Chance to See Underrated Meyerbeer Opera

GermanyGermany Meyerbeer: Dinorah, Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra and Chorus, Enrique Mazzola (conductor), Berliner Philharmonie, 1.10.2014 (JMI)

Meyerbeer's Dinorah  Photo Bettina Stoess
Meyerbeer’s Dinorah
Photo Bettina Stoess


Concert version


Dinorah: Patrizia Ciofi
Hoël: Etienne Dupuis
Corentin: Philippe Talbot
Hunter: Seth Carico
The Reaper: Gideon Poppe
Shepherds: Elbenita Kajtazi and Christina Sidak

It is quite curious what has happened over the past hundred years with Giacomo Meyerbeer. From being one of the most important opera composers of the first half of 19th century, and certainly the undisputed representative par excellence of French Grand Opera, he has become almost forgotten and even despised. Today, Les Huguenots and Robert le diable can be seen on stage on very rare occasions. In this sense it seems a laudable initiative by Berlin’s Deutsche Oper to offer Dinorah, since few opera lovers have had the chance to see it performed.

One of Meyerbeer’s last operas, Dinorah was premiered in 1859 at the Opéra Comique in Paris under the title of Le Pardon de Ploërmel, the Breton village where the action unfolds. It’s a pastoral comedy (with a weak libretto) that has historically served to showcase a coloratura soprano in the title character. The score is the work of a very sound musician and has a remarkable orchestration, but it is short of inspiration. Apart from a long and not outstanding overture, I must mention Dinorah’s famous aria, “Ombre legère,” and also Hoel’s aria, “Reviens à toi.

The opera was done in concert form under the baton of Enrique Mazzola,whose reading was fully convincing and much better than I had expected. I think it’s the best performance I remember from him: he showed great knowledge and mastery of the score and took care of the details. The truth is that this opera lacks dramatic interest and can be boring, but he managed to avoid that. There was an excellent performance from the orchestra of the Deusche Oper Berlin, and also from the chorus,one of the very best in the world. Their prayers to St. Mary were extraordinary.

Dinorah was performed by Patrizia Ciofi, and we could debate at length whether she is the coloratura soprano that the part requires. In fact, one can always discuss this Italian soprano: her vocal quality has never been exceptional and that has not changed. To be able to have an important career with her instrument means that Patrizia Ciofi has always been and remains a great artist. Her ability to communicate with the audience is praiseworthy, and she had the triumph of the evening, though in purely vocal terms I can think of better alternatives for the role.

Baritone Etienne Dupuis left a very favorable impression in the character of Hoël, Dinorah’s fiancé and the cause of her misfortune. He is a lyric baritone who sings with taste and expression, and he would be a good choice for many roles in the dramatic repertoire.

Tenor Philippe Talbot interpreted the simple bagpiper, Corentin. His light tenor is not too attractive, but he was well suited to the role.

In the secondary characters  Seth Carico was a sonorous Hunter while Gideon Poppe sang his aria with gusto. Finally, Elbenita Kajtazi and Christina Sidak were a good complement.

The auditorium of Berliner Philarmonie was at about 80% of capacity. The audience was very pleased with the concert, offering ovations and cheers to the artists, and especially to Patrizia Ciofi, Enrique Mazzola, the orchestra and the choir.

José Mª Irurzun

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