Spain Rossini, Tancredi: Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra and Chorus / Roberto Abbado (conductor), Palau de Les Arts, Valencia, 25.6.2017. (JMI)
Tancredi – Daniela Barcellona
Amenaide – Jessica Pratt
Argirio – Yijie Shi
Orbazzano – Pietro Spagnoli
Isaura – Martina Belli
Roggiero – Rita Marqués
Director – Emilio Sagi
Sets – Daniel Bianco
Costumes – Pepa Ojanguren
Lighting – Eduardo Bravo
The Palau de les Arts season has come to an end with this Rossini opera. This was the first big success for the so-called serious Rossini and was enormously popular. While it is not a true rarity now, it has been infrequently performed in recent years. It’s enough to remember that in Spain the opera was last staged in February 2009, in Seville with Daniela Barcellona, Mariella Devia and Gregory Kunde.
This co-production with Lausanne and Santiago had its premiere in Switzerland in March 2015, and uses the Ferrara version of the opera. Emilio Sagi’s elegant staging sets the action in the nineteenth century, with outstanding sets that feature neoclassical pillars and a background wall with glass windows. The last scene is particularly effective, with a large mausoleum in the background where Tancredi dies in the arms of Amenaide. The costumes are very attractive, but the lighting does not take full advantage of the nocturnal environment.
Tancredi demands a great deal of liveliness on stage to overcome the weakness of the libretto in Act II, and this is where the Sagi production failed to convince me. But overall, it is an appealing production.
The musical direction was entrusted to the director of Les Arts, Roberto Abbado, who returned to the orchestra pit where he also conducted the inaugural work of the season, I vespri siciliani. Roberto Abbado has conducted serious operas by Rossini on many occasions, including the Festival of Pesaro, but his reading here was not especially convincing. It is true that he had to conduct with just his left arm because he had injured his right one. This didn’t help, but I don’t think it was the deciding factor in the musical result. His conducting has always been controlled, and one missed lightness and inspiration – it was more a routine reading than a truly inspired one. He drew a good performance from the orchestra, although they have given more satisfying ones. The chorus, as usual, was excellent.
Once again, Daniela Barcellona sang the part of Tancredi, and she is definitely the most brilliant interpreter of this role in the last 15 years. I’ve seen her in this character several times in the past, and I do remember better performances. The touchstone aria for Tancredi is ‘Di Tanti Palpiti’, and while she was good there was no enthusiasm; the same could be said of her main aria in the second act. She was at her best in the scene of Tancredi’s death, where she sang with a lot of emotion.
Amenaide was played by Jessica Pratt, who was correct in Act I, although short on emotion. She improved considerably as the opera went on, and managed to warm up the audience in her great aria of Act II, where she was very bright.
Yijie Shi was a terrific interpreter in the role of Argirio, but his suitability to the character is debatable. He has the perfect tenor for characters like Almaviva, Prince Ramiro or Lindoro, but Argirio, the father of Amenaide, is a more mature character whose voice demands more weight, closer to Rossini’s Otello than the above-mentioned roles. For years, Gregory Kunde was the undisputed Argirio, before he decided to play the main Verdi heroes instead. In short, this was a faultless performance by Yijie Shi, but I prefer a different voice here.
The evil Orbazzano was played by Pietro Spagnoli, and he fell a bit short vocally. It is true that in Rossini’s day there was no difference between baritones and basses, but Orbazzano demands a darker voice than Spagnoli’s. He was short at the bottom of the range in his Act II scene.
The secondary characters were well covered by mezzo-soprano Martina Belli as Isaura and soprano Rita Marques as Roggiero.
José M. Irurzun