This evening at 7.30 pm italian time our national radio channel broadcasted for the usual saturday night opera "Il Pirata", live from the met. I was very happy becase I like very much this opera, one of the "pearls" of italian belcanto. I listened to all the performance ended just few minutes ago. Here are my impressions from the radio broadcast and I would like to share them with the rest of the list.
I am very happy the MET performed this rare and difficoult opera ! Bellini is wonderful and not only in Norma. This production is indeed a tribute to his music and also the Italian Opera Houses should have the same courage to propose this title again.
In the complex I had the impression af a general good performance: the orchestra was well conducted by Campanella and the "tempos" were good and the singers well followed and supported. The chorus sounded not so good as in other Met productions (for istance last saturday Abduction). The singing was not a disater and this is really good in an era of absolute vocal darkness.
But I would like to point some vocal problems common to all the vocal cast. Bellini is in the middle of the age of belcanto and all his operas are devoted to this specifical way of singing. Belcanto is not only a serial of tecnical rules but a way of singing and interpretation. In this Met performance I heard a way of singing more close to verismo than to Belcanto.
Craft has not a tecnique solid and accurate enough to sing well the role of Ernesto. He is rough, his voice not so well trained, the ornamentations not respected... The "Sì vincemmo" is a jewel of belcanto... he passes trough it like an elephant in a glass shop. Of course things go better in the more drammatical moments but even Cappuccilli (a Verdi baritone) sung this part with a more clear vocal line and clean notes.
Giordani has a good voice, strong, rich of armonichos... a real tenor voice !!!! At last! But.....! But the role of Gualtiero was written for another vocality, the voice of Rubini, a unique tenor with an incredible extention ! In the opening aria and cabaletta there are two high D !!! Giordani has a good extention but I realized immediatley when he sung the high A that his voice could never reach the difficoulties of Pirata. In fact he omits the first high D and makes only the second in the cabaletta but he has to stop and does not sing it in the "cadenza" written by Bellini. But is not only a problem of extention. His voice is too strong, all in the middle, not so "light" for this role. Is not easy to follow the musical line: sometime he pushes, and the efford is tremendous and at the last act seems tired as he probably is. He does his best, is a good tenor, but is not the correct voice for this opera. Florez or Kunde for istance have the correct vocality to sing this role.
Fleming has the same problem but at the opposite way: she has not low notes! She seems to begin having problems with the low E. The role of Imogene was of Maria Callas (she sung it in New York at CH): drammatico di agilità. Coloratura, agilità but also a dramatical voice and big low notes. Fleming is a fine singer with a beautiful lyrical voice, fine in Mozart and Arabella, Desdemona etc... but is not fine for this role. Belcanto is not lyrical coloratura. The dramatical belcanto soprano needs a great voice with great fraseggio !!! Fleming does her best and can only be admired for the way she comes out from this effort. But cannot be accepted as a model of Imogene. She omits a lot of cadenzas subsituted with high notes. But Bellini wrote high cadenzas and not puntaturas (high notes alone). Flemings sings "her" Imogene, impressive to the audience that claps to the high notes and lyrical line, but is not the Imogene written by Belllini (as was not Caballes, but she had the fraseggio and the low notes!). Fleming fraseggio is unacceptable and she sounds so in difficoulty many times. Aliberti with all the defects of her tecnique did a more severe Imogene. Only Callas was the best. But of course she was Maria Callas.
I do not want to seem a Callas fan who dislikes every other soprano. I think Fleming was sufficiently good and this production of Pirata was good. But the Imogene of Bellini's Pirata is something different.
I know how this soprano is so loved in the States but frankly I think she did not a good choice to put herself into great belocanto roles. She has not the vocality to do it. She has not the range and the fraseggio. But of course this is MHO.
Pirata is very difficoult so anyway thanks to this singers to have given again life to this masterpiece.