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Rome on the Elbe

Teatro Real
09/13/2017 -  & September, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23*, 2017
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Lucio Silla, K. 135
Kurt Streit*/Benjamin Bruns (Lucio Silla), Patricia Petibon*/Julie Fuchs (Giunia), Silva Tro Santafé*/Marina Comparato (Cecilio), Inga Kalna*/Hulkar Sabirova (Lucio Cinna), María José Moreno*/Anna Devin (Celia), Kenneth Tarver*/Roger Padullés (Aufidio)
Chorus of Teatro Real, Andrés Máspero (Choirmaster), Orchestra of Teatro Real, Ivor Bolton (Conductor)
Claus Guth (Stage Director), Christian Schmidt (Sets), Manfred Voss & Jürgen Hoffmann (Lighting)

P. Petibon (© Javier del Real)

The brisk rhythm of the overture augured well and set the mood for this early Mozart opera which is more akin to baroque opera than to the classical period. This was to be expected from veteran conductor Ivor Bolton who has often conducted Handel and Monteverdi in Munich and enabled an orchestra well versed in Wagner, Richard Strauss and Verdi to sound light with their modern instruments.

The stage director depicted Rome as a decrepit place that best resembled an industrial town in the former D.D.R. (East Germany). This is supposedly meant to convey the oppressive regime under dictator Lucio Silla. To go with this drab setting were equally drab costumes. Such distortions may work in a compact dramatic opera like Elektra where the intense action needs little help and can afford such downers. For Lucio Silla, this led to considerable longueurs.

The opening scene features two trousers roles, exiled senator Cecilio played by the magnificent Portuguese mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé and his friend nobleman Cinna played by Latvian mezzo Inga Kalna. The two voices were quite different and contrasted well. Tro Santafé’s voice is truly magnificent, creamy, endowed with natural trills and at ease in all registers. Inga’s Kalna’s Act I “Vieni ov’amor t’invita” was well interpreted but her higher notes were strained. In her duet with her tyrant brother, Celia, sung by María José Moreno, tenderly expressed brotherly love. She had no difficulty with the coloratura in her charming opening aria “Se lusinghiera speme” conveying a naïveté and a cheerful disposition. Patricia Petibon’s dramatic talent compensated for the small size of her voice and a tendency to have less support in her higher notes. Her Act II aria “Ah se il crudel periglio” was magnificently interpreted with appropriately moving emphasis on words such as “spavento” and “pietà”. German tenor Kurt Streit had the dubious task to interpret his role as seen by the stage director: a weak, masochistic, alcohol and drug dependent emperor. And that he did extremely well, portraying a perfect anti-hero, despite insufficient justification for such excess. To be convincing in theatre, even an anti-hero such as Lucio Silla ought to have cause for his misconduct. His darkness ought not be total so that he can solicit some sympathy. In this production, his clemency makes no sense. In Mozart’s opera, tyrant Lucio Silla is transformed when confronted by the love of the woman he covets, Giunia, and his political enemy Cecilio. In Claus Guth’s vision, clemency is a mere extrapolation of Silla’s madness, making one wonder if the past three hours of music was a mere exercise in futility.

Ossama el Naggar



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