MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews

 Clicking Google advertisements helps keep MusicWeb subscription-free.

Other Links

Editorial Board

  • UK Editors  - Roger Jones and John Quinn

    Editors for The Americas  - Bruce Hodges and Jonathan Spencer Jones

    European Editors - Bettina Mara and Jens F Laurson

    Consulting Editor - Bill Kenny

    Assistant Webmaster -Stan Metzger

    Founder - Len Mullenger

Google Site Search


Internet MusicWeb



Wolf Ferrari, Il Segreto di Susana and Poulenc, La voix Humaine: Soloists, Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa. Conductor: Lorenzo Ramos. Teatro Arriaga de Bilbao. 25. 3.2011 (JMI)

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 Bilbao

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

Back to Top                                                  Cumulative Index Page