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Un ballo in maschera is business as usual at the Teatro Regio in Parma. Massimo Gasparon’s production is painterly and sumptuous and the costumes are particularly beautiful, which is just as well as there is not much else to look at. Francesco Meli’s Riccardo is finely sung, with some elegance and a good ‘ping’ to the tone, but one does feel that the role is a size too big for him – in a larger theatre he would be over-parted. Kristin Lewis’s Amelia has some vocal glamour but as soon as she puts pressure on the voice it turns squally, especially at the top. Vladimir Stoyanov is more appropriately cast, spinning a fine baritone line. He breaks character after ‘Eri tu’ – it’s that sort of evening. Elisabetta Fiorillo’s Ulrica takes her alarming chest register as high as she possibly can; you get the feeling she might push Stoyanov out of the way and give that role a good boom too. Gianluigi Gelmetti’s conducting is idiomatic and detailed.

Gelmetti displays these virtues again in La forza del destino, and this time the production is rather wonderful. Stefano Poda’s strong vision and artistic control (from lighting to choreography) ensures an aesthetic treat; even a pile of corpses looks exquisite. Texture, chiaroscuro and ritualised movement are all used by Poda to bewitching effect. Dimitra Theodossiou almost spoils it with her acidulous soprano; her intent is good, the result is not. Aquiles Machado’s beautiful lyric voice at times sounds pushed as Alvaro – another case of too large a role? Stoyanov once again provides burnished tone as Carlo and Roberto Scandiuzzi is suitably grave as Padre Guardiano, here on better form than some recent showings.

Don Carlo jolts us back into the everyday. Joseph Franconi Lee’s production is budget traditional and Fabrizio Ventura’s conducting does the job. Cellia Costa’s Elisabetta has the measure of the role if not quite the required vocal subtlety. The rest of the cast must have met at a botox clinic, as their impassive traversal of their tumultuous emotions causes ne’er a flicker of concern, but they get the job done with some solid if unsubtle vocalism.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Opera Now, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing