Argentina Dallapiccola, Volo di notte & Il prigioniero: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra / Christian Baldini (conductor), Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 26.10.2016. (JSJ)
Volo di notte
Riviere – Victor Torres
Pellerin – Carlos Ullán
Simona Fabien – Daniela Tabernig
Radio Telegrafista – Sergio Spina
Robineau – Carlos Esquivel
Employees – Duilio Smiriglia, Sebastián Sorarrain, Gabriel Centeno, Emiliano Bulacios
Voice – Carolina Gomez
Leroux – Victor Castells
Mother – Adriana Mastrangelo
Prisoner – Leonardo Estevez
Gaoler / Grand Inquisitor – Fernando Chalabe
Priests – Duilio Smiriglia, Fernando Grassi
Direction – Michał Znaniecki
Sets and projections – Luigi Scoglio
Costumes – Ana Ramos Aguayo (Volo di notte) / Joanna Medyńska (Il prigioniero)
Lighting – Bogumil Palewicz
Chorus – Miguel Martínez
Choreography – Diana Theocharidis
Curiously outside the regular opera season is the double bill of Volo di notte and Il prigioniero from the Italian avant garde composer Luigi Dallapiccola. Although little performed, these are his two best known operas, if not best known works, and both have a local connection.
In particular Volo di notte (Night flight), which dates from 1938, is set in Argentina. It is based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Saint-Exupéry about night flying in Patagonia and draws on the author’s own experiences and people he knew. Here the pilot of the mail plane Fabien is caught in a cyclone and his boss Riviere and wife Simona await his return – until finally all communication ceases and he is presumed dead.
The production was very much a ‘period’ one, dark reflecting the night time, with an airfield like building on one side and a three storey ‘operations centre’ on the other, and with a fence between separating the officials from the public. Projections added to the stormy mood.
Il prigioniero (The prisoner), on the other hand, was given a more modern production, even though the setting is much earlier – in the second half of the 16th century. The work, which dates from 1948, portrays a tortured prisoner who is given the means to escape, only to wonder if he might not find his liberty in death at the stake. The connection in this case is rather by association, with the events under the military rule of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The setting used was the same as Volo di notte, although less obviously relevant in this context, and with the addition of a large rotating central cube representing the prisoner’s cell and torture room as the focus of events. Likewise similar and appropriately dark lighting. But there also was the odd addition of acrobatic dancers, supposedly representative of angels of death of that military dictatorship, but ultimately a distraction rather than an addition.
Both conveyed well the events and feelings being portrayed with the differences between the two sufficient to well distinguish them. This was also due in no small measure to the two casts. In Volo di notte particularly notable were Daniela Tabernig as the missing airman’s increasingly desperate wife and Victor Torres – unfortunately lost under the orchestra at times – as the insistent but ultimately responsible Riviere.
Adrian Mastrangelo well portrayed the Mother in Il prigioniero and Leonardo Estevez was an outstanding prisoner.
Christian Baldini showed an affinity with Dallapiccola’s scores, with their varying and complex textures and the chorus responded well.
Jonathan Spencer Jones