A Bel Canto Feast: Poliuto at the Liceu

SpainSpain Donizetti, Poliuto (concert version): Liceu Orchestra and Chorus / Daniele Callegari (conductor), Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 10.1.2018. (JMI)

Gregory Kunde and Sondra Radvanovsky © A. Bofill


Poliuto – Gregory Kunde
Paolina – Sondra Radvanovsky
Severo – Gabriele Viviani
Calistene – Rubén Amoretti
Nearco – Alejandro del Cerro
Felice – Josep Fadó

This Donizetti opera has been absent from the Liceu for almost 43 years. It has been brought back now in a concert version, and the result was brilliant. Poliuto is an opera that presents many difficulties for the two protagonists, which may explain why it has become a true rarity. To that one might add the fact that bel canto today does not seem to be a great favorite among the artistic directors at the main opera houses. However, when done under the right conditions – as it was in Barcelona – success is assured.

The musical direction was entrusted to Daniele Callegari, who is much in demand to conduct Italian opera. He is always effective though not necessarily inspired, but in this case the opposite was true: his conducting was full of energy from the overture on, and especially notable in the first two acts. He demonstrated great knowledge of the score  and held the reins with a steady hand, helping the singers and getting good results from both orchestra and chorus.

The character that who gives title to the opera, Poliuto, was interpreted by Gregory Kunde. It is not a role within the reach of many tenors: the tessitura is complicated and there are some very exposed top notes. Kunde is one of the safest choices in this type of repertoire, and he brilliantly handled all the difficulties. His singing was as elegant as always, and I must say that it was a real luxury to have him as Poliuto.

Another real luxury was the presence of Sondra Radvanovsky in the part of Paolina, who is in fact the true protagonist. Her performance was magnificent from beginning to end, with a dark and beautiful voice, spectacular volume and an enviable high register.

The third protagonist of the opera, proconsul Severo, was played by baritone Gabriele Viviani, who replaced the initially announced Luca Salsi. Viviani’s voice has gained in amplitude and is well suited to the role, though he tends to open sounds in the high notes. Despite that, he was a remarkable Severo.

Rubén Amoretti in the part of Calistene did very well, and Alejandro del Cerro was a sonorous Nearco. Josep Fadó was correct in the role of Felice, Paolina’s father.

The audience gave a triumphant reception to the artists, and in particular to Sondra Radvanovsky and Gregory Kunde.

José M. Irurzun

Leave a Comment