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Roxana Briban’s floating pianissimi

National Opera
04/22/2005 -  
Giuseppe Verdi - Messa da Requiem
Roxana Briban (soprano), Aura Twarowska (mezzosoprano),
Robert Nagy (tenor), Pompei Harasteanu (bass), Chorus and
Orchestra of the Bucharest National Opera, Giampaolo
Mazzoli (conductor)

For the first time in more than half a century, the deep harmonies of Verdi's Requiem are flooding the Bucharest Opera House. A premiere for the National Opera, this monumental vocal-symphonic work being rarely performed even in the years preceding World War II. The initiative taken by the management of Romania's main lyric theatre was a remarkable one and it turned into a true artistic event.

With sparing, unspectacular gestures, but being attentive and efficient to his craft, the Italian conductor Giampaolo Mazzoli demonstrated solid and meticulous knowledge of Verdi's liturgic music. Mazzoli conducted an ascetic Requiem, effusionless, with well thought-out whispers in the meditative sections (Requiem aeternam, Agnus Dei, Lux aeterna,…) and sharp edged tones, severely cut in aqua-forte in the sections of intense dramatic turbulence (Dies irae). The Tuba mirum trumpet players echoed dialogues from far away; while the good idea of placing them in lateral boxes, adjacent to the scene, resulted in an enveloping sound effect that gave the music a special, tri-dimensional quality. The tempi - important parameters - -on which the conductor has founded his performing concept produced an atmoshere of mournful contemplation, of divine imploration, suitable to a catholic Missa pro defunctis. Under Mazzoli’s baton, the orchestra of the Bucharest National Opera played homogenuously, accurately and with a rigorous control of the sound. Exemplarily prepared by maestro Stelian Olariu, the chorus has modeled the sonorities
along the complex demands of the score, with appropriate responses to the exploding dynamic diversity.

Above everything, the carats of Roxana Briban’s soprano floated wonderful pianissimi, close to immaterial through the still air. This young artist has a voice with medium range of an intensely bronze colour and with high notes which acquired the purifying delicacy of the divine message. Her address is unchanged during the entire evening, whether the sentiment is communicated by sinuous phrases (Recordare, Lacrymosa, Offertorio) or by powerful high Cs (in the final of sections Rex tremendae… Salva me and Libera me where she commandingly dominated the large orchestra and chorus).

The mezosoprano Aura Twarowska from Timisoara, Romania has sustained her part with lovely and nuanced voice. Tenor Robert Nagy, a little removed from canto angelicato, offered an interpretation anchored in reality, crowned by the sparkling high B flat of the famous Ingemisco. The basso profondo voice of Pompei Harasteanu was impressive by the implacability of the accent (Confutatis maledictis) and by the morbidezza of the phrasing. All in all, this remarkable vocal quartet appears as the most valuable that could be formed at this point in time in Romania.

With over four years of management at the Bucharest National Opera, General Director Ludovic Spiess should be very proud of his outstanding achievements in the strategy of bringing new productions to the public: Les pecheurs de perles, Werther, Falstaff, Mefistofele, Die lustige Witwe, Simon Boccanegra. This successful Verdi Requiem must be added to the list.

Costin Popa



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