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SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL
Production Teatro Arriaga in coproduction with Malaga's Teatro Cervantes, Jerez's Teatro Villamaría, Córdoba's Gran Teatro and K.L. Ópera.
Direction: José Luis Castro
Sets: José Luis Castro
Costumes: Lorenzo Caprile
Ligting: Albert Faura
Il Segreto di Susanna
Countess Susanna: Isabel Rey
Count Gil: Javier Franco
La Voix Humaine
The Woman: Elisabete Matos
Elisabete Matos in La Voix Humaine
Picture courtesy of Teatro Arriaga de
Teatro Arriaga offers an unusual double bill consisting of
Il Segreto di Susanna and La Voix Humaine,
two short operas by Wolf Ferrari and Poulenc. There are not
many points in common between them. Both operas were
premiered in the twentieth century and require very small
casts - two singers in Wolf Ferrari and only one in Poulenc.
And they don't need much by complex staging. It's a fine
choice, really, to offer these two little-known operas in
Bilbao, especially since they can be presented on a very low
budget, which isn't a bad idea in these times.
Il Segreto di Susanna might have made some sense when it was premiered (1909) but its motive (a woman who smokes in secret) has lost interest over the years. Then again, with the wave of moral legislating against smoking under way, it might well become very interesting, very soon. In any case, Count Gil is a very jealous husband and he suspects that his wife is cheating him when he smells tobacco in the house. The Countess wants to keep her vice a secret, which leads to misunderstandings between them. Finally, the Count discovers the true secret to his wife and they decide to smoke happily ever thereafter. Musically, it's a minor work without a single truly inspired page for the singers.
Francis Poulenc's La Voix Humaine meanwhile is by far better known and has always been a starring vehicle for great singer-actresses. Jean Cocteau's libretto retains great dramatic power, with its abandoned and desperate woman on the verge of suicide. Musically, it is a real gem, provided it has a good conductor and a great protagonist.
The production credited the stage direction to Jose Luis Castro, who is also responsible for the sets, but what it amounted to was little more than some stage props and black curtains for both operas. A true low budget production, but servicing both of these operas well enough. Jose Luis Castro knows what these two operas are about and he does a good job.
The musical direction was entrusted to Lorenzo Ramos, son of Jesús López Cobos, who offered a good performance in Wolf Ferrari but was none too remarkable in Poulenc. The orchestra, meanwhile, did much better in the Poulenc than Wolf Ferrari.
Countess Susanna was Isabel Rey, who was quite convincing on stage in a role that wasn't too demanding for her. Baritone Javier Franco was Count Gil and his voice was penalized by the very open stage production, to the point of being inaudible when singing at the back of the stage.
In La voix Humaine the woman (no name in the libretto) was Portuguese soprano Elisabete Matos, who was more committed than convincing. She seemed more a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown than an abandoned woman in love, who is supposed to show vulnerability next to fury in her monologue. It was too short on nuances and too long on predictability.
José Mª Irurzun