Piacenza, Municipal Theater – Mozart in Italy, with Filippo Mineccia (countertenor) – Connected to the Opera

The Municipal of Piacenzahas been offering for years, in seasons wisely structured by the artistic hand of Cristina Ferrari, events of great interest. Not even Covid was able to stop the activity of a theater which, in the darkest moments of the closure of the theaters, continued to produce shows in streaming, as attested by the editions of The Barber of Seville by Rossini and by Aci, Galatea and Polyphemus by Händel still visible on the Opera Streaming platform.

Now that the theaters have reopened, albeit with reduced capacity, the season is well thought out and more attractive than ever, starting from the opening night of the first quarter of autumn programming (which includes, between now and December, Rule, The theatrical conveniences and inconveniences e Ernani), which began not with an opera but with a vocal-instrumental concert that served as a corollary to a week in which the Piacenza theater was home to the recording of a recital that the Glossa label made paying homage to Mozart in occasion of the 250th anniversary of the important trip to Italy (the second of the three carried out under the guidance of his father Leopold) which saw the young Salzburg citizen engaged, in 1771 in Milan, in the staging of the works commissioned following his first visit. But not only. If the second part of this evening, entrusted to the Italian countertenor Filippo Mineccia, accompanied by the ensemble Farnesian chambermakers excellently directed by Luca Oberti, is entirely dedicated to Mozart, while the first one proposes passages taken from works that Mozart was able to witness or know during his stay in the “Bel Paese”, some even rare, such as the aria “In his restricted pain” from The Ruggiero by Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi on a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, the cavatina by Aristeo “Offended gods, indignant shadows” by The Feasts of Apollo by Gluck and the beautiful “When the full vase is full” from the oratory The Tobias by Josef Mysliveček. The first part ends with the overture from Armida abandoned by Niccolò Jommelli.
In the second, as mentioned, entirely dedicated to Mozart and the works he proposed in Milan during 1771, much more well-known arias are heard, such as those of Farnace da Mithridates king of Pontus, “The veil is already removed from the eyes” and “Come on, threaten and tremble”, then from the theatrical party Ascanio in Alba, with “Al mio ben mi veggio forward” and, finally, with the two arias of Giuditta from the oratory The liberated Betulia, “Prisoner, who returns” and “I am leaving helpless, and not afraid”.

An evening also useful for reflecting on the way in which Mozart approached the voices of the castrati. In fact, we know that, at the first of the serenade Ascanio in Alba, the elderly and capricious Giovanni Manzuoli took part, now at the end of his career, not loved by Mozart, while three were the castrated singers who gave birth to Mithridates king of Pontus, does which Giuseppe Cicognani, with whom the Salzburger rather found himself very well and whom, in a letter to his sister, he praised, appreciating “the beautiful voice and the beautiful cantabile”. This justifies the value of the aforementioned arias, whose style denotes a progressive change of course also in Mozart’s use of these voices, set for a season, if not of definitive decline, at least of evolution and greater awareness of the expressive components. , not only more based on the acrobatic and pleased technicality of the serious work of the Neapolitan school. Yet, all the virtuosic baggage that had been part of the baroque artifice, including agility, trills and voices, remain an integral part of a vocality that continues to celebrate the possibilities of castrati, even if Mozart, like the composers to him coeval, he seemed more attentive to the cantability and to the research of the legate and that Olympic smoothness capable of dipping the melodies of classicistic hues also typical of the style of instrumental music of that time.

In this cultured and interesting musical journey, the Florentine countertenor Filippo Mineccia, by now consecrated on the Baroque stages around the world among the most appreciated stylists, he presents himself to the Piacenza public with the vocal and expressive instruments that have seen him gradually establish himself among the best Italian countertenors of the moment. The reasons for considering its quality, but also the limits in dealing with Mozart’s repertoire, attest to how Filippo Mineccia is, fundamentally, a contraltist. The voice, with a warm and soft timbre, finds its best outlet in the centers, while in the high notes it is prudent and careful not to overdo it. The cleanliness of sound required by Mozart’s writing sometimes creates some inhomogeneity between the registers, especially when the use and the well-aimed lunge in the chest sounds reveals, in some bands of the central area, small oases of shade, where it seems to lose the beautiful pulp that, in substance, characterizes this voice however, appreciable especially when it does not pursue stylizations but a sound, pass the term, “virile”. A sound that the countertenors of the new generation have sought in recent years, freeing themselves from the Anglo-Saxon tradition and committing themselves – in what was the season of relaunching these vocals grappling with the parts that were castrati – in the search for more dense and fleshy, undoubtedly not easy to obtain for those who sing in falsetto. Mineccia’s vocal mixture attests this and, in the search for this balance between chest and head emissions, she shows that she has the tools to be appreciable even when struggling with Mozart’s vocal volutes, where the soft enameling is preceded by the cantilever song. that Mineccia endeavors to obtain, often with reliable albeit not definitive results.

In addition, although not a transcendental virtuoso, he has the technique that allows him, for example, to attack the air from The liberated Betulia, “I leave helpless, and I don’t fear”, with a long mass of voice, really remarkable, and with a use of winds that, with an attentive ear, reveal the many merits of this singer. Yet, at the end of this evening, which saw him punctually accompanied by the Cameristi Farnesiani complex, who do not play with original instruments but “baroque” the sound with stylistically relevant results, without seeking accentuated rhythmic frenzy, even when they perform the Symphony in G major K74 (composed by Mozart during his stay in Milan in 1771), Mineccia abandons Mozart and his time and gives the public a purely Baroque encore: the lullaby from the oratory Judith by Alessandro Scarlatti “Sleep, o lightning of war”. On YouTube, the video of this page he performed has depopulated and collected thousands of views and, from here, we understand, after listening to him grappling with Mozart’s vocalism, how the late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century baroque is perhaps better than Mozart, the chosen ground most pertinently close to the characteristics of his voice.

The concert evening, greeted with festive applause, saw the artist busy singing but also interpreting the arias, performed with baroque movements (in reality a coming and going along the entire arc of the scene, turning his back to the audience and then turning around for take plastic poses), dressed in clothes specially designed for him by the elegant hand of the costume designer Artemio Cabassi.

Municipal Theater of Piacenza
The second trip to Italy by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Music by Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi, Josef Mysliveček,
Christoph Willibald Gluck, Niccolò Jommelli e Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Filippo Mineccia, countertenor
Luca Oberti, director
Farnesian chambermakers
Costumes of Artemio Cabassi

Piacenza, 24 September 2021

Photo: Mirella Verile

Photo: Mirella Verile

Photo: Mirella Verile

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