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Quincena Musical Donostiarra 2010 - Berlioz, Roméo et Juliette : (Concert Performance) Soloists, Orquesta Sinfónica del Teatro Mariinsky. Orfeón Donostiarra. Conductor: Valery Gergiev. Auditorio Kursaal, San Sebastian 9.8.2010 (JMI)

Mezzo soprano: Ekaterina Sementchuk.

Tenor: Dmitry Voropaev.

Baritone: Evgeny Nikitin.

Quincena Musical Donostiarra celebrates this year its 71st appearance this year, which makes it both a summer musical festival with a great tradition in Europe and also the most longstanding and most prestigious summer festival in Spain. This time the festival has Russia as its main theme.

Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette is neither opera nor a cantata, but rather it is a Symphony, as Berlioz himself described it. Obviously it has nothing at all to do with Russia, but it was played by Russian musicians with Valery Gergiev conducting. It is a very rich work, which requires an orchestra and a choir of over 100 members each, forces of some genuine originality in the first half of the 19th century - its premiere took place in 1839.

The reading offered by Valery Gergiev was always bright and interesting with his wonderful Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra revealing itself as an extremely flexible instrument in his hands. My attention is always called to Mr.Gergiev’s hands of course; endlessly they give the impression of being charged with a special energy. I have always believed that Gergiev is a great conductor, although he is not always at the level that might be expected from him. After the seeing him conduct many times now, I have come to the conclusion that the great Gergiev is most present, when he puts dowm the baton and conducts with his prodigious hands. When conducting with a baton, I had often found him rather flat but for this San Sebastian concert he left the baton behind and from the first bars and his gestures radiated conviction and authority, drawing very best from his orchestra. This was an excellent performance also from Orfeón Donostiarra chorus, one of the very best I can remember from them.

The singers are not all that important in this work, but this Saint Petersburg trio were all excellent, particularly Ekaterina Sementchuk, one of the best Russian mezzo sopranos around now, with a beautiful and dark voice and Evgeny Nikitin who sang Frère Laurent. He also proved that he is one of the best bass baritones around and tenor Dmitry Voropaev did well too with a well pitched voice of rather more limited quality than his colleagues.

The Kursaal Auditorium had a sold out house and the audience gave an enthusiastic reception all the artists, especially to Gergiev, his orchestra and Orfeón Donostiarra singers.


José M Irurzun

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