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Verdi Festival di Parma 2009 - I due Foscari: Soloists, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma.Conductor: Donato Renzetti.Teatro Regio di Parma. 11.10.2009 (JMI)

Festival Verdi

Production from ABAO (Asociación Bilbaína de Amigos de la Ópera) and Teatro Verdi di Trieste.

Director: Joseph Franconi Lee.
Sets and Costumes: William Orlandi
Lighting: Valerio Alfieri.


Francesco Foscari: Claudio Sgura.
Lucrezia Contarini: Tatiana Serjan
Jacopo Foscari: Roberto De Biasio
Jacopo Loredano: Franco Tagliavini
Barbarigo: Gregory Bonfatti
Pisana: Marcella Polidori
Fante: Mauro Buffoli
Doge’s Servant: Alessandro Bianchini

After my stay in Florence and the rather mediocre performances of Verdi’s popular trilogy, I confess that I come to Parma and its Verdi Festival with high expectations, despite the fact that the world economic crisis has significantly affected the program for this year. Only two operas will be performed (last year there were four) and none of them is a new production. The city continue to ‘live’ the Festival like no other place in the world, with a profusion of posters, costumes from previous festivals displayed in many stores and with concerts everywhere. Let me give you a couple of real examples. Arriving in Parma I took a taxi in which I found a booklet with the program of the Festival and at the end of the opera I went to a very simple restaurant, where I could choose from three different menus called Traviata, Nabucco and Verdi. The Parma Verdi Festival is a truly unique experience.

On occasions such as today’s, one realizes that opera was not born to be performed at large spaces. To attend an opera performance at Teatro Regio Parma is a real privilege: apart from the beauty of the place, you are so close to the stage that getting into the drama could not seem more natural. In this kind of theatre too, voices seem twice their size compared with other large auditoriums. Opera here is a delight and very special.

This comment has to do with the fact that I saw I Due Foscari in the production by Joseph Franconi Lee, premiered in Bilbao last November and reviewed it for Seen and Heard (here.) My evaluation of this production is better now than in Bilbao, because of the Teatro Regio’s characteristics and also because it is now more rehearsed. In this smaller theatre the effect of the Venice paintings in the second part of the opera is much more appealing than in Bilbao, where they passed almost unnoticed. Of course, the stage direction has not changed, but in general the production works now better.

Donato Renzetti has a very special relationship with the Teatro Regio and he was back at the pit. Renzetti is a maestro of the old school, one of the last heirs of the great Italian operatic tradition, and the successor to Gavazzeni and Bartoletti. His performance was exactly what might be expected from a great Italian opera : his reading was very controlled and always alive, letting the singers breathe and making sure that they were always helped and supported by his baton. He was particularly careful with the orchestral volume too, something that was a big problem in Florence. He seemed to me to be a model conductor and he drew an excellent performance from the orchestra. The choir was just magnificent from beginning to end.

Francesco Foscari or Foscari padre was the young Italian baritone Claudio Sgura, which was announced for a couple of performances instead of Leo Nucci. I had the opportunity to see him in Seville in La Fanciulla del West last season and I was very excited by the result. To my great surprise, he was the ‘find’ of the evening who of course, scored had biggest success in the opera. He has a voice that is sadly so scarce in Verdi today, very homogeneous, well handled and his singing comes over with huge intensity and purpose. I can only assume that he must have had the opportunity to learn a lot from Leo Nucci and clearly he has taken full advantage of it. The fact is that his performance was excellent in all the aspects. In the current world shortage of true Verdi voices, Claudio Sgura is an oasis of hope.

Lucrezia Contarini was performed by the Russian soprano Tatiana Serjan, who also produces a persuasive performance. She is a powerful soprano, who gives all of herself on stage, and her top register is quite brilliant, although the middle of the voice is not especially beautiful. Her biggest drawback at the moment is that she sings uniformly forte.

Jacopo Foscari was the tenor Robert De Biasio, who has a voice with the right timbre and volume in every respect. His technique seems slightly lacking in maturity as yet, and some problems were noticeable here and there. He is not a particularly elegant singer, but is brave and sonorous, with very natural projection. I have the impression that his weakest points are the more taxing notes, since he avoided most of the optional choices open to him.

Roberto Tagliavini is now a simply splendid bass as Loredano, delivering very much more than his earlier promise from two years ago.

The theatre had some empty seats, probably due to the fact that Leo Nucci was not in the cast. At the final bows, there was a huge and well deserved success for Claudio Sgura and there were cheers too for Tatiana Serjan, Roberto DeBiasio and Donato Renzetti.

José M Irurzun 

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