Spain Monteverdi, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (concert performance): Palau Chamber Music Chorus, Europa Galante / Fabio Biondi (conductor). Palau de la Música, Barcelona, 11.2.2023. (JMI)
Ulisse / L’umana fragilitá – Mark Padmore
Penelope – Sara Mingardo
Telemaco – Jorge Navarro Colorado
Amore / Melanto – Julieth Lozano
Eumete – Mark Milhofer
Eurimaco – Omar Mancini
Ericlea – Francesca Billiotti
Giunone / Fortuna / Minerva – Giuseppina Bridelli
Nettuno – Jérôme Varnier
Jupiter – Denzil Delacre
Anfinomo – Nile Senatore
Pisandro – Vince Yi
Antinoo / Tempo – William Meinert
Iro – Tarik Bousselma
Claudio Monteverdi’s operas are always of interest to the aficionado, although their presence in opera houses is not very common. It suffices to remember that this opera’s premiere took place in Venice in 1640, but it did not reach Spain until 2008, when it was performed in Girona as a puppet show. The first staged version came a year later at the Teatro Real, which offered the so-called Monteverdi Trilogy: L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and L’incoronazione di Poppea.
Now the opera, in a concert version, has been put on in Madrid and Barcelona by Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante. In general, it has worked well but it fell below my expectations. I am not exaggerating when I say the main attraction for me was more the music than the singing, but things turned out exactly the other way around.
It is not easy to offer an opera with a cast as big as the one required here, and it is difficult not to have some weak links among singers. This was true here, but there were also some excellent voices.
Ulisse was sung by tenor Mark Padmore, a specialist in these Baroque and pre-Baroque operas. His performance had great intensity, and he gave meaning to every word he sang. It is worth noting that he did not use sheet music at any time. Padmore doubled at the start of the opera as L’umana fragilitá.
The performance of mezzo-soprano Sara Mingardo as Penélope was also very good. I had seen her in this role thirteen years ago, and she has not lost a bit of emotion in her singing – one of the highlights in this concert.
Tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado was a good Telemaco. He has an attractive, well-handled voice and sings with expressiveness. Soprano Julieth Lozano, who doubled as Amore and Melanto, was also quite good. She has an appealing voice and moves well on stage.
The Eumete of veteran tenor Mark Milhofer is worthy of being highlighted. With smooth legato his voice was perfect and he dominated the character from the moment he entered the stage. Mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Bridelli, who sang Giunone, Fortuna and Minerva, did very well in these parts.
The rest of the characters can be considered as secondary, but they were always perfectly covered. Eurimaco was sung by tenor Omar Mancini, whose voice reached nicely throughout the theatre. Mezzo-soprano Francesca Billiotti did well as Ericlea, as did tenor Denzil Delacre as Jupiter. Bass Jérôme Varnier provided his broad voice in the role of Nettuno.
Countertenor Vince Yi as Pisandro and baritone Nile Senatore as Anfinomo handled their parts well, as did bass William Meinert as Antinoo, who had the best voice of the three and doubled as Tempo. Finally, tenor Tarik Bousselma was an expressive Iro.
José M. Irurzun