Rare Opera Offered During Parma’s Verdi Month

ItalyItaly Verdi: I Masnadieri, Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini, Coro Teatro Regio, Francesco Ivan Ciampa (conductor), Teatro Regio di Parma, 23.10.2013 (JMI)

New Production

Carlo: Roberto Aronica
Amalia: Aurelia Florian
Francesco: Damiano Salerno
Massimiliano, Count of Moor: Mika Kares
Arminio: Antonio Corianò
Moser: Giovanni Battista Parodi
Rolla: Enrico Cossutta

Direction: Leo Muscato
Sets: Federica Parolini
Costumes: Silvia Aymonino
Lighting: Alessandro Verazzi
The Festival Verdi in Parma is a must for me. I’ve been attending it since 2007 when they first dedicated the month of October to Giuseppe Verdi, and I’ve missed only one season. Parma is a very special city that lives the Festival Verdi with great enthusiasm, although I noticed that the profusion of Verdian motifs adorning shop windows has been markedly reduced. These have not been easy years for opera in Parma, but I hope that the Festival will continue to offer its bright productions.


I Masnadieri is one of the least-performed operas by Giuseppe Verdi. It premiered in 1847 in London and was the first opera that Verdi wrote for a non-Italian theater. Obviously, we are in Verdi’s so-called galley years, and the opera follows the traditional style of aria and cabaletta. To me its biggest problem is the libretto by Andrea Maffei, a good friend of the composer, which is based on Schiller’s Die Räuber. One cannot help contrasting librettos by Cammarano or Piave with Maffei’s, which is truculent and of little interest.


This is a new production by Italian filmmaker Leo Muscato, and the result seems to me somewhat disappointing. We are faced with a minimalist staging: sets consist of an inclined platform with some panels at the back; props are added for the different scenes (a chair, a bed, a few trees, some tombs). The action is brought up to the time of the opera’s composition, and costumes are effective rather than brilliant.


The weakest part of the show was the stage direction, which was practically nonexistent. It’s the first time I’ve attended a production by Leo Muscato, and I found his work uninteresting. The singers are almost abandoned on stage, there is little  expressiveness from the main characters and there are some bad-taste touches at times.


Francesco Ivan Ciampa’s conducting seemed effective and energetic: he was careful about the coordination between stage and pit, and was always helpful to the singers. Under his baton was the strong Arturo Toscanini orchestra which in the past two years has replaced the traditional Teatro Regio orchestra. There was also a commendable performance from the chorus under the expert direction of Martino  Faggiani, who also directs the Choir of La Monnaie in Brussels.


Roberto Aronica was Carlo, and his performance was good in vocal terms but rather poor in interpretation. Aronica’s voice has widened significantly in recent years, although the timbre has not lost luster, but he offers more quantity than quality. There are no nuances in his singing and too many sounds in forte, which eventually tends to monotony.


Romanian soprano Aurelia Forian as Amalia offered an attractive voice in the middle range, well-suited to the demands of a lyric soprano. Her top notes were not strong, and she is quite weak in the lower range. Given her lack of experience in the role, it would have been more than desirable for Mr. Muscato to work harder with her.


Baritone Damiano Salerno played the evil Francesco, and he did it effectively. His voice is good but not what one would call a Verdi baritone. His singing is more effective than elegant.


Finnish bass Mika Kares in the character of Massimiliano, Count of Moor, exhibited an attractive voice and singing style. However, the director didn’t pay much attention to this role. Of the secondary characters, Antonio Coriano was quite interesting as Arminio, and Giovanni Battista Parodi was commendable in the brief character of Moser.


Teatro Regio was at over 95% of capacity. Judging by their reactions, the audience was more pleased with the cabalettas than the arias. At the final bows there were cheers for all the leading singers.



José Mª. Irurzun