If I had to sum up the production, and the
performance, in only one word, which is truly impossible. it would be that
it was totally compelling...from the first note to the last. Yves Abel did a
wonderful job with the orchestra, bringing Massenet's dramatic score to
life, and the sets were not only appropriate to and symbolic of the time and
place, but really breathtaking in their simple beauty.
Julia Gersteva était une excellente Charlotte
ainsi que la jeune Magali Léger dans le rôle de Sophie qui a été
The ushers smiled good-naturedly and shook their heads in feigned disbelief. We were back again, for the Sunday matinee at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. We really were going to see this opera all four times. "We can’t understand it," they said in accented English, laughing. Of course, we weren’t the only ones. There were so many other Americans there as well, and in fact, fans from all over the world . . .Australia, Japan, England, Austria, Germany, South Africa, Holland, Canada. The excitement was contagious. We had front row seats, Jack and I, stage right—as it turned out, directly in front of most of the action for Andrea, and I could bask in every little detail of the drama.
The production was beautiful in every respect. Mickie has already summed it up perfectly in her early comments. First, the skill and vision of Liliana Cavani in choosing and bringing to reality the period of the 1930s for this drama must be acknowledged. Updating it to the 20th century gives Werther an immediacy that makes it live for us and intensifies the emotional impact. This director brought out the very best not only with Andrea but in the realistically detailed background action with the entire cast. The sets of Dante Ferretti were marvelously convincing, simple yet so beautiful, as were the fabulous details of the costumes (Gabriella Pescucci) and the gorgeous fabrics (by the way, the style of this era suits Andrea to a T, as you have by now seen in the photos from the production on his site). The lush power of Abel’s conducting was captivating and made the richly romantic music almost tangible. Even so, for the record, never once was Andrea "drowned out." As intent as my attention was on every sound and move from Andrea, the uniformly strong supporting cast was really a joy to watch and hear—Charlotte (Julia Gertseva ) with her virtuoso vocal command and powerful dramatic acting ability, and so genuinely attentive to and sweetly interactive with Andrea; Sophie (Magali Leger), utterly charming and animated with a glorious, soaring soprano; Albert (Natale De Carolis), a mellow, masterful baritone, and quite handsome); the bailiff (Giorgio Giuseppini) comically philosophical with a distinctly capable voice. The theatre is entrancingly beautiful with its off-white baroque interior and glittering chandelier and intricately painted ceiling. All in all, it was utterly intoxicating! . . .all four times!!!
This Werther was no formulaic role, bound in a traditional blue coat with yellow breeches. This was a real man. Andrea claimed a Werther distinctively his. For this Werther, Andrea found a voice from a heart that knows loss—a voice of beautiful dimension and color, infusing this role with emotion and humanity. Heartbroken and inconsolable in the loss of the only love he wanted, this Werther’s desolate loss was conveyed by Andrea with understated resolution, quiet strength that was undeniably convincing and irrefutably moving. And I learned a new word to describe Andrea’s voice from one early positive review—slancio, meaning melodic or emotional bravura. Yes.
As Mickie said, there is no denying that Andrea is finding himself on stage—the body language and expression striking just the right mood and tone. So many memorable gestures. In the first act a gentle inclination of affection toward the little girl who is sharing with him an interesting book; leading Charlotte off stage for their evening together in a confident stroll, arms intertwined affectionately, just so; lightly tender caresses of Charlotte’s hair, face, waist, arm accompanying the aria where he extols her beauty (truly conveying "extase"); the helpless, despairing, disbelieving slump to the stairs at hearing the devastating truth that the love of his life belongs to another. In the second act: the yearning look from the café that convincingly follows Charlotte with longing as she moves across the stage and into the church behind, lost to him in the arms of another; the clutch of despair at the chain link fence when she abandons him; the abrupt, confused departure to his exile. In the emotionally draining third act: Andrea conveys exhausted desolation in his inability to resist returning to Charlotte and stands before her with evident yearning, then the explosive release of the banked-down passion he can no longer hold inside in the effort to convince Charlotte to be his at last ("Tu m’aime, tu m’aime,"), and then registering the final inconceivable rejection of his last plea, his hand helplessly, hopelessly extended to beckon her, but with no response. In tragic solitude onstage, a cappella, he sings one word: "Rien" ["Nothing"]…and the voice is utterly convincing in its simple power to convey his total anguished loss. In the death scene of the final act: the voice of Charlotte is as shrilly desperate in her realization of what she has lost as Andrea’s is powerfully and quietly resigned to his fate. You believe without question that this is the voice of a dying man. The two are locked in a heartwrenching portrayal of loss, Charlotte frantically but tenderly continuously stroking the beautiful head as if to somehow keep the life from seeping away from her. Lying flat on his back (how is it possible to sing this way?!), Andrea projects this solemn, sacred emotional moment…sending the anguish straight to your heart. Every one of the four times he lay dying, I believed it completely.
Surely, our tenore is giving opera a new life. It is
exemplified in the young man who sat next to me for the third performance.
He was a student in Bologna—twenty something—adorable. He spoke English,
Spanish, Romanian, and a little Italian. He was from Sweden. On his way home
that night, he had passed the Teatro Comunale and spotted the Werther
poster. He had never seen an opera, but he knew Bocelli— "Con te
partiro"—and he decided to buy a ticket to see what this Werther was
about. At the final curtain call, he was ecstatic, eyes shining, exuberant,
beeeeg smile! He LOVED it! He loved Bocelli!! He wanted to see another opera
as soon as he could. Oh yes, in his own determined way, Andrea is giving
opera new life. Another chapter is written. Once again it was our privilege
to be present. Grazie, Maestro.
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