Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Mozart - Lucio Silla|
Actors: Roberto Sacca, Annick Massis, Monica Bacelli, Veronica Cangemi, Stefano Ferrari
Directors: Tomas Netopil, Jurgen Flimm
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Singing on a high level; staging idiotic - and CUTS abound
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/05/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Lucio Silla received a highly received production by Jean
Pierre Ponnelle in Salzburg dating back about 3 decades.
The production was not set per se in the story's 80 B.C
Rome, but in elaborate 18th century dress.
It is Mozart's one Italian-premiered opera, given at the
Teatro Regio Ducal in Milano, 1772.
The story is claptrap. Another opera about dead legends "so
lofty they look like they're about to s**t marble(c/o
AMADEUS's Mozart)" This concerns the dictator Lucius
Sulla, who has the hots for Giunia, who is married to
Cecilio, whom Giunia initially thinks is dead. There are
misunderstandings galore, vengeances, death threats,
prolonged utterances of suffering - the usual "I will find
peace through death" declarations abound. The opera - with
an absolutely wretched libretto by one Giovanni de Gamerra
-ends with pardons, misunderstandings cleared up, and Silla
praised for being a compassionate ruler.
What is NOT claptrap is the 17 year-old Mozart's music.
Sure, there is much in the way that is conventional
(particularly in the music of Silla, Celia and Cinna), but
there are some pieces that are astonishingly mature.
Cecilio (mezzo) and Cinna (soprano) are both castrato
roles. Silla, a tenor, despite being the title of the
opera, has relatively little music to sing, of equally
little difficulty. The central "action" and motivation
centers on the love of Giunia and Cecilio. Cecilio has one
aria, that a more widespead popularity, "Pupille amate,"
which is a gem, a farewell of the utmost melancholy and
poignance. His other arias, "Il tenero momento," and "Quest
improvviso tremito," are fiery, impassioned, exciting. He
and Giunia have a marvelously elegant, sinuous duet,
"D'Elisio in sen m'attendi," that features a set of
dizzyingly fast divisions in unison; the second set has
Giunia taking her line up in a neat variation (however,
disappointingly, in the performance under review, the first
set of divisions is omitted).
The filet mignon of the music, however, belongs to the
prima donna, Giunia. Anna de Amicis, the role's creator. 4
long arias, an extended prayer with chorus, a long duet, a
part in a trio, and miles of recitative. Amicis most have
been a virtuosa extraordinaire, for NO, I repeat, NO other
Mozart heroine has such treacherously difficult music. Its
equal is to be found in the Aloysia Weber concert arias
like "Ma che fece o stelle," Popoli di Tessaglia," etc.
But all of Guinia's music has that special distinction
which sets it apart from most of the rest of the music in
the opera. "Dalla sponda tenebrosa" is a 4 part aria which
has some wonderfully effective contrasts; the coda is a
quick-spirited outburst of much vigor. Her preghiera with
the chorus, "O del padre ombra diletta," has a heightened
sweep of formality, grand, tragic: it is an amazing scene.
"Ah, se il crudel periglio" is one of the most terrifyingly
difficult arias ever composed. It calls for the soprano to
sing bars and bars...and bars...of 16th notes on end like a
highly skilled trumpeter. Hearing it is akin to a person
balancing on a precarious tightrope. "Parto, m'affretto"
requires a lot of ascending staccato skittering, a la the
Queen of the Night. But the most amazing, and
forward-looking piece in the opera (and the only one in a
minor key) is the "Fra i pensier," preceded by a long, and
extraordinarily vivid recitative. "Fra i pensier" begins in
a hushed, dense andante, which surges slowly like a dark
current of the gloomiest despair. It gives way to an
agitated allegro, finishing off in a panicked frenzy.
Many people may not agree, but I have always found the
opera greatly entertaining. Of his earliest early operas,
pre-Idomeneo, it is far and away my favorite, and
preferable to Il re pastore, Thamos, and Zaide. Under the
right singers and artists, it can be an evening of
spectacular singing and even vocal drama. For though the
libretto is shoddy, Mozart's music carries the day.
Amazingly enough , in addition to this DVD, the opera has
been represented by 3 recordings. The earliest, from 1969,
conducted by Carlo Felici Cillario, is heavily cut,
featuring an undistinguished cast, save for Fiorenza
Cossotto's Cecilio. She is not a virtuosa, but given that
her career was based in singing Verdi roles, it is
nevertheless astonishing: you would never expect this kind
of agility from such a large voice. "Pupille amate" is
gorgeous. The Hager set from 1975, is the only one that is
absolutely complete, and a dream cast: Peter Schreier,
Arleen Auger, Julia Varady, Edith Mathis, Helen Donath
(these last two together on a recording!!) and Werner
Krenn. Top-notch, all of them. The 1989 set under
Harnoncourt, is, alas, cut - one aria per role. Grrr. Why?
Why? Why? No excuse. Even stupider - the (small) role of
Aufidio is cut out of the opera. I hate it when rare operas
are not allowed a full representation. It is done on
original instruments, a bit rough sounding, and Harnoncourt
takes a dramatic, almost brusque, approach. It features
another lineup of impressive artists: Peter Schreier again,
Edita Gruberova, a very young Cecilia Bartoli, Dawn Upshaw,
and Yvonne Kenny.
The current DVD staging features Annick Massis as Giunia,
Roberto Sacca as Silla, Monica Bacelli as Cecilio, Veronica
Cangemi as Cinna, Julia Kleiter as Celia, and Stefano
Ferrari as Aufidio. Tomas Netopil conducts the "Orchestra e
coro del teatro la Fenice." It is staged by Jurgen Flimm,
sets by Christian Bussmann, costumes by Birgit Bussmann.
This was presented not in Salburg's intimate
Festspielhaus, but in that big echoey warehouse, the
No, this is not a traditional staging by a million years
forward from Mozart's time. I'd accept an updating if it
worked. This one doesn't. It's a monumental mess. It's as
if the producers said to themselves, "God, what an antique
monstrosity," and proceeded to make it a modern
monstrosity. The stage features a false front replicating
the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (where the Ponnelle
MITRIDATE film was made) The costumes. It looks like a
multi-century costume department was raided. You see hints
of the baroque, along with sweat suits, gestapo-type
uniforms, pearls, ski caps, shimmies, sometimes all of them
mized together on one person. It looked like the prop
department was flung helter-skelter all around too. I kid
you not: every prop under the sun is made some use of.
Characters pick things up, toss them around, bang over
chairs. The characters are rarely allowed a moment of
respose. They are made to spent time executing a lot of
boneheaded action, positions, constant moving around. So
distracting to the eye was much of it, I found it hard to
enjoy the music. All this screams out distrust of the music
on the producer's part. The gimmicks galore certainly
upstages the music.
Ironically, this is the one opera that could have done well
by a staging done in a period of antiquity. It's a dark,
gloomy piece, and a lot of faux-stonework, forbidding
lighting could have aided the tone of it. There is one
long scene in the Roman catacombs; the potential for the
morbidity might have an eerie effect.
Worse, an hour of music is cut. "Mozart's Opera, Lucio
Silla, Hacked To Pieces and Scintillatingly Updated: Our
Re-directioning of It." Flimm changes the ending. In the
original, Silla is hailed as a hero dictator (foolish, but
it was the rule in Mozart's time that Government could not
be shown being deposed of). Flimm has it that while the
chorus sings Silla's phrases, Aufidio "secretly" stabs
Silla, while Cinna is hailed as the new leader. It almost
works. But the imbecility of what has gone on before, plus
the heavy cutting, does not faithfully represent the opera.
A pity, because the cast is nearly, uniformly excellent.
For their work this release is desirable. Roberta Sacca in
the title role does yeoman work in his performance, but the
voice is insubstantial: I had the same impression in 2005,
when he sang Leukippos in DAPHNE, here in Ann Arbor.
Annick Massis achieves a triumph as Giunia. A tall, elegant
woman, she is equal to the demands of the music, acts up a
storm, and really injects a lot of emotion and commitment.
Massis attacks all the passagework fearlessly, fluently,
and with no shortage of gusto. In particular, she goes
after the "Ah, se il crudel periglio" with a real
instrumentalist's flair, and takes fewer breaths in the
last run than one would expect. Her finest moment comes in
the preghiera with chorus, where Massis sings with a finely
modulated tone and exquisite phrasing. She finds a little
trouble in the low tessitura in the first bars of "Fra i
pensier," and the tempo by the conductor is too fast, not
giving Massis the room to phrase it as expansively as she
might. As the line rises, though, the purity of her legato
is exemplary. It is great, though, to see Massis featured
at last in a video incarnation.
Monica Bacelli, not ideally honeyed in tone, nevertheless
makes a real person of Cecilio, acting with a great deal of
passion: her music, and the meaning of the texts is alive,
vibrant, infused with depth.
Veronica Cangemi, a name new to me, is an excellent Cinna,
singing with precision, an inflamed sense of purpose, and
thoughly at ease in the travesti role.
However, it is Julia Kleiter as Celia who walks away with
top honors. Remember the name: she will go far. Celia's
music is not very interesting, but Kleiter sets an example
that lesser music can be exhilarating with impeccable
artistry and musicianship. Kleiter has a pure, bell-like
tone, rich, and no rough edges anywhere. Your ears just
respond with pleasure to the quality of her singing. More,
she is a born Mozart stylist, have a true feel for the
shape of the phrasing.
One demerit, a disservice done to the singers: Hannes
Rossacher zooms the camera unbearably close to the singers'
faces, and it exaggerates uncomfortably the physical
motions of mouths moving in those numerous coloratura
"noodles" (as Mozart" called them.
You will have to decide for yourself if you can accept the
compromises made - the brutal cuts, and the kooky staging.
I'm glad I have it for the singers alone, and all told, it
is a fascinating enterprise.
The girls saved it
Smorgy | Southern California, USA | 02/10/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a mismatched show in everyway. Staging is confusing and busy without being all that coherent (though you get used to it after a while). Better not pay too much attention to the lyrics or you'd get incredulous at how little it has to do with what you see. Costume is something out of Madonna's '80s music video... you know, conservative top over a fluffy tutu kind of thing and Silla is is a red bathrobe. Mismatched in everyway.
After a less than stellar 'Il tenero momento' by a not quite warmed up yet Monica Bacelli's boyishly dreamy Cecilio (strained down low and doesn't change volume easily, tho with some really nice floated top) I was ready to call it quit... but Julia Kleiter's Celia came in and saved me... Then Annick Massis' Giunia really knocks me out.
These two are names to remember. Julia Kleiter and Annick Massis. Wonderful in everyway!! Vocally untouchable even with their extremely difficult music... and both have excellent trill. They are also economy with their movement but convey more in their stillness than Veronica Cangemi's Cinna's flailing arms and excessive hugging do (she's fine vocally tho can use a better trill... and shorter hair... After all, we're supposed to believe that Cinna is a guy, right? This one won't pass for a guy from a mile away).
Roberto Sacca's Silla doesn't have much to sing and ends differently from the original script, but he sings well... if you can hear him. Felsenreitschule is a huge hall (it was a stable before it was converted into a theater), and his not so large voice could have used some help from Maestro Netopil... But unfortunately the Maestro is more interested in keeping the orchestra going by the score (his head is practically embedded in the thing) and the dense sound of the orchestra di Teatro la Fenice yields nothing to the voice on stage.
Long story short... the 3 stars are for Mozart's flashes of brilliant and the 2 ladies of the show. Massis and Kleiter. On DVD 1 there are some cool extras of the 'making of' documentary with interviews with Flimm and the singers, trailers of 2 other opera from Salzburg and a set of cool clips from the Mozart22 project."
A good Lucio Silla, no more, no less
J. H. Gaulard | London United Kingdom | 01/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"We were expecting a lot from this Lucio Silla to rejuvenate an "M-22" collection that became a bit stale following a very good Mitridate. To be fair, the "scenic actions" that followed Mitridate are very difficult to put together and the three of them were plagued by problems related to the music (Betulia), the staging (Ascanio) or the singing (Il Sogno). Therefore hopes were held high for this Lucio Silla, the last opera Mozart composed especially for the Italy. Did the team of singers/musicians/stage directors succeed? The answer is a qualified Yes.
The positives of this performance are first and foremost the concept behind Jurgen Flimm's staging. By making Silla a true, modern-day dictator and by changing the ending of the opera versus the libretto, Flimm remains true to the spirit of the piece (even if not to it its letter). I have long appreciated Jurgen Flimm's work, particularly in Bayreuth, where he delivered a stimulating and thought provoking "Ring des Nibelungen" back in 2000-2004. However, if the concept is good, the execution flounders from time to time. This is due to the fact that Lucio Silla, the title role, has very little to sing - the tenor initially supposed to sing the part back in 1772 was replaced at the last minute by someone with very little theatrical experience and half of his arias were therefore binned. This becomes problematic for the balance of the work and for the balance of Flimm's staging: how do I keep an interest on a piece focusing on someone who is rarely there? The production tends to err on the verge of boredom as a result, even if Act III is an undisputed success, both musically and dramatically. Also worth of note the magnificent costumes of Birgit Hutter.
Musically, like the staging, this performance is a mix of good and not-so-good. The star of the evening is the fantastic soprano Julia Kleiter (already in the "Betulia Liberata" of the same collection). She has a ringing, crystal-clear tone and her voice is like silk: a revelation. I was also impressed by the Cinna of Veronica Cangemi, amazing stage presence and a fantastic performance in her last aria "De' piu superbi il core". Elsewhere this is not so good. We have a professional Giunia by Annick Massis but she does not deliver the "kicks" we were expecting. Roberto Sacca also has an almost primal stage presence but doesn't have the voice that should go with it. Most disappointing in our view is the orchestra of the La Fenice theatre in Venice, which played this piece written by a 17-year old a bit too thickly, without the spirit that much less famous orchestra have put in this repertoire so far in this collection (like the Mannheim theatre, the Camerata Salzburg, les Musiciens du Louvre or even the orchestra of Salzurg's university). Tomas Netopil - who was making his conducting debut in Salzburg - led a rather eventless orchestral performance.
So overall this is a good DVD introduction to Lucio Silla but you won't find the flames of genius here, even if there is a lot of talent onstage.
T. C. | 01/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The stage production by Jurgen Flimm has beautiful ideas alongside very peculiar ones, which are not always clear to me. The singing is very impressive (5 stars for the singing...) especially by French soprano Annick Massis, the German soprano Julia Kleiter that has a beautiful voice with peerless technique and the wonderful Italian mezzo Veronica Cangemi.