Argentina Perusso, Fedra: Soloists andOrchestra of Teatro Colón, Mario Perusso (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 21.10.2011. (JSJ)
Direction/sets/costumes: Marcelo Perusso
Lighting: Rubén Conde
Choreography: Guillermina Tarsi
Fedra: Alejandra Malvino
Hipólito: Marcelo Puente
Teseo: Leonardo Estévez
The nurse: Haydée Dabusti
Aricia: Daniela Tabernig
Selene: Florencia Machado
Hécate: Alicia Alduncín
Terámenes: Gustavo Feulien
Fedra, based on the Greek mythological figure of the same name, is the latest work from the father-son team of Mario and Marcelo Perusso. The septuagenarian Mario, with a distinguished career as a conductor and composer, is since 2010 resident composer at the Teatro Colón and this work was presented in this context, with son Marcelo, who is also making a career as a producer, responsible for the (Spanish) libretto and direction.
Fedra is in two acts, the first about an hour and the second slightly shorter, and according to the hand program is set on a rocky seashore in an undefined epoch. Briefly, Fedra, wife of Teseo, is enamoured with her stepson Hipólito, who however, rejects her advances. Hipólito meanwhile is in love with Aricia but they are overheard by Fedra, who proceeds to strangle the latter after she is recognized as a rival. Fedra then goes on to tell Teseo that Hipólito had seduced her, resulting in Teseo vowing vengeance on his son, but though Fedra’s nurse comes out with the truth of what happened, it is too late to save him. Only then does Fedra realize the cruelty of what she has done and deciding to make her destiny the search for love, takes her own life.
It is a powerful and dramatic story, which has attracted musicians down the years from Rameau and Gluck to Britten and Hans Werner Henze. This new offering would continue that tradition, with a powerful score and a dark, heavy production.
Perusso’s music is a combination of tonality and atonality and it is dominated by woodwind, brass and percussion, with long sustained ethereal chords overlaid with vigorous figurations. As the detailed analysis in the hand program makes clear, the score is one of much detail and complexity and as such cannot be fully appreciated on only a single hearing, but its power is obvious and clearly matches the depth of the drama it seeks to describe.
Likewise the vocal forces require to be powerful and Alejandra Malvino dominated in the mezzo title role, alternating between love and guile and anger and aggression, and both vocally and visually she excelled. Marcelo Puente also excelled in the tenor role of Hipólito, importantly also looking the part, and bass Leonardo Estévez was a convincing Teseo.
Haydée Dabusti as the nurse and Daniela Tabernig as Aricia also gave good accounts, as did those of the other smaller roles.
Jonathan Spencer Jones