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Cherubini, Medea: Soloists,  Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio di Torino. Conductor: Evelino Pidó. Teatro Regio di Torino. 9.10.2008 (JMI)

New Production
Director: Hugo de Ana
Sets and Costumes: Hugo de Ana
Lighting: Pascal Merat


Medea: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Giasone: Giuseppe Filianoti
Glauce: Cinzla Forte
: Sara Mingardo
Creonte: Giovanni Battista Parodi

Turin opens its season this year with this rather unusual  opera by Cherubini, so linked to Maria Callas that we could almost talk of the Cherubini-Callas version, when referring  to the work in Italian.

It is curious that  Medea, or better  Medée, was premiered in Paris and in French yet whenever I have had the opportunity to see it, whether in France or Italy, it has been always in the Italian version. The origin of today’s most familiar version was   in Germany, where in 1854 Fritz Lachner changed the opera’s dialogues into recitatives; later Zangarini prepared an Italian text for the premiere at La Scala in 1909. As I said already,  this is the version that Maria Callas chose to put the work  into  the main operatic repertoire and it is  ‘her’ Medea  which has been sung by most of the top ranking sopranos ever since.

Medea is musically superior to most others written in the second half of 18th century (Mozart apart) and it calls attention powerfully to the dominant role  of the orchestra.. It succeeds of course principally on the stature of  the protagonist : either there is an exceptional Medea  or the opera loses much of  its interest. This is been the case ever since Callas and will continue to be.

Anna Caterina Antonacci as Medea

In Turin, Ana Caterina Antonnacci was once again sang the title role, as she  had done a few years back in Toulouse. Without a doubt she is  one of the few singer-actresses able to do  justice to the character and is in fact probably the best today in the role. Her  Medea was  very convincing, but I found her, as happened in Toulouse, lacking a certain viscerality.  Hers is a young and beautiful Medea who never loses her composure. With a far less rich voice, Denia Mazzola in Montpellier left the audience breathless, such was her strength and conviction. Antonacci is convincing of course  but she does not quite enrapture, although her voice has a particularly  beautiful middle range.

Hugo de Ana’s production offers a timeless drama  or, at least, this is what he said in an interview. In fact, the costumes, except for those for Medea and Neris, correspond the first two decades of the 1900s. In the same interview De Ana also says that Medea could be set in any location, even on the Moon. With that in mind, he  decides to stage it on a rough beach. This is where Glauce and her friends have their picnic and where the wedding banquet takes place, after which we see a boat (The Argonauts?) aground on the beach. Later the boat becomes Medea’s home. It’s more a serviceable production than a truly bright idea.

Evelino Pidó gave a good reading of the opera, offering the  necessary dramatic intensity. He was very good in the purely orchestral passages, particularly the overture. He drew a very good performance from the  Orchestra and Chorus of Turin’s Teatro Regio. The result was good but perhaps even more passion may  be needed when  conducting this opera.

The rest of the cast is of a lesser importance in Medea. Among them we had Giasone, interpreted by Giuseppe Filianoti. It was something of a surprise to find him in this role, both because he is usually the main character in the operas he sings and also because Giasone requires a heavier voice than Filianoti’s. His voice keeps its beautiful center and its  slightly small upper register.

As the bereaved Neris,  Sara Mingardo sang her second act aria with sensitivity and great good   and  Cinzia Forte was a more than adequate Glauce,  although some hardness in the higher notes. Giovanni Battista Parodi as Creonte  proved again that what he  has gained in vocal volume he has lost  in quality. Not the best of  changes. There was a full house with a great success for Antonacci,  and a nicely favourable response to  Evelino Pidó.

Jose M. Irurzun

Pictures:  Ramella and Giannese ©  Fondazione Teatro Regio di Torino

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