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The people’s Rigoletto

Buenos Aires
Teatro Avenida
04/06/2014 -  & April 6, 10*, 12, 2014
Giuseppe Verdi: Rigoletto
Cristian Maldonado (Rigoletto), Jaquelina Livieri (Gilda), Maximiliano Agatiello (Duke of Mantua), Leonardo Fontana (Sparafucile), Gabriella Kreig (Maddalena), Pol Gonzalés (Count Monterone), Tamara Odón (Giovanna), Luis Loaiza Isler (Marullo), Felipe Cudina Begovic (Count Ceprano), Ivana Ledesma (Countess Ceprano), Mathias Sotto (A Court Usher), Laura Alvarez Renedo (Page)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Juventus Lyrica Buenos Aires, Antonio M. Russo (Chorus Master and Conductor)
Anna D'Anna (Director), Gonzalo Córdova (Scenography and Lights)

C. Maldonado & J. Livieri (Courtesy of JLBA)

After having seen the opening of the season at the Teatro Colon and at Buenos Aires Lirica, it was a very different experience to attend the opening of Buenos Aires’s third opera company, Juventus Lyrica. Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, this opera company has the mission to give young local singers the opportunity to sing major roles. The prices are even cheaper than the already affordable Buenos Aires Lirica. Its public is also unusually young. Without the antics of certain famous opera houses, they seem to truly succeed in making opera a popular art form.

Given the limited budget, the sets of this production were quite basic. In contrast, the period costumes were quite elaborate, indicating a serious study of the period’s style. In the second scene of the first act at Rigoletto’s home, the stylized sets do not work. The duke’s hideout is all too apparent. Even less convincing was the courtesans’ attempted ladder climbing supposedly into Rigoletto’s home from within that very home. Likewise, the quartet in the last scene of the second act did not exactly convince due to the awkwardness of the sets.

Both Gilda and Rigoletto were first rate. Jacquelina Livieri had a beautiful coloratura and portrayed a very credible ingénue. She sang all the high notes with ease. Both vocally and dramatically, there was a transformation after her ordeal with the Duke. Cristian Maldonado was an impressive Rigoletto. Though he looked too young for the role, he adroitly conveyed the complexity of the character. His warm voice is most promising. It is well placed and capable of changing from the harsh characterization of the jester to the warm voice of a broken man. One day, Maldonado may become that rare species, a true Verdi baritone. In contrast, the Duke of Mantua was totally out of his depth in the role. It is somewhat unfair to push singers beyond their limits, especially at such a young age. Sadly, tenor Maximiliano Agatiello failed to reach most of his high notes. He was not able to do much acting either as he understandingly seemed terrified of what he had to sing. As Sparafucile, Leonardo Fontana’s bass was too light. At times, the role seemed transposed to a baritone. Insufficient makeup was applied to hide the good looks and youth of this singer. A handsome, young Sparafucile, especially one with a light voice, is not a menacing hired assassin.

To maximize exposure of as many young singers as possible, three different casts assume the various roles, including the minor ones, in the four performances given. In its attempt to put young singers on the stage, Juventus Lyrica may be in part hurting rather than helping some of them. As witnessed in this performance, it is apparent that the singers come with different levels of preparation. On the whole, most singers seemed to have had very limited if any language coaching. This led to almost comical sounds. Though rich in vowels like Italian, Spanish has a different rhythm from Italian. Some of the singers seemed to be singing in a new idiom. Highly commendable for its success in attracting a young public and in providing opportunities to young singers, Juventus Lyrica should avoid miscasting some singers way beyond their capacities. More of an effort with diction and style would not hurt either.

Ossama el Naggar



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