Italy Verdi: Falstaff, Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma, Sebastiano Rolli (conductor), Teatro Giuseppe Verdi di Busseto, 24.10.2013 (JMI)
Production from Teatro alla Scala
Sir John Falstaff: Piero Terranova
Alice Ford: Alice Quintavalla
Ford: Vincenzo Taormina
Mistress Quickly: Francesca Ascioti
Nannetta: Linda Jung
Fenton: Sehoon Moon
Meg Page: Valeria Tornatore
Doctor Caius: Jihan Shin
Bardolfo: Marco Voleri
Pistola: Eugeniy Stanimirov
Direction: Renato Bruson
Sets: Adolf Hohenstein
Costumes: Massimo Carlotto
Lighting: Andrea Borelli
Attending an opera in Busseto is an unforgettable experience. The theater is tiny, with a capacity of some 240 spectators, and because everything is reduced in size − stage, pit and stalls − the voices thunder. I recommend sharing this experience if you have the chance.
Ever since Parma’s Festival Verdi moved to October, there have been few occasions when its activities haven’t reached Busseto. This year they had the excellent idea to perform Falstaff with young artists, most of them from the Academy of La Scala. The theater’s size is perfect for this type of venture.
The stage production is a reconstruction of the one performed in Busseto in 1913 to celebrate the first centenary of Verdi’s birth. Teatro alla Scala took charge of building the sets, based upon sketches left by designer Adolfo Hohenstein (who, curiously, is not mentioned in the program credits). The sets are perfectly suited to this tiny stage and consist of painted fabrics for the various scenes; the Fords’ house and Windsor Park are particularly beautiful. The costumes are fine, although a little short on imagination in the final scene.
The stage direction is the work of the great Renato Bruson, who also assumed the role of il Pancione in the first two performances. For me, Mr. Bruson’s work was the best part of the opera. If I criticized the lack of stage direction at Parma’s I Masnadieri, here I have to say exactly the opposite. The work that Bruson has done with all the singers is superb, a real lesson in how to direct an opera. Each character worked perfectly on stage and that, considering the youth and inexperience of most of the singers, has to be credited to Renato Bruson. It was a real lesson in theater, and one worth emulating by many modern directors. Bruson has proved that there is no need to be “original” when one knows the opera upside down. He was an immense singer and is now an outstanding director.
Musical direction was in the hands of Sebastiano Rolli: I’m not familiar with his work, but he left a most positive impression. Falstaff is not an easy opera to conduct and, besides the musical richness of the score, it requires a lot of experience to control pit and stage. Rolli conducted perfectly from start to finish and gave a vibrant reading. His name should be taken into account by any theater, and I foresee a great future ahead. Under him was a reduced Parma Orchestra, and they offered a remarkable performance.
It is not easy to judge voices in this tiny theater: none seems small in size. With the exception of Falstaff and Ford, the cast was made up of young singers; the performances were commendable in all cases, and exceptional in some.
Sir John Falstaff was played by Piero Terranova, who had the biggest triumph of the night. His portrayal of il Pancione was convincing vocally and exemplary in stage terms.
The other not-so-young singer was Vincenzo Taormina in the part of Ford. His voice is wide enough, but his singing is somewhat monotonous with a lack of nuance.
Young Parma born-soprano Alice Quintavalla was a pleasant surprise as Alice Ford. She is a lyric soprano with an attractive voice, well-pitched and rather homogeneous through the tesitura.
Mezzo soprano Francesca Ascioti was really fun as Mistress Quickly, and she seemed to have a wonderful time on stage. In another house she could be short at the low notes, but here there was no problem.
Fenton and Nannetta, the young couple in love, were sung by tenor Seehoon Moon and soprano Linda Jung. Moon was a pleasant surprise, with an attractive voice that opens up very well at the top. Jung is a light soprano, little more than a soubrette, and her singing was fine.
In the supporting cast Valeria Tornatore was well suited to the role of Meg Page, and Jihan Shin made an excellent Doctor Caius. Eugeniy Stanimirov was good as Pistola, while Marco Voleri as Bardolfo is not yet vocally mature.
Teatro Verdi was fully sold out. There were sound cheers for all the singers, and especially for Piero Terranova and Sebastiano Rolli.
José Mª Irurzun