Italy Festival Donizetti Opera 2019  – Donizetti, Pietro il Grande: Coro Donizetti Opera, Orchestra Gli originali / Rinaldo Alessandrini (conductor), Teatro Sociale, Bergamo, 23.11.2019. (JMI)
Direction and Sets – Ondadurto Teatro / Marco Paciotti & Lorenzo Pasquali
Costumes – K. B. Project
Lighting – Marco Alba
Pietro il Grande – Roberto De Candia
Madama Fritz – Paola Gardina
Carlo – Francisco Brito
Ser Coccupis – Marco Filippo Romano
Annetta – Nina Solodovnikova
Caterina – Loriana Castellano
Hondedisky – Marcello Nardis
Firman – Tommaso Barea
Notary – Stefano Gentili
Last year, the Bergamo Festival staged the first opera composed by Donizetti, Enrico di Borgogna, and this year they have scheduled his second one, Pietro il Grande. It’s interesting to note that both works had practically disappeared, and that the difference in musical quality between these first operas and those of the mature Donizetti is considerable. The premiere of Pietro il Grande took place in Venice at the San Samuele Theater in 1819. It’s an opera buffa in the style of Rossini, who was a much more famous composer at the time.
There have been several operas based on the life of Peter the Great, and most of them concern the tsar’s trip to Lithuania in search of a young carpenter who might be a relative of the tsarina. Among these are an earlier opera, Pierre le Grand by André Grétry, and a later one, Albert Lortzing’s Zar und Zimmermann.
The 2018 production of Enrico di Borgogna turned a comedy into a drama, but this year’s opera buffa has been treated as such from start to finish in the new staging by Marco Paciotti and Lorenzo Pasquali. It does not try to do more than entertain the audience, and it highlights the work’s buffoonery. There are lots of mobile elements which make scene changes easy, somewhat childish and very colorful costumes, and wonderful lighting with a profusion of projections. The stage direction is always at the service of the opera and not the other way around.
Rinaldo Alessandrini is a conductor who is very familiar with Baroque opera. His reading here was correct, but it could have used more rhythm and inspiration. This is not an opera that can be considered a masterpiece, and a boost is needed from the conductor. Both the orchestra and chorus gave fine performances.
Although the title of the opera refers to the Tsar, the main protagonists are Carlo and Madama Fritz. The two basso buffos, the Tsar and the Magistrate, are also important, but the remaining characters are less so.
The part of Pietro il Grande was sung by baritone Roberto De Candia. His sonorous voice plays well on stage, and he gave a winning performance. Carlo, the carpenter who will turn out to be the brother of Tsarina Catalina, was sung by tenor Francisco Brito, who made a good impression.
For my taste, the strongest one in the cast was mezzo-soprano Paola Gardina in the role of Madama Fritz, the innkeeper who hosts the tsar and his wife. Her voice is attractive and she sings with gusto – she is well-suited to the Rossini style.
The other buffo, the Magistrate, was played by baritone Marco Filippo Romano, who mastered the part but impressed more with his acting than his singing.
It is discovered that young Annetta, the object of Carlo’s love, is the daughter of an enemy of the tsar, but it all ends happily. Soprano Nina Solodovnikova did nicely in the role although I think her voice needs to mature. Loriana Castellano as Tsarina Caterina did a good job.
José M. Irurzun