Argentina Cherubini, Medea: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Juventus Lyrica, Hernán Schvartzman (conductor), Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 18.7.2014. (JSJ)
Medea: Sabrina Cirera / Mariana Carnovali
Jason: Darío Schmunck / Nazareth Aufe
Creón: Alejandro Meerapfel
Nerís: Eugenia Fuente / Verónica Canaves
Dircé: Laura Pisani
First lady: Laura Delogu
Second lady: Verónica Canaves / Laura Álvarez Renedo
Director/costumes: María Jaunarena
Sets/lighting: Gonzalo Córdova
Chorus: Hernán Sánchez Arteaga
Brahms described Cherubini’s Medea – or more strictly in this case Médée (the former generally referring to the Italian version, the latter the French) – as “the highest peak of dramatic music,” but despite this, and its revival during the second half of the 20th century, the work remains little performed or known.
It was therefore a welcome but bold work for Juventus Lyrica to undertake – but with a carefully selected cast, energetic young conductor and inspired production, it has put another feather in the cap of an increasingly accoladed company.
Cherubini’s Medea (one of several on the legend of Jason and the Argonauts) is set in the period following the stealing of the Golden Fleece, and Jason has abandoned Medea and is planning to wed Dircé, the daughter of Creón. Medea, failing to win back Jason, is enraged and swears vengeance, and ordered by Creón to leave Corinth, she sends poisoned wedding gifts to Dircé and kills her two children that she had with Jason.
Director María Jaunarena offers a simple but effective view, opening with a sensitively portrayed Dircé bathing in a tub as her attendants assist – and a stark contrast with the final horror of the two children hanging dead.
This was similarly reflected in the harsh and gloomy almost uniformly grey-black setting, without time or place, and in the dress, setting the atmosphere for the unfolding tragedy.
The strong cast was led by a dramatic Sabrina Cirera as Medea and the finely sung Jason of Darío Schmunck. Laura Pisani was a clear and contrasting Dircé and Eugenia Fuente a well phrased Neris, while Alejandro Meerapfel provided a solid Creón. The one downside was the spoken texts here in the original French version that was presented, that tended to sound mumbled.
Conductor Hernán Schvartzman from the Royal Conservatory of the Hague has become a regular collaborator with Juventus Lyrica and includes period instruments in the orchestra, giving an unusual perspective on this music, which was enthusiastically played with but some minor imbalances. The chorus under the direction of Hernán Sánchez Arteaga also gave of their best.
Jonathan Spencer Jones