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A Marathon Show, an Artistic Everest

Wednesday, 9 January 2013 , ora 9.05
Hector Berlioz' opera Les Troyens is a grand lyrical epic, a true marathon show. The score lasts for over five hours, with a greatly complex and difficult score which involves a large orchestra, impressive, large-scale casts (a mixed choir - male, female and children), several soloists with very demanding roles, ballet dancers - because the choreographic moments are as many as the choir ones - and countless extras. It is easy to understand why this opera is not performed too often and how important it is to have the chance to see this show at the peak of its artistic quality. The seventh broadcast live in HD from the New York Metropolitan Opera was such a chance, offered by The Light Cinema in Bucharest in the 2012-2013 season. The audience was rewarded highly, especially because there were no technical problems and the level of sound - usually too high, in the broadcasts they had so far - was perfect for classical music this time.

The production is a rerun of the show in 2003 and the team behind it is formed by Francesca Zambello - direction, Maria Bjornson - art direction, Anita Yavich - costumes, James F. Ingalls - lights and Doug Varone - choreography. The staging, conceptually traditional yet hardly stale, has a stylized scenery, very evocative, unique as far as its basic structure is concerned, but varied thanks to a few mobile elements and the ingenuity of the lights, and the costumes stand out due to their textures, their cut and the harmony of their colours. However, the most charming thing is the way the characters relate to one another on stage, very convincingly, naturally, even in the ensemble moments.

The musical revelation was Bryan Hymel, a 33-year-old handsome American soloist, with a precious heroic tenor voice, who shined as Aeneas. A real launch pad for his career, this role brought him the London audience's ovations last summer in Covent Garden (when he replaced Jonas Kaufmann 'overnight'), as well as those of the New York audience, now that he made his debut at the Met, instead of the initially cast tenor, Marcello Giordani, throughout the entire evening with Les Troyens. Mezzosoprano Susan Graham - superb in the role of Dido, Queen of Carthage - and soprano Deborah Voigt as the tragic Cassandra both lived up to the expectations. Nevertheless, the construction of the role of Cassandra seemed a little too low for her voice. Baritone Dwayne Croft also had certain difficulties, as his voice was somewhat harsh, but he managed to overcome his trouble with great skill. Other remarkable singers were bass Kwangchul Youn, mezzosoprano Karen Cargill, tenors Paul Appleby and Eric Cutler. The orchestra and the choir also rose to the occasion, and the climb of this 'Everest of French music' - as the protagonists dubbed the opera - took place under the baton of Fabio Luisi. I believe his highest merit was keeping the emotional tension throughout the entire musical discourse, a very lengthy one, very intense at times, yet with a few divine - but dangerous - slower moments.

The evening was hosted by mezzosoprano Joyce Di Donato who offered - like so many times before - a real reporter show during the two breaks, questioning the main singers and the producers of the show.

Ligia Ardelean
Translated by Irina Borțoi and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, Bucharest University