Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rossini - Il Viaggio a Reims / Bayo Bros Merced Rasmussen Tarver Cantarero Dara Cobos Barcelona Opera|
Actors: Josep Bros, Elena de la Merced, Paula Rasmussen, Mariola Cantarero, Jesus-Lopez Cobos
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Composed for the coronation of Charles X in Rheims Cathedral, this pièce de circonstance was to remain Rossini?s last Italian opera. It contains some of the most inspired and brilliant vocal writing the composer ever produ... more »
Rossini's Glittering Showcase for Singers Nearly Pulled Off
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Il Viaggio a Reims' is an extremely difficult opera to produce, largely because it requires the services of ten world-class soloists as well as four other singers who can hold their own in the huge ensemble that closes the first part of the opera. It was Rossini's last Italian opera and was, in its time, strictly a pièce d'occasion (the coronation of France's King Charles X) that he did not expect ever to be staged again; indeed, knowing this he recycled most of the music for his later sparkling French comedy, 'Le Comte Ory.' The piece lay unproduced for almost 200 years before it was mounted at Pesaro, Italy (Rossini's birthplace and the site of the Rossinian Pesaro Festival) in 1984. That production was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and made a huge splash in the operatic world at the time. (It is still available at Amazon.) It featured such star singers as Katia Ricciarelli, Samuel Ramey, Ruggero Raimondi, Lella Cuberli, Cecilia Gasdia, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Francisco Araiza, Edoardo Gimenez, Leo Nucci and Enzo Dara. And since the plot of the work is structured by Rossini primarily as a showpiece for reigning singing stars of his time, the story-line is weak and simply an opportunity to line up a string of arias, duets, and other ensembles, with no semblance of credibility or dramatic engagement. The plot, simply, is that a group of European nobility and gentry making their way to Reims for the coronation of the French king are stuck in a spa, called the Golden Lily, and cannot make the last leg of the trip because there are no horses and carriages to be hired. They turn their virtual imprisonment there into a house party, with plenty of opportunity for romantic intrigues and self-made entertainment (lots of singing, of course!). Thus, this long one-act opera (almost three hours, and here divided into two acts) is rather similar to the 'entertainment' so often provided in Act II of gala productions of 'Die Fledermaus.' As a result, one can say that a recorded or concert performance gives us most of the 'juice' of the piece without the distraction (or enhancement, if you prefer) of the silly plot. In this two DVD set, however, a performance mounted lavishly at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu is presented, and I have to confess that the list of singers is, dare I say it, mostly competent and far from illustrious. Still, it makes its impact and in some spots is fully the musical equal of the Pesaro recording.
Amazon has not, at the date of this review, listed the ten main singers so I shall do so:
Corinna, a Roman improvising poetess: Elena de la Merced, soprano
La Marchesa Melibea, a Polish lady, widow of an Italian general: Paula Rasmussen, mezzo
La Contessa di Folleville, a young widow, very fashion-crazed: Mariola Cantarero, soprano
Madama Cortese, a Tyrolean lady, hostess of the Golden Lily: María Bayo, soprano
Il Cavaliere Belfiore, a young French officer, enamored of Folleville: Josep Bros, tenor
Conte di Libenskof, a Russian general, enamored of Melibea: Kenneth Tarver, tenor
Lord Sidney, an English colonel, in love with Corinna: Simón Orfila, bass
Don Profondo, a man of letters and an antiquarian: Nicola Ulivieri, bass
Barone di Trombonok, a German major and passionate music-lover: Enzo Dara, baritone (repeating his Pesaro rôle)
Don Alvaro, a Spanish grandee, also in love with Melibea: Àngel Òdena, baritone
There are several musical highlights in the opera that are given their due: Corinna's two arias ('Arpa gentil' and 'All'ombra almena') are done brilliantly by de la Merced, and she receives a rapturous reception from the sophisticated Liceu audience, who indeed withheld their applause rather pointedly at some other spots in the score. The 'Gran Pezzo Concertato a 14 Voci' that ends the first part of the opera is simply spectacular, both in terms of Rossini's wit and craft, and in the performance. Don Profondo's comic aria, 'Medaglie incomparabili' in which he imitates the accents (while singing Italian, of course) of all the nationalities represented, is hilariously done. Good as Ulivieri is here, though, I must say that Ruggero Raimondi, in the Pesaro CD, outshines him both vocally and as an actor. The duet, 'D'alma celeste, o Dio,' by Tarver and Rasmussen as Libenskof and Melibea, is meltingly beautiful. (Both these singers, by the way, are real finds, with immaculate fioriture and the ability to blend perfectly with each other.) Unfortunately, María Bayo, the only singer previously known to me besides Dara, has a beautiful voice and a beautiful aria, 'Di vaghi raggi adorno,' at the very beginning of the opera, but was having a bad night; some of her singing above the staff is woefully under pitch.
The big disappointment here was the grafting onto this simple (even simple-minded) plot a hugely inappropriate attempt to convey 'big thoughts' about world events. Stage director Sergi Belbel, who also wrote a sententious essay in the program booklet, sets the action around 1900 and although that makes for interesting costumes and sets it makes no sense of the plot. Further, when he has back-projections of stills showing Hitler, the Vietnam war and other similarly horrendous scenes during Corinna's last aria, it makes no sense at all in spite of Belbel's special pleading in his essay. Another problem is that the booklet synopsis is scanty and there is no libretto; if one is unfamiliar with the opera it really takes some detective work to figure out who is who in the cast of characters.
Jesús López Cobos, known to me from his long tenure at the Cincinnati Symphony and one of my favorite conductors, is in the pit for this production and one simply couldn't ask for more flexible, alert, vibrant pacing for this comic gem. He gets marvelous playing for the Liceu's orchestra.
One is likely never to see another production of this opera, largely because it is so rarely done and because 'Le Comte Ory,' which contains so much of the same music, is rather more popular. So if you, like I, have been intrigued by the 1984 recording and want to see a production, this one will most likely have to be it. I will admit, though, that I'm unlikely to view it very often, and much more likely (as I've done in preparing this review) to pull out the old DG recording from Pesaro.
What opera's really all about
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 10/11/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As I watched Viaggio I couldn't help think of Strauss' Cappricio with its question,"Which is more important, words or music?" No question here. The plot is just an excuse for Rossini to pour out strand upon strand of enchanting melody. I won't give any more details since they are wonderfully covered in another review.
I was a little apprehensive about ordering this since it is a real showpiece for 14 top singers and I knew none of these singers. Well, if this is what the Teatre Liceu can put out for Rossini we are in good hands. These young singers give me hopes for the furure. Only one was having a slightly off night. The rest are a joy to hear and to watch. And the production does put some bones on the story.
If you enjoy bel canto this will be your cup of tea and you won't have to deal with some silly plot like Somamula or Puritani. Just one glorious number - solos, duets, trios, and finally a concertato for 14 (count them) solo voices. Only thing lacking is a mad scene. Thank God this was rescued from the dust bin of history and brought back to delight us all."
A rare and precious gem of an opera
Frank Elliott | Hendersonville, NC United States | 02/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I write this for those who are relatively new to opera, and who read over these reviews for assistance in deciding which one
to try "this month".(budget constraints, you know). I am confident you will delight in this one. I wish they were all so sublimely carried off as this one. It is mentioned in another review that this masterpiece by Rossini was ostensibly meant to be a bon bon, performed for a special occasion of a French Coronation. The French Revolution had taken place many years before, which as it turned out was not a pretty sight thanks to barbaric excess. But now, there seems this chance to reclaim the old glory days of the Regency. So from all over Europe come the creme de la creme of society to attend the coronation and, of course, rub elbows with everybody who IS anybody.Alas, their plans are foiled, "curses"..."drat it all", and they must remain to celebrate the coronation from afar, in a gorgeous and sensuous spa. (awww) Here lies the opportunity to have a little fun with pomp and elitism, indulgence, and romance. Here also lies the opportunity to provide a glorious array of sublime melodic rapture. The difficulty of this opera is the sheer number of consummate talents required ( I counted 19 taking curtain calls?) . Rossini, ever gracious, allows each talent a gracious plenty of limelight opportunity, and miraculously, is able to provide each with a tour d'force aria- solo, pair, trio, quartet, quintet, octet...you name it. This is an opulent melodic romp from start to finish-an endless stream-an encyclopoedia of soaring, bird fluttering melodic line.
One of the most astounding things is the very delicate balance of gorgeous people whether in sartorial splendor or in skivvies, managing to walk the comedic tight rope taking themselves dead seriously, exuding melodrama, yet without ever once going too far with aping, or awkward bufoonery. I don't have any other word for it but consummate comedic artistry.
It is mentioned elsewhere here that Rossini brought some of the music over to his "real" opera buffa, "Le Comte Ory". I am afraid that if you see Il Viaggio a Reims first, Le Comte Ory will seem a let down. Dramma Giacoso is indeed a delicate art. It suffers with the slightest heavy handedness... owing to which the tight rope walkers plunge. In this opera, they all remain gloriously aloft, cavorting and somersaulting with the greatest of ease.
The really nice thing about this opera, the story line is not so very critical...you know the story now...it is a series of melodramatic vignettes for vocal artists...you can just select the scene you want to see again..and you Will want to see them again...and again!
Oh how I wish more operas could be this superbly staged. What a glorious set, what glorious costumes, every bit player playing his or her part perfectly. The lighting beautiful. This is a fun opera, every scene. I like the Russian, played by Kenneth Tarver, with a burning passion for the voluptuous and beautiful Polish Marchesa.
I must describe this one scene in the hope of enticing you-This scene being but one of numerous wonderful sets-The Spanish regent, "Don Alvaro" ( played by Angel Odena -one of the most pleasant baritones you will ever hear ), is seen flirting with the gorgeous,and voluptuous Paula Rasmussen, playing the Polish Marchesa Melibea-and both are in turn of the century swimsuits in the Hot Tub Pool. What man would not flirt with her?
I want to draw your attention to the glorious melodies they sing- so joyous, flitting and soaring-so perfect for the scene. Even though it is a comic opera, Rosssini does not let anyone off lightly. Each one in turn sings a matching suite of melodies, requiring each to jump whole octaves at a single bound ( try this one you singers!). Paula gets to display her rich tambre and range, and so does her flirtatious partner in crime - partner in crime? Well, immediately after they each proudly display their talents like a pair of peacocks, while flirting shamelessly,-enters the Russian Regent Conte Libenskof, played brilliantly and with astonishing facility by Kenneth Tarver...it is now his turn to continue with the same complex and exceedingly artful melody set-but this time, it takes on a subtly different character...an ominous character, for the Marchesa is his ardent love interest. Kenneth also jumps whole octaves at a single bound. All the while the men are posturing like school boys about to engage in fisticuffs...and in their skivvies, I remind you. What perfect comedy. things ease down a bit, thanks to the timely and artufl intervention of the Marchesa...and Kenneth then goes into one of the most beautiful, heartfelt melodies. And it just goes on and on my friends! Kenneth Tarver both acts and sings supremely..one of the best in the entire opera ... (they are all so very good, though, how can one choose, really! Following this enormous tension, easing bit by bit, then is heard in the distance, the tender aria by Corinna the Roman Poetess, who sings a peaceful, sensuous, a deliciously soothing aria followed by a fervent chorus of prayer by all, a curious blend of sincerity, contrition, and bombastic, tumultous joy. In the last scene The Roman Poetess, Elena de Merced, sings another tender praise of the "King to be", and all the hapiness and joy that will fall upon the populace now, which she sings so sweetly... a sweet song which gradually becomes a majestic prayer again for blessings on the future,( don't forget that Rossini wrote wome of the most beautiful hymns ever composed ) sung by all on stage....while scenes of the grim future of Europe and the world are projected behind them...this is irony..sweet, brilliant irony. It is a masterpiece."