Bellini – I Puritani / Teatro Comunale de Bologna (2)

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vlcsnap-2014-04-12-12h54m24s41This production, by Pier’ Alli, is literally quite dark. In Act II in particular the gloom never lifts – much of the action occurs in a sort of murky twilight. When Elvira, who has evidently not been trained to stop and ask questions when something unusual occurs – like one’s boyfriend suddenly vanishing – has gone mad and is wandering around making everyone feel bad, she carries a little spherical lamp the glow of which is too feeble to illuminate anything. Which of course is entirely logical, given that she’s nuts. I will say this in terms of drama. Most of the sopranos whose performances of this role I have enjoyed have done what Nino Machaizde does here, which is imply in that very first scene with Giorgio that Elvira is not the most stable or even-keeled young person in the world. Actually, now that I think about it, this may be one of those places where the music is better than I think it is – this impression is not the creation of good acting alone. I had never heard Machiazde before; I am beginning to suspect that there is a long list of singers who do a lot of 19th-century Italian opera, often in Italy, that I never hear about because it’s normally not the kind of thing I go looking for. And it doesn’t get broadcast or recorded with the same degree of regularity and ease of access as things from New York or the Bavarian State Opera or whatever. But anyway. Machiazde’s voice loses a little bit of shine on those very loud top notes that Elvira has to belt out occasionally – but it’s only a little shine that gets lost, and the rest of it has that solid, creamy sort of sound that is pretty hard to object to.

And apparently I am inadvertently on a Juan Diego Florez bender. Or possibly whoever it is that buys DVDs for the library is on a Juan Diego Florez bender. Either way, here he is again as Arturo Talbo. I may have said this before, but there is something funny about the Italianization of Talbot to Talbo. I am not sure why it is funny, but it is. It happens in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda too. ‘Talbo’ strikes me as somewhere between a good name for a puppy and a character in a Rudyard Kipling story. But anyway. Arturo Talbo, a young Englishman who has mislaid several of his consonants decided to place love above political loyalty, sort of, is sung by Juan Diego Florez who is probably exactly the sort of tenor you want for this. As I mentioned in the context of the Donizetti opera last week, this is his element. He knows the style, he can reach all those tortuous high notes, and he looks the part. This is not specific to him, really, but on the subject of style, I did notice that at one point he rendered “regina” as “re – ina”. I remember hearing Joan Sutherland do this too when singing Alcina, and at the time I figured that since people say she had terrible diction, maybe that was an example of it. As far as I know, “regina” is the standard Italian word for queen. Does skipping the ‘g’ make the vowels easier to sing under some circumstances? Or is this just a weird coincidence?

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11 thoughts on “Bellini – I Puritani / Teatro Comunale de Bologna (2)

  1. Maybe it was just Spanish asserting itself. You hear this sometimes among Spanish-speaking tenors. Though presumably this was not Sutherland’s excuse.


    1. I think it was a momentary lapse into Spanish pronunciation. He actually pronounces the g the same as a Spanish j. As a rule his diction in any language is exemplary


      1. I haven’t heard JDF’s performance here. Is it a high lying or fast moving bit? If one puts a real dj sound (is that how to spell a soft g?) it does stop the tone, so he (and Joan) probably made a deliberate pronunciation decision in order to maintain the vocal line.

        By the way, nice review. It’s pretty much convinced me not to explore Bellini any further. My interest stops with Norma (because it’s famous) and La Sonnambula (because of the wonderful recent Stuttgart production, now on DVD). I should probably check out the Met production of LS too. Enough people hated it to make me want to check it out.

        Of course, since I love Italian Baroque opera, I probably am not supposed to like 19th century Italian opera anyway! 🙂


        1. I’m not deeply moved to explore much more Bellini either. I keep running across these discussions (I remember one in the Guardian, a review of something or other) along the lines of “but everyone now knows his music is MUCH better than everyone used to say it was” which have the air of protesting a little too much.

          The baroque (and some of the later 19th century stuff) is more to my liking too.


        2. Wait, was there some critical directive handed down at some point about adhering to strictly-defined parameters of opera-fandom? I totally missed it. Are there like gang signs or something?

          Bel canto doesn’t require a lot of brain cells of its audience, but it’s fun to have around — finally — with casts that are more than a star soprano and…some other people who gamely agreed to be thrown under the bus. Plus, iirc, a working knowledge gives you the dubious superpower of getting the musical jokes in Gilbert & Sullivan.


          1. If there are gang signs, I was left off the email list. But I would very much like to know what to flash in order to start a fight. (Or maybe I can just get “Baroque Thug Life” or “eighteenth century or die m****f******” tattooed on my neck.)

            Or, for 18th century, triangle representing a three-cornered hat



            1. You’d better not use that one, people will assume it refers to the Illuminati and as we know that has nothing whatever to do with 18th century op–


          2. @stray “was there some critical directive…”

            no, I was just making a reference to one of the latest Stupid Reviewer Comments, in which the reviewer asserted that people who love Romantic Italian opera simply cannot like Baroque opera as well.


            1. Not to worry, I know, I read that one. It’s one of the more bizarre parochialisms one encounters in this biz.


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