Artistic Director Jonathan Pell – Venice Part II

by Megan Meister

Interior of the palco reale (Royal Box) at Teatro la fenice in Venice.

The production last night of Donizetti’s L’ELISIR D’AMORE was delightful on many levels, if somewhat old fashioned.  There was a vague attempt by stage director Bepi Morassi at being “modern” with the action set as an “opera within the opera.”   The curtain rose on the character of Adina reclining in a chaise on a little makeshift stage at the back with the chorus sitting on wooden benches in front of her.  There was also a confusing scene with Adina in her dressing room (with her character’s name and a star on the door) and her changing from a contemporary Chanel suit into her 19th century peasant costume.

It was harmless, though and didn’t undermine the piece.

The star of the evening, and undoubtedly the audience’s favorite, was Italian soprano Desiree Rancatore as Adina.  She was lovely and charming, but occasionally she insisted on interpolating somewhat jarring, effortful, and certainly gratuitous high notes in places where I am not used to hearing them.

I hadn’t heard her in several years, though and it was interesting to hear how she has developed since she burst on the scene a few years ago when she was still in her early twenties.

The tenor was Celso Albelo, a tenor new to me, but someone about whom I have heard quite a bit.  He looked pudgy in his uniform, and his less than romantic appearance was played for laughs, but he sang well enough. Somehow he didn’t connect with most of the audience, though.  There were a few cries for an encore after his aria “Una furtiva lagrima” but it all seemed half hearted, and his applause at the end of the evening seemed muted.

The conductor was Omer Meir Wellber, who had impressed me the night before with his handling of CARMEN.  This young Israeli (I gather a protégé of Daniel Barenboim) is just thirty, but led the performance superbly and with an authority that belies his youth.  He captured every hairpin turn between the elements of farce and the more serious moments of heartbreak with breathtaking control.  He is certainly a name to remember.

Now a few days break before performances at the Arena di Verona.

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