Madrid’s Opera Season Ends with a Surprise Triple Bill

SpainSpain Granados: Goyescas, Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus, Guillermo García Calvo (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 9.7.2015 (JMI)Triple-500

Concert Version

Rosario: Maria Bayo
Fernando: Andeka Gorrotxategi
Paquiro: Cesar San Martin
Pepa: Ana Ibarra

Puccini: Gianni Schicchi, Teatro Real Orchestra and Chorus, Giuliano Carella (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 9.7.2015 (JMI)

Production: Los Angeles Opera
Direction: Woody Allen
Sets and Costumes: Santo Loquasto
Lighting: Mark Jonathan

Gianni Schicchi: Lucio Gallo
Lauretta: Maite Alberola
Rinuccio: Albert Casals
Zita: Elena Zilio
Simone: Valeriano Lanchas
Gherardo: Vicente Ombuena
Betto: Bruno Praticó
Marco: Luis Cansino
Nella: Eliana Bayón
La Ciesca: María José Suárez

Giordano, Verdi, Rossini: Teatro Real Orchestra, Giuliano Carella (conductor), Teatro Real, Madrid, 9.7.2015 (JMI)
Plácido Domingo:
“Nemico della patria” (Andrea Chenier)
“Pietá, rispetto, amore” (Macbeth)
Violeta/Germont duet (La Traviata), with Maite Alberola
“Por el amor de una mujer” (Luisa Fernanda)

Bruno Praticó:
“Sia qualunque delle figlie” (La Cenerentola)

Luis Cansino:
“L’Onere” (Falstaff)

To mark the end of the opera season, the Teatro Real had scheduled a double bill consisting of Goyescas and Gianni Schicchi. The works have little in common, and their most important link seemed to be the presence of Plácido Domingo in both: as musical director of Enrique Granados’ opera, and protagonist in Puccini’s. Circumstances, however, disrupted the Teatro Real’s plans, and the difference between program and reality was sizeable.

The staged production of Goyescas was cancelled and replaced with a concert version. In addition, Plácido Domingo also cancelled, for family reasons, and all the popular appeal of the program collapsed. To avoid the problem of more-than-predictable returns at the box office, Teatro Real convinced Mr. Domingo to offer a small concert between the two operas, accompanied by artists who were part of the cast of Gianni Schicchi. Thus we moved from a double bill to a triple one.


The concert version of Goyescas, the first performance of the evening, was disappointing. Plácido Domingo’s absence from the pit was covered by Guillermo Garcia Calvo, who drew an excellent sound from both orchestra and chorus. The truth is that his conducting was the best part of the concert.

Maria Bayo was a disappointing Rosario. She is clearly not at her best now, and it is difficult to understand why she would accept a role that has little to do with her vocal characteristics. Maria Bayo is a light lyric soprano, and Rosario requires a more dramatic voice; Ms. Bayo was inaudible in the bottom register. I got the impression that she was uncomfortable on stage, and do not remember attending a performance where her expressiveness was so poor. She looked bored, and this was perfectly clear to the audience.

Andeka Gorrotxategi as Fernando offered an attractive voice, well suited to the character. What did not work was the chemistry between Fernando and Rosario. Cesar San Martin was a Paquiro of little interest, his voice somewhat reduced, and he passed virtually unnoticed. Ana Ibarra was impressive in the part of Pepa.

Gianni Schicchi

If I’m not mistaken, it has been 22 years since the last time this opera was done in Madrid. It was at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and part of Il Trittico. Now it has come to the Teatro Real, with the great attraction of Plácido Domingo’s debut in the title role  ̶  but the debut did not take place.

The staging is by Woody Allen, and was premiered 7 years ago in Los Angeles. His work is a sort of tribute to Italian cinema of the 1950s, conceived, as then, in black and white. The sets and costumes are well-suited to the opera and the director’s ideas.

It’s a fun production with a good rhythm and remarkable direction of the actors, particularly those in the numerous secondary roles. All the characters are well-defined, and Mr. Allen offers a couple of interesting touches. For one, Buoso Donati is removed from his deathbed and left on the staircase, as if he were a beggar. At the end of the opera, Zita returns to the house and stabs Gianni Schicchi, so that his final speech to the public is an act of repentance.

Leading the musical direction was Giuliano Carella, who gave a good performance, although it was perhaps a little short on lightness.

 The protagonist, Gianni Schicchi, was played by baritone Lucio Gallo, who replaced Domingo. His performance was good, with a fresher voice than usual in this character, but his comedy skills are not exceptional. Maite Alberola did really well in the part of Lauretta and was excellent in her aria “O mio babbino caro.” Albert Casals was a rather modest Rinuccio, somewhat tight at the top in the famous “Saluto a Firenze.”

The numerous secondary characters were nicely covered. Among them I would mention Elena Zilio as Zita, who was perfect on stage. Valeriano Lanchas was superb as Simone. Luis Cansino was a solid interpreter of Marco, and Vicente Ombuena impressed as Gherardo.

Concert: Plácido Domingo and Friends

As I mentioned above, this concert was given between the two operas, and it became a real tribute from the public of Madrid to their idol and fellow citizen. It didn’t really matter what Domingo was able to offer: the audience was there to make clear their worship of the artist, and this was fully achieved.

At this point, is it necessary to repeat that Plácido Domingo is a miracle of nature? It isn’t easy to comprehend the freshness of his voice at 74, although there are signs of instability at times and he is no longer a baritone, having lost his top notes. What is certain is that he is an artist, and that’s a specialty that becomes rarer every day. I did not find him at his best here: there’s an increasingly short fiato and a wide vibrato in the upper notes that did not exist until recently.

He sang, without special brilliance, “Nemico della patria,” and continued with the recitative and aria from Macbeth, “Pietá, rispetto, amore.” He ended with the long duet of Germont and Violeta from La Traviata, accompanied by soprano Maite Alberola. As an encore he sang “Por el amor de una mujer” from Luisa Fernanda. The audience’s cheers and bravos began as he appeared on stage and hardly stopped.

Bruno Pratico sang Don Magnifico’s “Sia qualunque delle figlie” from La Cenerentola, and he proved to be a better actor than singer. Baritone Luis Cansino offered a good performance of Falstaff’s “L’ Onore.” For me, Maite Alberola as Violeta in the duet mentioned above was the best singer of the concert.

Giuliano Carella’s conducting was admirable.

Jose M. Irurzun

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