Argentina Cilèa, Puccini, Mascagni, Catalani: Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, Ramón Tebar (conductor), Orchestra of Teatro Colón, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 11.4.2012. (JSJ)
The appearance of Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna at the Teatro Colón – and surprisingly their first in Argentina – was set to be a major event – and so it proved with the theatre almost completely full and many “bravos” as the couple came on stage.
The occasion was the first concert in the so-called Bicentenary Subscription series and the program was devoted exclusively to the verismo – and principally to just two works, Cilèa’s Adriana Lecouvreur and Puccini’s Tosca. Both are works with which both have had association, particularly the latter, and the well chosen fragments, which were interspersed with musical interludes, offered both duet and solo opportunities.
The evening opened with the Prelude to L’arlesiana, before Gheorghiu and Alagna appeared for “Adriana, Maurizio… La dolcissima effigie” from Adriana Lecouvreur Act 1. Gheorghiu then sung the Act 1 “Ecco, respire appena” and Alagna the Act 2 “L’anima ho stanca”, which was followed by the three orchestral interludes from Acts 2, 3 and 4 together, and their reappearance together for the Act 4 “Poveri fiori… Ove, dunque, son io?”
The second half of the concert was devoted principally to extended sections from Tosca, beginning with the Act 1 “Mario! Mario! Mario… Son qui” and ending with the Act 3 “Ah! Franchigia a Floria Tosca… O dolci mani.” In between Alagna also sung “E lucevan le stelle” and Gheorghiu “Ebben! Ne andrò lontana” from Catalani’s La Wally, and the musical interludes were the Intermezzos from Manon Lescaut and Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz and the third act Prelude from Puccini’s rarely performed Edgar.
Gheorghiu and Alagna both have a striking stage presence and both individually and together their performances were captivating. The chemistry between them is evidently very strong and with their movements it was easy to forget they were in recital rather than in full production. Particularly notable were the “E lucevan le stelle” from Alagna and Gheorghiu’s exquisite “Ebben! Ne andrò lontana”. Yet, throughout both sung with intensity and passion, and in full command vocally.
The orchestra was led by the young Spanish conductor Ramón Tebar, recently appointed musical director of the Florida Grand Opera. He is evidently knowledgeable of this music, conducting the orchestral interludes without scores, and drew good sound and precision from the Colón orchestra, except for an unfortunate moment involving the cellos in the exposed section in “E lucevan le stelle”.
Disappointingly there was some problem on the Colón’s side regarding encores and to round off the evening Alagna sang a capella the bolero “Historia de una amor” by Carlos Almarán, with Gheorghiu joining in briefly towards the end.
Jonathan Spencer Jones