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Subject: Re: Glimmerglass' Siege of Calais soars in American premiere (8-12-17)
From: Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Rich Lowenthal <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 13 Aug 2017 10:08:51 -0400

text/plain (87 lines)

Opera Rara did a terrific recording of the opera, conducted by David Parry with Della Jones. It's a great opera; I really can't imagine why it's never performed. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alan Savada
Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2017 9:42 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Glimmerglass' Siege of Calais soars in American premiere (8-12-17)

Glimmerglass Festival had another success and this time with an American premiere of a rare Donizetti treat "L'Assiedo di Calais."

This Siege of Calais was updated to modern times which did not matter at all as it is simply about a besieged town, and how appropriate that today Calais is one of the refugee centers in Europe and the amazing sets also clearly echoed the scenes we see on the daily news  of Aleppo and other cities in Syria and the Middle East.

Conductor Joseph Colaneri
Director Francesca Zambello
Sets James Noone
Costumes Jessica Jahn
Lighting Mark McCullough
Projected Text Kelley Rourke
Hair & Makeup J. Jared Janas & Dave Bova

Aurelio Aleks Romano
Eleonora Leah Crocetto
Eustachio Adrian Timpau
Giovanni d'Aire Chaz'men Williams-Ali
Giacomo de Wisants Joseph Leppek
Pietro de Wisants Makoto Winkler
Armando Carl DuPont
Edoardo III :Michael Hewitt
Isabella Helena Brown
Edmondo Andres Moreno Garcia
An English Spy Zachary Owen
Filippo Rock Lasky/Philip Nash

The curtain was up as we arrived to reveal two large three story structures left and right with a long corrugated steel wall with wire atop in between them across the front of the stage emblazoned with CALAIS. Trash was everywhere with a pile of backpacks against the wall and even a car had broken through the building on the right. The fascinating overture began oddly with several quick notes belying the subject, but the music paused and changed to extended sad notes from the brass and horns setting the scene. During this two soldiers in flak jackets, backpacks and camouflage came out with a bloodied bag they stabbed and then threw over the wall. (I thought it was a limb, my husband thought it was the head of John the Baptist!)

A face appeared atop the wall and eventually rappelled down to the ground, rummaged through the backpacks and ran off; this was Aurelio, son of the mayor of Calais trying to escape the siege.

The opening chorus "All'armi" of the invading English soldiers was impressive, as were all the fantastic choral parts of this work. It was loud and huge and would have woken the dead; you felt as if you were in the middle of a battle. At the end the soldiers ran up the aisles still singing loudly; an impressive move that was so effective.

The wall on stage parted to reveal a revolving structure of concrete several stories high that had the seal of Calais on it (the mayor's home). Refugee women were carrying babies and pushing carts rummaging through the trash. The entire set felt as if multiple bombs had been dropped and there was no way you could not think Aleppo. The central structure turned to reveal a large bombed out stairway and we saw fires in trash cans as well as smoke rising from the rubble--devastation.

Mr. Timpau's opening aria, "O silenzio funesta..." had me from the start. This is an impressive voice and no wonder he is entering the Met YA program this fall, but I have to say his makeup was so impressive he looked much much older. The clothing was modern day, but worn, torn and dirty. Ms. Crocetto appears at the top of the stairs (Eleonora is Aurelio's wife, so she is the mayor's daughter-in-law) with her son and joins him in a duet pondering her husband/his son who has disappeared. News comes that Aurelio is safe and they join in a rousing cabaletta with amazing high notes for her that rang though the entire house.

Aurelio re-enters and I must say I did not recognize Ms. Romano as this was some of the best trouser make-up ever. Her eyebrows had me convinced she was a guy! She sings an aria of being reunited and a cabaletta of revolt with super mezzo highs and lows and superb coloratura which melds into a quartet finale that would make any bel canto lover happy.

The crowd arrives begging the mayor to surrender as they have heard (from an English Spy amongst them) that food will run out. Mr. Owen was a great spy, but alas his moustache was coming off, so his disguise was a bit funny. At first, he had the crowd convinced only to be revealed by the mayor as a spy. The scene ends with another rousing chorus of revolt as Eleonora bashes a brick on the spy's head.

The next scene begins with the little boy alone amongst the rubble looking for his soccer ball as a soldier almost nabs him and then the set turns to reveal the 3-story bombed out abode of the mayor with ladders joining each floor. Ms. Crocetto is at the bottom and sings as the women's chorus backs her up in a church-like organ-backed hymn as her husband awakes from a nightmare that their little son has been kidnapped and killed by the enemy. This leads to the stellar duet, "Io l'udia chiamarmi a nome" where he tells the dream to his wife. If you can find a recording of this, I dare you to say it isn't a close copy of Bellini's "Mira, O Norma" which everyone agreed on backstage and at intermission. It was blissful blending of soprano and mezzo that is simply spectacular. Giovanni (a burgher) comes in to announce the enemy is sending a messenger with terms for a cease fire(We have to put in a commercial here for the fabulous Chaz'men Williams-Ali who we are sponsoring this sum  mer at Glimmerglass) and the duet ends in an awesome cabaletta sending us out of Act I sure that everyone will live happily ever after.

Act II has the king in a modern suit looking quite snazzy, outside the wall of Calais. He has a portfolio in his hands with the terms of surrender. The scene moves back inside where the burgers sit to review the terms as they are read by the English general. When he says that six citizens must sacrifice themselves, Aurelio says no way, but is interrupted by his father who agrees to the terms and volunteers as the first. Four other burghers join him and eventually Aurelio is the last. There is a grand chorale finale as the townsfolk send off their loved one to "Addio per sempre." 

Mr. Hewitt's King (he was Jud just 15 hours earlier!) "Lavvenir per me..." has him laying claim to multiple crowns as the queen arrives in black with white trim and a matching long coat to the knees with requisite pearls and brooch). The King seats her as she is about to interrupt him and this has them both singing their superb cabaletta(two small but brilliant portrayals) after which the burghers are led in handcuffed. As the soldiers are about to execute the six men the folks of Calais arrive led by Eleonora. Her father-in-law commands the men to kneel "Sorgete" but the women beg for pardon s they try to embrace their husbands, but the soldiers keep hitte=ing them with their gun butts. Aurelio grabs his son and Eleanora breaks in and joins them. As the three embrace we are not sure if they will be killed, but there is an amazing freeze in this touching tableaux for several seconds until the Queen breaks in "No, fermate" and begs her husband to pardon them, which he does as  she tears up the signed agreements.

Ms. Crocetto commences the finale with a rondo of roulades, soaring coloratura and more and then kneels to the queen as she is joined by Ms. Romano in what is truly a blow your mind musical ending....however, just as it is about to end, the mayor approaches the king and bows, but he lifts him up indicating that all is forgiven..

I have never seen or heard any of this opera before and it is a great one indeed. I am not sure why it has gone so unnoticed and never been performed on this continent!! Whatever, it is 100+ minutes (yes, it is cut) of simply superb music that was beautifully handled by this able and impressive cast. BRAVI TUTTI!.

ALAN SAVADA of Washington, DC

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