Argentina Mario Perusso, Bebe Dom or La Ciudad Planeta: Soloists, Chorus, Children’s Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón. Conductor: Mario Perusso, Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 29.10.2013. (JSJ)
Bebe Dom: Gustavo López Manzitti
Gea: Florencia Machado
Fargas: Víctor Torres
Lili: Victoria Gaeta
Alma Ciudad: Myriam Toker
Director/sets/lighting/costumes: Marcelo Perusso
Audiovisuals: Ricardo Carrasquet
Chorus: Miguel Martínez
Children’s chorus: César Bustamante
Just two years after his last opera, the Teatro Colón’s resident composer Mario Perusso has presented his latest and sixth operatic work – Bebe Dom or La cuidad planeta (The city planet).
The libretto by the Uruguayan-born, Argentine nationalized writer and poet Horacio Ferrer – best known for his tangos, and in the operatic world for the libretto of Maria de Buenos Aires – claims to present a utopic vision of the world as a future city, in which there can be hope for the human race, despite all the attendant problems of such an overcrowded environment.
The main protagonists in a large cast are Bebe Dom, an architect, the banker Fargas and his daughter Lili and secretary Gea – each with their own issues and conflicts. Bebe Dom drinks and years previously was in love with Fargas’ now dead wife and had constructed a mysterious tower with financing from Fargas. Fargas and Lili have apparently been estranged for years and he is in love with Gea, while Lili is attracted to Bebe Dom. There there are various assorted groups – the Hormurcurats, a group of gangsters (the name an acronym of in Spanish ants, bats, cockroaches and rats), their enemies the Madcaps, town criers, drunks, beggars, and so on.
The story, an exercise in surrealism, fantastic and confused, is set in a series of scenes – 12 in the first act and 10 in the second – with each introduced by Alma Ciudad in a projection, much like a TV news bulletin.
To such a libretto Perusso’s music is well suited, being typically expressionist, with a combination of tonal and atonal, but little melodic, content, with woodwind, brass and percussion prominent.
The cast were also uniformly strong and variously expressive – Gustavo López Manzitti an ‘artistic’ Bebe Dom and Víctor Torres an assertive Fargas, and especially Florencia Machado’s solid Gea and Victoria Gaeta’s lively Lili.
Production and scenography was by son Marcelo Perusso – surprisingly traditional in appearance, given the futuristic nature of the work, and the changes between scenes were slickly handled with the mínimum of delay.
Some humour was also introduced, in interactions between Alma Cuidad and her sign language interpreter, who was projected beneath her.
Jonathan Spencer Jones