Italy Festival Donizetti Opera 2019  – Donizetti, Lucrezia Borgia: Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini, Coro Teatro Municipale di Piacenza / Riccardo Frizza (conductor), Teatro Sociale, Bergamo, 22.11.2019. (JMI)
Director – Andrea Bernard
Sets – Alberto Beltrame
Costumes – Elena Beccaro
Lighting – Marco Alba
Lucrezia Borgia – Carmela Remigio
Gennaro – Xabier Anduaga
Don Alfonso – Marco Mimica
Maffio Orsini – Varduhi Abrahamyan
Liverotto – Manuel Pieratelli
Gazella – Alex Martini
Petrucci – Roberto Maietta
Vitellozzo – Daniele Lettieri
Gubetta – Rocco Cavalluzzi
Rustighello – Edoardo Milletti
Astolfo – Federico Benetti
The program of the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo continues with this performance of Lucrezia Borgia. It is an opera that is always of great interest, but it is one of the most difficult to cast, especially in the case of the two main characters. The result in Bergamo left something to be desired as far as the vocal suitability of the protagonist. The truth is that in recent years there has not been a new Leyla Gencer or Montserrat Caballé to do justice to the role.
Bergamo staged the new critical edition of the opera by Roger Parker and Rosie Ward. The main changes from the usual version are the addition in Act II of a duet for Gennaro and Orsini as well as the retention of Lucrezia’s final cabaletta (but with just one verse). There is also an aria for Gennaro that replaces the more or less traditional one known as Ivanov’s aria, which I prefer both for its beauty and its enormous vocal challenges.
The new Andrea Bernard production will be performed this season in various Italian theaters. It is a simple staging with basically one set for the entire opera. There is quite a bit of symbolism, beginning in the Prologue when a young Lucrezia places the son she is holding in a small crib; this crib will reappear several times during the opera. A mobile platform is used to place the action, be it in the Borgia palace or at the feast of Princess Negroni. The production narrates the plot well, and the stage direction is adequate, though I found the personal relationship on stage of Orsini and Gennaro questionable.
Conductor Riccardo Frizza, who is the musical director of the Donizetti Festival, maintained a fine rhythm throughout the opera and accompanied the soloists and the chorus with care. It was a splendid reading by this remarkable conductor.
As I mentioned earlier, I have always believed that the great difficulty with this opera is being able to count on an extraordinary Lucrezia. Soprano Carmela Remigio has a beautiful voice and is an outstanding singer, but her vocal suitability to the character of Lucrezia Borgia seems questionable. She is a remarkable light-lyric or even lyric soprano, but the role requires a spinto soprano, as were the stars of the past. It is not that she did poorly, but rather a problem of vocal adequacy. The same could be said of other sopranos whom I have heard sing the part in recent years, such as Edita Gruberová, Mariella Devia or Elena Moșuc.
Gennaro was sung by Xabier Anduaga, the 2019 winner of the prestigious Operalia contest, and his performance was the best of the cast. He has an attractive voice that is well suited to bel canto demands. I had not seen him since a year ago in the Donizetti Festival, and I found his voice wider now. He was brilliant in his Act II aria, and also in the better- known ‘De pescatore ignobile’ in the first act.
Don Alfonso was played by bass-baritone Marco Mimica, who exhibited his usual virtues and defects. His interpretation was fine, and his voice has amplitude but is not exceptional. Varduhi Abrahamyan as Maffio Orsini had an unconvincing start in the Prologue but improved as the opera went on. She was at her best in the little-known duet with Gennaro in Act II.
The secondary parts were all well covered, and in particular the Rustighello of Edoardo Milletti.
José M. Irurzun