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Subject: Re: MATILDE DI SHABRAN Royal Opera, London 23 October 2008
From: Stephen Cutler <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Cutler <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 24 Oct 2008 06:11:34 -0400

text/plain (80 lines)

Following from the comprehensive reviews by Rob and Thomas, I will 
just add a few thoughts.

Florez's singing last night in the role of Corradino seemed to me an 
improvement even on his achievement in Pesaro in 2004. It was simply 
astonishing singing, miraculous to my ears in its precision and agility. 
As for the size and impact of the voice, I don't feel the set was 
particularly kind to him. It was a big, open construction with nothing 
behind the singer to reflect the voice out into the auditorium. At the 
Teatro Rossini in Pesaro, the theatre is so small and the acoustic so 
fine that this didn't matter at all. In Covent Garden, it did mean that 
sometimes (including the first entry as he comes down the stairs) the 
impact wasn't what it should be. Should the set be built around the 
needs of one singer? Well, yes, for this role and this singer, I think it 
should. And to realise what was lost, you have only to compare the 
sound when he was singing in the set, with the one scene in the second 
act sung in front of the curtain

Rob mentioned that there was applause as Florez came on, quite a bit 
of applause, actually, covering his entry. Whatever you think of that in 
terms of audience behaviour, casting my mind back over 40 years of 
going to Covent Garden, I don't remember any other occasion of that 
happening at a routine performance. I'm not saying it has never 
happened before, but I can't recall it.

Kasarova to me was a disappointment. While I gave her the benefit of 
the doubt at the general rehearsal, she sang the same way last night, 
which I would describe as singing for herself rather than for the public. 
It was very introspective singing, it came and it went, and it was not 
Rossini. Now, if we had had Daniela Barcellona.....

Perhaps the less said about Rizzi's conducting, the better. I think it did 
do damage, managing to be erratic and monotonous at the same time. 
And the orchestra, fine though it is, was just too loud, not just for 
Florez, but in the ensemble work too. Rizzi, as I understand it, was not 
the conductor originally envisaged for this production. I wonder what 
Maestro Zedda, in the audience last night, thought of it.

This is, though, a wonderful evening. Understandably, the opera house, 
and some of the cast, were apprehensive about how the opera, with 
one of the silliest plots you will ever find, would be received by a 
public, very few of whom would have heard the music before. The early 
start of 6.30 was set to take account of its length. Somewhere along 
the line, quite late in the day, I believe, extensive cuts were made, 
taking about 20 minutes off the running time, presumably because of 
this apprehension. Now, the opera finishes very early, just after 10. 
There was certainly no sign of boredom or fidgeting from anyone around 
me. The cuts were unnecessary, and a mistake, and should be put back.

The lack of a TV or cinema broadcast or DVD really is lamentable, and it 
seems to be the ROH who are being so obstinate in this. The production 
would work so well on screen in close-up, and the chance to preserve a 
key role of one of the leading singers of the day has been lost.

Finally, just to correct a couple of historical points in Bob's post. Kurzak 
was not Florez's Norina at Covent Garden. That fell, with little 
distinction, to Tatiana Lisnic. This Matilde is the first time they have 
sung together. Also, when Florez took over the 1996 Pesaro Corradino 
from Bruce Ford, he had not originally been engaged in the chorus (as is 
frequently written), but to sing a minor part in Ricciardo e Zoraide, one 
of the other operas that season.

Stephen Cutler
Dorking, England

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