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 Donizetti, Poliuto: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra ofCasa de la Opera. Conductor:Giorgio Paganini. Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 22.9.2009. (JSJ) 

Director/lighting: Eduardo Casullo
Sets/costumes: Mariela Daga
Chorus: Ezequiel Fautario 

Poliuto: Miguel Geraldi 
Paolina: Adelaida Negri
Severo: Douglas Hahn
Callistene: Victor Castells
Nearco: Juan Gonzalez Cueto
Felice: Matias Lechuga
A Christian: Jorge Bellone

Douglas Hahn (Severo), Adelaida Negri (Paolina), and Miguel Geraldi (Poliuto)

Poliuto is one of the many of Donizetti’s works that are rarely performed these days – a search of this site threw up only one live review – despite its earlier relative popularity. In Buenos Aires, for example, the work was put on in no less than 15 seasons following the first in 1854, with the last of these in 1898, since when it has disappeared from the city’s stages.

That is until now, and its revival by the Casa de la Opera, an organisation established by diva Adelaida Negri to  promote young singers on the one hand and on the other to expose some of the lesser known, particularly bel canto, repertoire. Thus over the years such works as Roberto Devereux, Maria Stuarda, Bellini’s La Straniera, Verdi’s I Masnadieri and Refice’s Cecilia have been put on, and now it was turn of Poliuto.

, or “The Martyrs,” after the French title given the work after its revision by Donizetti with a French text for production in Paris, is a drawn out tragedia lirica, set in Mytilene, capital of Armenia around 250 AD, which has been occupied by the Romans, who have decreed that Christianity must be destroyed and its followers put to death.

Although just a year separates it from Lucia, musically it felt not so even and in parts very Verdi-like, notably comparable to Aida and La Forza, although of course any influence is likely to have been the other way around.

This production involved a number of Casa de la Opera regulars, with the highly effective direction in the capable hands of Eduardo Casullo. Simplicity and suggestion were the key, with arches in the outside scenes and a statue/tomb for the inside, while the dress was appropriately Roman.

A strong cast was also martialled, with Sra. Negri a powerful Paolina, her voice rich and expressive. Alongside her two Brazilian singers, Miguel Geraldi as Poliuto and Douglas Hahn as Severo, both of whom also have started to make international careers in Italy, were outstanding – Geraldi upright in style as befitting an authority figure and Hahn more rough and ready as the Roman general.

Victor Castells was a satisfactory Callistene and Juan Gonzalez Cueto was good as Nearco, as was Matias Lechuga as Felice. The chorus sung with enthusiasm and Giorgio Paganini provided a balanced reading of the score.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

Pictures © Liliana Morsia

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