Abbado, for one, does not attempt it.) But she drilled them to perfection. These passages had the most lively effect of having these strings chortle along with genuine Rossini humour. In a word, she had hit on a performance quality which almost outdid Rossini in his own wit. She made this music her own. Rossini had a soul mate.

Her impeccable rhythm kept the opera beautifully paced. Authoritarian would well describe her, but she also showed flexibility where this is called for. Her Rossini breaths. And it breaths in all the right places. We want to hear much more of Yi-Chen Lin.

Il Viaggio a Reims is the end-of-course offering for the young singers of the Accademia Rossiniana. It is my happy duty to report on two remarkable singers whose careers ought to shoot off with great ease. Maria Aleida as the Countess of Folleville was totally inside this comic role and dispatched the vocal fireworks with a deliciously, almost-impertinent aplomb. What a technique! Finally, in Elena Tsallagova (Corinna) I can say that I have heard a young singer who understands the meaning of vocal charm. Ms. Tsallagova is the very embodiment of that rare quality.

Jack Buckley