Home fan special


L'Amico Fritz
January 19, 21, 23
Teatro Filarmonico di Verona

by Janet in AZ

It was hard to believe I was in Verona, Italy and would soon be seeing Andrea Bocelli and Steven Mercurio perform L'amico Fritz. Everywhere I looked I saw a world of wonderful contrasts -- the blending of old and new. There were awe-inspiring antiquities such as the Arena which provided a backdrop for the modern-day bustle of taxis and people walking or riding bicycles while talking on their cell phones.

It seemed incongruous yet appropriate at the same time because my friends and I were about to see a century old opera performed by two distinctly modern and somewhat unconventional musicians (by traditional opera standards). Bocelli -- the tenor who dares to come to opera via pop music fame. Mercurio -- who has committed blasphemy by conducting for Michael Bolton and Hollywood movie scores. Never mind that Bocelli's voice is a miracle. And no matter that Mercurio is a remarkable conductor and composer who has an uncanny ability to get the most from the orchestra while tactfully adjusting to best complement the performers on stage. Both men love opera and have a desire to interpret this ages-old art form in a way that is relevant to, and can be enjoyed by, today's masses. I was so looking forward to this!

We were beside ourselves with excitement as we approached the Teatro on opening night. There were so many beautiful people in their furs and opera "best." Was this what is referred to as "la bella figura?" We were early so we could say "hello" to old acquaintances and meet new Bocelli and Mercurio enthusiasts. And there were many. The Teatro was small and beautiful with velvet seats and glass chandeliers. Then we caught glimpses of the Bocelli entourage: Carlo Bernini, Alberto, Michele Torpedine, mamma Edi and Enrica. Enrica was absolutely stunning! Long, wavy brown hair and a beautiful smile. She passed by very close looking for her seat. Then the lights dimmed.

Mercurio was welcomed with applause. He was very handsome in his tux and very confident and energetic in front of the orchestra. He was clearly "in charge" of the moment. Then, the overture was finished and the focus shifted to the stage. The set and lighting were very dark. At times, the faces of the performers were in shadows. Finally, Bocelli appeared on stage. He was as handsome as ever, appeared well rested, and moved confidently about the stage. He was in excellent voice although, understandably, he seemed a bit tense at first. His portrayal of Fritz was understated and sensitive (the way I like it) and effectively established the character.

Act Two began with Suzel in the cherry orchard. Cecila Gasdia played the role beautifully, with good expression and emotion. She often sang with great feeling and a warm, clear quality but at times, on some of the higher notes, I thought she was a bit "off." Bocelli entered the scene in a rather daring way. He appeared at the top of a ladder in a tower and took a few steps down. You could hear the audience gasp and hold its breath! But he mastered the steps with confidence then joined Gasdia in the Cherry Duet. The chemistry between the two was just right and they made a very attractive couple that you cared about and wanted to get together. They were wonderful. Bocelli was much more confident and his voice stronger. His voice was warm and expressive with a diminuendo (or is it pianissimo?) that would make ice melt.

The third act was introduced by the truly brilliant and moving Intermezzo. Mercurio was in fine form, animated and intense yet clearly having fun! He got a big performance from a fairly small orchestra. (Very small orchestra pit.) They received a huge ovation with cries of "bravo" and "bis."

Bocelli sang with much emotion and expression. His aria was beautifully done and very moving. His acting in the third act was good and successfully conveyed the character's conflicts and emotions. Again, the chemistry between Fritz and Suzel was just right and the audience was thrilled with the happy, romantic ending. There was much applause, many shouts of "bravo" and "brava" and curtain calls. Bocelli was his usual humble self and tried to avoid individual recognition in spite of Gasdia's efforts and encouragement. But he refused to let go of her hand!

After the performance, we gathered near the entrance, just around the corner from the stage door exit. We saw a number of the performers emerge, mamma Edi and even Ramon Vargas. Finally, Bocelli appeared with Enrica, Alberto, and others. As they passed us, the crowd applauded and shouted "bravo." He looked back, gave us that big, heart melting, turn-your-knees-to-jelly smile of his, then continued on his way.

The second and third performances just got better and better. Bocelli became more relaxed and engaged with the other actors and even more convincingly "Fritz." His vocal performance went from wonderful to magical. Exquisite trills and diminuendos. Always able to be clearly heard yet at times incredibly, beautifully soft and full of emotion. His phrasing and breath control on the long notes were brilliant as always. The ovations were even more enthusiastic and many of the "bravos" were distinctly Italian. It was not just the Americans or Germans who loved his performances! Again, great performances of the Intermezzo and much applause and cries for more. The violin solo brought tears to my eyes each night. Wonderful ovations for the violinist as well.

After these truly special performances, what would the final performance be without OFT? In the fourth and final performance, Fritz was played by tenor Francesco Piccoli. The atmosphere in the Teatro in the beginning was a bit subdued and seemed to carry over throughout the first act. However, the energy level rose considerably in the second and final acts. Piccoli's interpretation was much more physically animated, even melodramatic, it seemed to me. In fact, all the performers seemed more animated this night. Piccoli did a fine job and had a wonderful voice. But I missed the special "connection" I feel when listening to Bocelli. When Bocelli sang, particularly in the second and third performances, I heard what seemed to be the expression of sincere and varied emotions. Very touching and powerful. What a tough act for this young tenor to follow! It was a very enjoyable performance overall and, for me, the highlights were the Intermezzo and the violin solo. The audience seemed to agree and was generous with its applause.

The "crowd" outside the stage door this final night was a little smaller but no less enthusiastic. The performers were once again greeted with applause or other expressions of appreciation as they left. We were especially glad we could give a proper thanks and farewell to Andrea's good friend and OFC (Our Favorite Conductor), Steven Mercurio, as he left. And with that done, it was "Time to Say Good-bye" to Fritz and friends.


Back to opera page