Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886) La Gioconda (1876)
La Gioconda, a street
singer - Andrea Gruber (soprano); Enzo Grimaldi, exiled Genoese
prince in love with Laura - Marco Berti (ten); Barnaba,
sadistic spy who lusts after Gioconda - Alberto Mastromarino (bar);
Laura Adorno, wife of Alvise and loved by Enzo - Eildiko Komlosi
(mezzo); Alvise, one of the Heads of the State Inquisition - Carlo
Colombara (bass); La Cieca, blind mother of Gioconda - Elisabetta
Orchestra, Chorus and Corps de Ballet of the Arena di Verona/Danato Renzetti
rec. live, Arena di Verona, Italy, June 2005
Director, set and costumes by Pier Luigi Pizzi
Video Director Tiziano Mancini
Recorded in High Definition. dts digital surround sound, Linear PCM 2.0. Vision
16:9 Colour. NTSC DYNAMIC 33500 [2
My colleague Robert Farr gives a fine précis of Gioconda's
action in his 2006 review of
this release. Gioconda has always been somewhat
controversial, its plot being rather convoluted. It has rarely
been hailed as a masterpiece, yet taken for what it is – an
unashamed and superbly fashioned melodrama – it offers much.
On disc, Callas (now on Naxos)
and Milanov offer searing versions. To be able to experience
the work as stagecraft offers a further window into the work's
strengths - yes, and weaknesses - and to this extent the
present Dynamic DVD is more than welcome.
This is an Arena di Verona performance, yet strangely there
are moments when one becomes aware of a very real intimacy
to the various interpersonal exchanges. The staging can tend
towards the over-dark, emphasising the intensity of the emotions
on display. Huge steps - a great operatic stock-in-trade!
- dominate the opera's opening; they are steps to a church,
it transpires. The initial confrontation, between Barnaba
and Gioconda, works principally because of the excellence
of baritone Alberto Mastromarino's Barnaba. Mastromarino's
voice is appropriately dark of hue yet is focused; more,
Mastromarino is very much inside his part.
Andrea Gruber is the tremendous Gioconda. As my colleague
suggests, there is occasional evidence of stress to her voice,
at which points she sounds tremulous, but there is no doubting
her involvement, especially in the famous Suicidio.
Gruber maintains her intensity throughout the opera, investing
her text with a multitude of shades and meanings. A pity
her stage mother, known in the opera as La Cieca and taken
here by alto Elisabetta Fiorillo, is on the wobbly side vocally,
although Fiorillo's 'Voce di Donna' reveals excellent legato.
A high point comes in the shape of the opening of Act 3,
the scene between Colombara and Komlosi. Komlosi is wonderfully
strong in her higher registers - some might find her vibrato
a little too much - while Colombara is another to reveal
a lovely legato. In fact Komlosi is one of this production's
real stars - her acting in Act 2 is completely believable.
Almost as believable, in fact, as Andrea Gruber's final act,
wherein she reaches her peak. Her rendition of the line 'Enzo,
amor mio' is heart-stopping.
Marco Berti's Enzo, a Genovese nobleman, is slightly disappointing.
His 'Cielo e mar' - as he awaits the arrival of his love,
Laura - is merely adequate and not really what this marvellous
aria deserves. Much better is Mauro Buffoli's Isepo, whose
monologue, 'O Monumento' is as black as Ponchielli's Iago-equivalent
demands it to be.
The chorus is superb, as are the dancers for the 'Dance of
the Hours'. Conductor Donato Renzetti has more than the measure
of the score, and it is his sure and sensitive direction
that to a large measure ensures the success of this performance.
That Pier Luigi Pizzi is director and set and costume
designer perhaps explains the consistency of this staging's
conception. I hope many will see this DVD and enjoy it, for
that may lead to increased cries for regular stagings of Gioconda in
the UK. I would love to see this opera live – in the meantime,
the present account offers a real emotional experience.
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