Rossini – Tancredi
Tancredi – Anna Bonitatibus
Amenaide – Jessica Pratt
Argirio – Shi Yijie
Orbazzano – Daniel Golossov
Isaura – Camille Merckx
Roggiero – Mashal Arman
Choeur de l’Opéra de Lausanne, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne / Ottavio Dantone.
Stage director – Emilio Sagi
Opéra de Lausanne, Lausanne. Friday, March 20th, 2015.
This was my first visit to the Lausanne Opera and it’s a surprisingly intimate theatre. Seating 962, it is located in the very heart of this beautiful Swiss city. Ticket prices are quite reasonable for Switzerland and due to the size of the theatre, even the most economical seats are relatively close to the stage.
Tonight was the role debut of Anna Bonitatibus as Tancredi. After years of preparation that moment when an artist presents her thoughts on a piece to the public for the very first time is a very special moment. Tonight Bonitatibus made time stand still. Her entry on ‘oh patria’ with a perfectly modulated hairpin, the voice and vibrato under the complete control of its owner was absolutely captivating. She followed with an absolutely glorious ‘di tanti palpiti’ giving us a textbook definition of the bel canto style – the line impeccably ornamented, the passagework so easy and always utterly musical. As always with Bonitatibus the text took primary importance – it was the starting point to her exceptionally milky smooth line not an afterthought – and she completely inhabited the role. We were given the Ferrara ending where the piece, rather than ending in triumph, ends in the death of Tancredi with an arresting aria. The way Bonitatibus filed the tone down to almost nothing was utterly captivating. The voice has an orange-toned warmth with an unforced virtuosity that is always at the service of the music with highly musical and beautifully imaginative embellishments. She made every note sound as if she was the only person who could sing it. The role sits on the low side for her mezzo and she gave us a couple of dips into a fabulously resonant chest register yet she had completely mastered the wide tessitura of the role and made the whole thing sound completely effortless. This was a truly masterful performance from an artist who tonight hit greatness.
Bonitatibus was at one with Jessica Pratt’s Amenaide. The way the voices blended in the duets was absolutely ravishing – especially as the use of ornamentation was absolutely unanimous, the voices playing off each other in the most remarkable way. Pratt is an interesting singer. She has an astonishing top of incredible weight and ease. Yet the technique felt a little unfinished. The vibrations weren’t always even, the vibrato occasionally threatening to turn into a wobble, the phrasing at times on the lumpy side. And yet, she really does have many of the bel canto tools at her disposal – a flexibility of tone, an easy top, an implicit understanding of the music. She is still young and the way the very top of the voice completely filled the theatre was striking. An interesting artist undoubtedly.
Shi Yijie’s Argirio was also an interesting one. His tenor has a highly rounded tone that is absolutely even in emission through the entire range. The tessitura held no terrors for him and his Italian is absolutely impeccable. He dispatched his highly challenging act 2 aria with real aplomb. Yet what was missing was the ability to portray something beyond the dots on the page. All the notes were there and the voice is in fabulous shape yet one was left with the impression that this was very well sung but every so slightly anonymous. This is something that cannot be taught but hopefully, with time, Shi will grow as an interpreter and bring an added level of depth to his interpretations.
The remainder of the cast was at a very respectable level. Camille Merckx brought a dusky and fruity contralto to the role of Isaura. Daniel Golossov’s Orbazzano was sung in a resonant and distinctive bass and Mashal Arman dispatched Roggiero’s aria with ease and evenness throughout the range. Ottavio Dantone conducted an interesting reading. Strings played with minimal vibrato and rhythms were nicely springy. I also particularly enjoyed Giorgio Paronuzzi’s imaginative fortepiano playing in the recitatives and how it scintillated within the orchestra during the arias. Tempi were appropriate for the most part but the act 1 finale could have done with being a notch or two swifter. Occasionally in act 2, things dragged a little and Dantone could perhaps have kept things moving on a little more. It was a reading that had a lot going for it but didn’t quite paper over the cracks in the work. The chorus sang with tight ensemble although in a couple of places they lost contact with the orchestra – not uncommon for a first night.
Emilio Sagi’s production gave us monumental sets (Daniel Bianco) with costumes (Pepa Ojanguren) reflecting the end of the 19th century. It was an effective enough framework for the action if perhaps lacking in new insights. There was much parking of the principals at the front of the stage. Personenregie was efficient enough and the mirrors on the floor, back and sides of the stage were used to provide some interesting visual effects. What tonight really was about though was the singing and the staging was certainly at the service of the work.
This was a highly notable stage debut in a cast that was full of promise. It was presented in an unobtrusive staging that framed the music effectively. It was very much an evening for lovers of truly beautiful singing and it did not disappoint.