Saturday, January 28, 2012


TANCREDI (New Production Premiere)
Deutsche Oper Berlin
22 January 2012

© Sam H. Shirakawa

Midway through the premiere of a new production of Rossini’s Tancredi at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, I wondered why it was being staged. The story makes little sense, and the stage directions call for even less drama. Why not just do it in concert form and allow the music and singing to take center-stage?

Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production is innocuous enough. His multi-column set reclines and sits up, depending on how much space is needed for the soloists and chorus. His costumes are attractive. But these elements neither flesh out nor make cogent an essentially incoherent story. It’s set in 11th century Sicily and turns on a misdirected letter that leads to tragic consequences for the eponymous recipient. If a thorough exegesis interests you, there are plenty of sources available that sift through the three versions Rossini had his librettist Gaetani Rossi pen.

Alberto Zedda

The true star of this production is not on stage but on the podium. At age 84, Alberto Zedda is to Rossini what Reginald Goodall was to Wagner. Zedda has dedicated most of his life to bringing Rossini to life with style and idiomatic conviction. The slightest move of his baton makes you sit up and pay close attention.

Patrizia Ciofi, Hadar Halevy

He was unlucky, though, in having a cast at his disposal that largely managed only to acquit itself rather than making the vocal lines soar. The most accomplished of the ensemble was Patrizia Ciofi, who scored a triumph at the premiere as Amenaide, the sender of the ill-fated letter. The voice is a tad light, but she kept command over the fierce technical flights the role demands. Hadar Halévy lacked the depth and tonal conviction required for Tancredi, though her florid technique was objection-free.

Clémentine Margaine

Rossini is also not best suited to Alexey Dolgov, taking the part of Ameniade’s father, though he articulated the treacherous florid passages with accuracy if not distinction. The standout among the rest of the principals, who included Krzysztof Szumanski (Orbazzano) and Hila Fahima (Ruggero) was Clémentine Margaine (Isura). Her cavatina ("Tu che i miseri conforti") at the beginning of the second half revealed exhilirating possibilities as a future Rossini singer. As Max Bialistock might say, “That’s our Tancredi!”

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