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The rediscovery of Maria di Rohan

Grand Théâtre
11/06/2001 -  and 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 November 2001
Gaetano Donizetti: Maria di Rohan
A production of Gran Teatro La Fenice of Venice
Annick Massis (Maria), Octavio Arevalo (Riccardo), Stephen Salters (Enrico), Ruben Amoretti (Armano), Alexander Vassiliev (de Fiesque), Giorgio Barberio Corsetti (Director and Set)
Choir of the Grand Théâtre, Ching-Lien Wu (Choir Master).
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Evelino Pidò (Conductor),

The performance of Donizetti’s forgotten last but one opera is a première in Switzerland in its Viennese version of 1843. The usually played version is his rearranged one for the Parisian public. The rediscovery of old forgotten works is always exciting. But when one thinks that Donizetti composed 70 operas, one is forced to ask: when are all his other operas played? We know Don Pasquale, L’Elisir d’Amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Anna Bolena, la Fille du Régiment and Maria Stuarda, but what about the 63 others and where and when can one hear them. It would be a good idea if theatres started rediscovering this composers gigantic unplayed repertoire. The experience of discovering Maria di Rohan is worth a detour to Geneva. This work introduces us to a transition from bel canto to Verdian style singing. It is a little jewel.

The opera is based on a French play from Lockroy and Badon’s Un Duel sous le Cardinal Richelieu with an extremely complicated plot that we shall not describe.

The set is minimalist with two walls where the shadows of the actors are reflected like ghosts, and the background changes colour at each scene, and… nothing else. Some members of the public were unsatisfied and booed this decor. However one has to understand that this minimum gives a greater place to music which is, in deed, beautiful. To add to this the costumes inspired by 19th century clothing were superb. A mixture of dark cold and warm colours beautifully matching with the changing tones of the background, and giving the whole a very purified elegance thanks to which the singers are put on a pedestal and become the main artifices of the set, but also the main interest of both the ear the eye. To bad for those who did not understand the subtlety Corsetti’s work.

Annick Massis as Maria di Rohan was beautiful in her elegant garments and she was the pearl of the performance, with a pure coloratura reaching dizzily heights, matched with a great technique. Lost in the middle of this vacuum. Octavio Arevalo replacing Raul Giménez, performed a good Riccardo managing quite well the difficulties of bel canto. However Stephen Slaters was not at all at the level of the two others lacking style in his voice -not much to do with bel canto- and disappointing is his acting. Evelino Pido was doing great conducting and l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande gave him the opportunity to prove his finesse and ear.

Zoltan Bécsi



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