Artistic Director Jonathan Pell at the Arena di Verona Part II

by Megan Meister

Act I of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of CARMEN at the Arena di Verona.

Yesterday I went to a newly opened opera museum in an old palazzo that has been funded by a support organization of the Arena di Verona.

The first part of the exhibit focused on the music publishing house of Ricordi, and featured contracts and correspondence between the various generations of the family and the composers they represented, including Verdi and Puccini.

The highlight of this part of the exhibition was an agreement between Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Francesco Maria Piave to write the text for RIGOLETTO.

What astounded me was the fact that the document was a printed form with blanks to be filled in with the dates, the names of the composer and librettist, the subject of the opera and the name of the commissioning theatre all filled in by hand.   This struck me as very “high tech” for 1850!

The rest of the exhibition was a wonderful display of score manuscripts, video excerpts from past productions from the Arena, set and costume design sketches from the Arena’s old and current productions, as well as some actual costumes and large props and set pieces.

It was really interesting and highly recommended to any opera lover who finds their way to Verona.  One bit of advice, though.    Plan to go the day after you attend a performance.  If you present your ticket stub at the museum, the entrance fee is half price!

Last night’s performance was a Franco Zeffirelli production of CARMEN, and it was another massive spectacle.   The cinemascope effect of the unusually wide stage was emphasized by two full companies of flamenco dancers on side stages, dancing much of the evening.  I found it distracting, but I am sure many found it thrilling.

The singing was mostly good, and Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili made an unusually earthy, if somewhat coarse CARMEN.   Tenor Alejandro Roy stepped in for an ailing Marcelo Alvarez, and did a more than creditable job.  Perhaps the best singing of the evening, as is so often the case, was from the Micaela, soprano Irina Lungu.

The production seemed a bit generic and lacked chemistry, but perhaps some of that can be attributed to the change of tenor.  Brandon Jovaovich is scheduled to take over the role for the August performances, and I bet that will up the ante.

Act II of CARMEN at the Arena di Verona, July 2012.

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