Gerard Hoffnung CDs
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Viaggio a Reims - dramma giocoso
in one act (1825)
the Tyrolean owner of the Golden Lily Inn - Anastasia Belyaeva
(sop); Baron Von Trombonok, a German
aristocrat - Vladislav Ouspenski (bass); Contessa de Flolleville,
a Parisian lady of fashion - Larissa Youdina (sop); Count
Libenskof, a Russian General - Daniil Shtoda (ten); Marchesa
Melibea, a young Polish widow - Anna Kiknadze (mezzo); Don
Alvaro, a Spanish admiral - Alexei Safiouline (bar); Corinna,
a poetess from Rome - Irma Guigolachvili (sop); Belfiore,
a young French chevalier - Dmitri Voropaev ( ten); Modestina
- Olga Kitchenko (mezzo); Lord Sidney, and English aristocrat
in love with Corina - Edouard Tsanga (bass); Don Profondo,
an antique collector - Nikolai Kamenski (buffo bass); Maddalena,
the housekeeper - Elena Sommer (sop); Don Prudenzio, a spoof
doctor and buffoon - Alexei Tannovistski (bass); Don Luigino,
cousin of Contessa de Folleville - Andrei Illiouchnikov;
Antonio, Maître d’hôtel - Pavel Chmoulevitch
Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre St. Petersburg/Valery
A co-production of the Mariinsky Theatre St. Petersburg and
the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris.
rec. live, Théâtre du Châtelet 10, 15, 17 December 2005.
Stage Director - Alain Maratrat; Set Designer - Pierre Alain
Bertola; Costume Designer - Mireille Dessingey
Picture format: 16/9 Anamorphic. Sound formats: LPCM Stereo.
Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian (original
OPUS ARTE OA0967D [135:00]
last opera seria under his contract with Barbaja in Naples
was Zelmira. It was premiered on 16 February 1822.
Following that premiere Rossini and Isabella Colbran his
mistress and renowned coloratura soprano went to Vienna with
Barbaja’s company to present a season built around the composer’s
works. Although Barbaja hoped that Rossini would return to
Naples the composer was angling for an appointment in either
London or Paris. His reputation was such that after the season
in Venice he was invited by Prince Metternich to attend and
compose for the Congress of Verona. During several weeks
stay he was introduced to the Austrian Emperor, the Tsar
and the Duke of Wellington and composed five cantatas. From
Verona, Rossini and Colbran, now his wife, journeyed to Venice
to present a new opera, Semiramide, for which his
fee was an unprecedented five thousand francs. It was premiered
in February 1823 and was a great success.
the summer of 1823 Rossini and Colbran travelled to London
via Paris where the composer was fêted and began negotiating
about future work. In London he presented several of his
operas and earned considerable remuneration by singing and
playing at musical occasions organised by English aristocracy.
In Brighton where the Court was in session he sang duets
with the King. On his return to Paris the composer was appointed
Director of the Théâtre Italien. His contract required him
to present productions of his own works, and that of other
composers, as well as writing new works in French for presentation
at The Opéra (The Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique).
The works in French were a little slow in coming, as Rossini
needed to grapple with the prosody of the language and re-align
his own compositional style towards that of his new hosts.
on his agenda was the unavoidable duty of an opera to celebrate
the coronation of Charles X in Reims Cathedral in June 1825.
Called Il viaggio à Reims it was composed to an Italian
libretto and presented at the Théâtre Italien on 19 June
1825. It was hugely successful in three sold-out performances
after which Rossini withdrew it, considering it purely a pièce
d’occasion. He later reused nine of the numbers in Le
Comte Ory, and Il viaggio became lost for nearly
150 years until scholarly research in the 1980s found missing
numbers in the Santa Cecilia in Rome. By adding these parts
to those found in Paris and Vienna, Philip Gossett produced
the edition presented at the Pesaro Festival in 1984 with
an all-star cast. DG engineers combined the best of the Pesaro
performances to give an outstandingly sung and recorded audio
issue conducted by Claudio Abbado (414 498-2). This re-introduced
the opera to the world.
opera plot makes a parody of the stereotypes of the various
nationalities who become stranded, through lack of horses,
at the Golden Lily Inn on
their way to the Coronation of Carlos in Reims. The complicated
plot involves secret love, a bit of two-timing by the tenor,
a challenge to a duel and an agreement to spend the money
saved by their aborted journey on a grand banquet. The final
scene is a divertissement to celebrate harmony, each guest
singing a song from his or her own country. This ends with
an improvisation by Corinna on the new King and the guests
sing a final tribute to the glory of France. I strongly recommend
watching the illustrated synopsis so as to get a good grip
on who is who before embarking on the whole.
co-production in modern dress and minimal props involves
young singers from the Academy of the Mariinsky Theatre.
This establishment is no first base singer-training conservatory;
rather it is arguably the best opera singers’ finishing school
in the world. Graduates from this source are to be heard
at the very best addresses and already some appearing in
this performance have burgeoning professional careers. As
well as vocal training of high sophistication, the young
singers learn to become excellent actors too. This combination
of secure vocal achievement allied to consummate acting involvement
is what is required to bring off Il Viaggio a Reims’ rather
zany story-line in what is Rossini’s last opera to an Italian
set for this co-production at the Théâtre
du Châtelet is of the simplest. The orchestra is seated to
the rear of the stage with the singers in front. There are
extended walkways into the front rows of the stalls. This
is very reminiscent of the staging of the John Eliot Gardiner-conducted Falstaff that
I caught at the theatre six or so years ago. On that occasion
the lithe movements and acting ability of Juan Diego Florez
as Fenton were a highlight of a good all-round performance.
On this occasion there are several excellent performances
to mention. First are the dazzling soprano performances of
Anastasia Belyaeva as Madame Cortese and Larissa Youdina
as Contessa de Flolleville who not only scales the vocal
stratosphere with ease but also carries off the role’s changes
of haute couture with aplomb and elegance. The Corinna
of Irma Guigolachvili is not of this standard vocally, with
an uncertain trill, (Chs 16 and 35) but she portrayed her
part well. The wide ranging mezzo and appealing presence
and acting of Anna Kiknadze as the sought-after Marchesa
Melibea is also particularly worthy. As her suitor Count
Libenskof, who had to do some pleading (Ch 29), is taken
by Daniil Shtoda whose singing and acting are first rate.
A big man he is physically imposing and his flexible tenor
voice has much potential (Ch 32). So too has the lighter
tenor of Dmitri Voropaev as Belfiore, the dashing French
officer who pays court to Madame Flolleville (Ch 35). His
voice, with a husky timbre, is more than a tenore di grazia,
with a touch of metal in it. Like his colleague his career
will be worth watching. The lower male voices are more variable.
Edouard Tsanga’s Lord Sidney was somewhat lean of tone (Chs
19 and 34) whilst Nikolai Kamenski and Alexei Tannovistski
fielded more substantial tone and colour.
general ensemble singing of the participants, together with
the chorus, is spot-on. Valery Gergiev, entered via the stall
aisles with a coat draped over his shoulders and wearing
a trilby. Whilst he discarded the former at the rostrum he
wore the latter throughout. He wore the trilby throughout
and, unusually for him he conducted with a baton as well.
Whatever these quirks from his norm, the performance zipped
along and his feel for Rossini gave more than a hint of strengths
other than those with which he is normally associated.
much stage movement, not often audibly intrusive, the sound
is excellently clear, warm and well balanced. The diction
of the singers has few signs of glottal accents. The audience
applause is not too intrusive, nor are their faces shown
too frequently. In all respects the DVD direction of Vincent
Bataillon is commendable. The booklet has a brief informative
essay and synopsis as well as coloured photographs from the
performance. I have not seen the DVD of the 2003 performance
at Barcelona’s Grand Liceu which included José Bros as
Belfiore and Maria Bayo as Madame Cortese (TDK DV-OPVAR).
Jesus Lopez-Cobos conducting on his debut in the theatre
was widely admired, but he would have been hard pressed to
better Gergiev in this performance. Add the sparkling ensemble
and overall quality of singing and this new issue must be
at least a keen competitor.
Robert J Farr
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