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SEEN AND HEARD
INTERNATIONAL OPERA REVIEW Donizetti, Belisario: Buenos Aires Lírica. Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Buenos Aires Lírica, Conductor: Javier Logioia Orbe. Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 16.7.2010 (JSJ) Director/sets/costumes: Marcelo Perusso Lighting: Rubén Conde Chorus: Juan Casasbellas Justinian: Christian Peregrino
Belisario: Omar Carrión
Antonina: María Luz Martínez
Irene: Vanina Guilledo
Alamiro: Santiago Bürgi
Eudora: Gabriela Ceaglio
Eutropio: Gustavo De Gennaro
Eusebio: Walter Schwarz
Ottario: Julián Zámbó
A centurion: Lucas Somoza
Belisario (Omar Carrión), victorious in battle, is given a hero’s welcome.
Donizetti’s Belisario, which appeared in early 1836, was well received and fairly widely performed in its early years. However, it soon became overshadowed by the composer’s immediately preceding work, Lucia di Lammermoor of a few months earlier, to the extent that it is now almost unknown today.
Indeed since its “modern” revival at the La Fenice in Venice in 1969, Belisario has been presented only seven times, with two of those in Buenos Aires – at the Teatro Colón in 1981 (its first production in the city since 1854) and now in this latest production by Buenos Aires Lírica. The situation is further complicated in that there is no modern edition of the score and the La Fenice material – which was used in the Colón production – was lost when that theatre was destroyed by fire in 1996.
For this production a performing score was put together by Buenos Aires Lírica’s chorus master Juan Casasbellas, who also teaches conducting at the Conservatorio Superior de Música in Buenos Aires. The realisation was based on a reproduction tracked down on the internet, a piano reduction and such recordings of the work that exist.
Like the music, the story doesn’t have the same sense of depth and unity as does Lucia. It is based on Eduard von Schenk’s1820 tragedy Belisarius, set in 6th century Byzantium, and tells of the return of the victorious general Belisario from fighting the Greeks and his subsequent betrayal - by his wife Antonina, in league with the captain of the imperial guards, Eutropio, who believes Belisario was responsible for the death of their son. After being forced into exile by the Emperor Justinian with his daughter Irene, who chooses to accompany him, Belisario discovers that the young Greek Alamiro, who as a prisoner on his return he had spared from death, is in fact his son. Then in one last battle against an army against Byzantium, he is fatally wounded. The work ends with Antonina, having admitted to forging the evidence against him, in anguish that he had died without pardoning her.
This production by Marcelo Perusso, with its modern Byzantine tile backdrop, received a mixed reaction, but I felt it worked well, giving a modern twist to an ancient setting. The work is very much dominated by the character of Belisario, here ably sung by Omar Carrión. His voice is not that large but it is refined and well suited to the role. Christian Peregrino was also an able Justinian.
Among the female roles the Chilean soprano María Luz Martínez was extended as Antonina, and Vanina Guilledo as Irene was adequate, as was the remaining male cast member Santiago Bürgi standing in for Sergio Spina as Alamiro. The orchestra directed by Javier Logioia Orbe, now artistic and musical director of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Montevideo, played with accuracy and spirit, and the chorus was good.
Jonathan Spencer Jones
Photo © Liliana Morsia
Donizetti, Belisario: Buenos Aires Lírica. Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Buenos Aires Lírica, Conductor: Javier Logioia Orbe. Teatro Avenida, Buenos Aires. 16.7.2010 (JSJ)
Director/sets/costumes: Marcelo Perusso
Lighting: Rubén Conde
Chorus: Juan Casasbellas
Justinian: Christian Peregrino