Milan – See at La Scala, for two evenings in a row, the first performance ofTurkish in Italy by Rossini and the last by Madina by Fabio Vacchi calls for some reflection on contemporary musical theater. The point on the state of art, let’s say.
The Turkish it had actually made its debut on February 22 last year, the last show at La Scala before the plague lockout. The recovery, Wednesday, marks a kind of return to life, model “where were we”, even if the hall was half empty not because of the anti-pandemic rules that had just been abolished but because few tickets were sold: the alternation with The Barber of Seville, which is not necessarily a more beautiful Rossini, but certainly more popular yes, perhaps he did not do well at the box office.
In any case, this production has a problem: the inaction of the show. Directed by Roberto Went, revived by Emmanuelle Bastet, she immediately won the Golden Yawn award. For three hours and a half, nothing happens and what little happens doesn’t make sense, the classic things that directors do who don’t know what to do.
During the duet between Geronio and Selim, behind the inn wall, three triumphs of fruit and food parade from right to left, three “cuccagne” as per the Bourbon tradition, which then pass from left to right. Because? Boh.
Don Geronio he goes to sing his second aria on a stage, while the stage remains empty. What does it mean? Mah. To underline the meteatral character of the story, everyone comes out of hatches or enters the scene on self-propelled chairs as in some Ronconi of thirty years ago: a little bit to build an opera direction on them in 2021. Then, of course, the costumes of Nanà Cecchi are beautiful and there will certainly be those who will find this “respectful” non-direction and “As Rossini wanted it” or “that does not disturb the music”, as they say in Cretinese. The more fitting adjective is instead “useless”.
The direction of Diego Fasolis it is interesting for two reasons. The first is purely musical. Meanwhile, Fasolis not only reopens all the cuts (except for some recitatives) but also adds two alternative pieces, a cavatina for Don Narciso in the first act and an aria for Don Geronio in the second. The executive practice is the original one. The continuation with James Vaughan’s fortepiano and Simone Groppo’s cello (both very good) does not accompany only dry recitatives, but he also intervenes in the orchestra with sometimes unsettling effect (when the two started modulating in the middle of the symphony I admit I thought of the usual fool who left his cell phone on) but always interesting. Variations and cadences are added not only in the vocal parts but also in the instrumental ones, and without saving: I hope that the excellent Fabien Thouand has paid overtime on the first oboe. But then Fasolis he understood that, of all Rossini’s comic operas, the Turkish it is the one that is less.
Instead of the usual surreal and metaphysical delirium, Rossini here chooses the path of character comedy with a background of ambiguity if not of subtle melancholy. The Turkish And the most Mozartian of his works. Hence a direction that you want to be light, at times lingering, also made up of shadows and foldings, less unleashed on the rhythmic side than the standard Rossinism. Sometimes, even too much, so that, at times, something more sensational is desired, especially in the straits of the concertos: but on the whole it is a Turkish intriguing.
The company is dominated by Giulio Mastrototaro, who understood very well that Geronio is the traditional funny one, but less one-dimensional than the others, indeed with a pathetic streak that distinguishes him from the granite malice of the various Bartolo and Magnifico. The character therefore fits perfectly and the spelling of the second aria is remarkable. Rosa Feola is as always impeccable, her voice is also strengthened and she figures very well also in the rondo, when Fiorilla she suddenly becomes a tragic prima donna (one of the few resolved moments of the show, by the way). But he would need more directing help to compose a difficult character. Alessio Arduini is an elegant and brilliant poet, even if he is sometimes unnecessarily forced to scream by exaggerated cadences. Antonino Siragusa is a guarantee of Rossini doc also as Don Narciso, Laura Verrecchia and Manuel Amati work as gypsies, and to the company of this Turkish it remains alone therefore the Turkish problem, Erwin Schrott: his notes rarely correspond to those of Rossini, ditto his times to those of Fasolis. Applause, however, for everyone.
Madina it is defined as “dance-theater”. In reality, it is theater tout court, as the staff immediately reveals: an actor, two singers, corps de ballet, choir and of course orchestra. The booklet of Emmanuelle de Villepin, based on one of his novels, it tells the tragic story of Madina, a girl who after abuse and violence becomes a kamikaze, somewhere in the south of the world. Fabio Vacchi’s music is very remarkable. The point, as always when it comes to musical theater, is not whether it is “beautiful” or not and, in any case, let’s face it immediately, it is beautiful, with an orchestral writing whose timbre and rhythmic refinement does not exclude strength, three splendid choirs ( recorded due to Covid) and an orchestral interlude of turgid sweetness that I would have liked to listen to on the spot and which will, I believe and hope, have an independent concert life. But the real point is that Vacchi manages to write music that becomes theater, that plays theater, that tells and defines characters and atmospheres. Being good or even great musicians is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be true musical dramatists: beyond the beauty of the score, and net of some moralism of the libretto, Madina it is true musical theater, powerful and painful at the same time, a stimulus for the heart and brain, as demonstrated by the welcome that a crowded room has given it.
Of course the credit also goes to the excellent packaging that La Scala has created. It is always difficult to evaluate the direction of a new score, but it seems to me that Michele Gamba has made sparks. Of the two singers, the middle Anna-Doris Capitelli is certainly better than the monochrome tenor Chuan Wang. As for the choreography of Mauro Bigonzetti, who writes about dance knows nothing. But perhaps the fact that it excited him so much, even though he can’t explain why, shows just how effective it is. In great shape the Corps de ballet of the Scala, the Madina of Antonella Albano and the terrorist of Roberto Bolle in bearded version. The eighty minutes fly by, the applause as has been said they are interminable, musical theater is more alive than ever.
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