jueves, 19 de abril de 2018

Gloriana in Teatro Real, Madrid. April 18, 2018.

The Teatro Real has succeeded again in staging a Benjamin Britten opera. After the unforgettable production of Billy Budd last year, its current production of Gloriana is following the same triumphal way. Spanish musical press has even stated that Madrid is specializing in the works of the British maestro.

I was longing to see this opera for many years, since I discovered the production of Phillida Lloyd in a video, years ago. Its unsuccessful premiere in 1953, with the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II coronation, made Gloriana (the name was given by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene, to a character representing Elizabeth I) to fell into a sort of undeserved obscurity, comparing to masterpieces like  Billy Budd or Peter Grimes (personally, I prefer these though). But in the last decades, this opera has finally gained more recognition, something fair because it has enough virtues to be in the repertoire by its own merits.

With an inspiring and beautiful score, Britten and libretist William Plomer portray Elizabeth I of England in a human way: a powerful and severe queen but also an aging and tired woman who has to cope with love and duty, sometimes arrogant like in act 2, or sometimes compassionate in act 3. Far from an glorious and epic portrait British establishment probably wanted to see in 1953. The music has beautiful moments like the Overture, the trumpet leitmotiv for the queen's entrance, the well- known choral and court dances, the duet of Mountjoy and Penelope, the stormy Act 3 orchestral introduction or the beggining of Finale.

David McVicar is the director for this production. He and his team create a beautiful classical scenery who takes us to the Tudor era. An enormous circular platform dominates the centre of the scene, representing an old England map, surrounded by a big golden armillary sphere; representing the royal power and also its opressive atmosphere. There are platforms at right and left side for the chorus and there is sometimes stars appearing on the top. The walls of the scene are blue and there is in the middle a big impossive door which opens solemnly whenever the queen or main characters are entering. His directing presents the queen as a woman who has to put her duty ahead of her personal life and interests, even in love. She appears as authoritative, ironic, tender, cruel, smug and with a great sense of responsability, sometimes much to her tireness. Lighting is here with a skilled use, making the sphere to shine with an appalling power and sometimes to diminish in dark tones, specially in Act 3 when Essex confronts an undressed and fragile queen. Brigitte Reiffenstuel's lavish costumes take us to Elizabethan era, beautiful gowns for the queen and main characters and dark ones for the courtisans.

Ivor Bolton conducts the Teatro Real Orchestra, obtaining an accomplished performance, despite not having surpassed his unforgettable Billy Budd last year. It started with a slow version of the brief overture (not my cup of tea, after hearing Mackerras' agile version) but it soon rised up to a good level, stunnng in the queen's entrance, vigorous in Act 2 and solemn in Act 3. Bolton has a great knowledge in Britten's music, and this makes the orchestra to get a great sound, unlike the way it sounded in Aida last month. The chorus was in its usual good level, doing a pleasant version of the choral dances.

Anna Caterina Antonacci is Elizabeth I, or Gloriana. She is vocally past her prime, but with  her acting and characterization of  the powerful and aging sovereign, she gives an amazing performance. A good actress, she takes advantage of  her vocal limitations to convey a moving portrait of the queen as a woman. Voice seems a bit vibrating, but some beauty is still remaining. 

Leonardo Capalbo is Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. He is a young and appealing man, and the voice sounds nice and adequate to this repertory. His Essex is arrogant and impulsive.

The rest of soloists move in the same excellent level. Sophie Bevan as a beautiful voiced Penelope, Duncan Rock (like Capalbo, with an appealing presence) and Paula Murrihy gave good performances as Mountjoy and Frances. David Soar was a good Raleigh but I missed sometimes some darkness, despite the voice is nice. Leigh Melrose was a creepy Cecil, well acted and sung. The veteran James Creswell showed an impressive bass voice as the blind singer, and Sam Furness and Gerardo López gave good performances as the spirit of the masque and the master of ceremonies, respectively.

The audience received well the show, but this time the hall wasn't full. However, it's undeniable that we have seen a first-class performance. The Teatro Real is showing its ability to do landmark Britten productions, and some ones like Deborah Warner's Billy Budd would be seen as classic in the foreseeable future.

I apologize for the possible grammar mistakes, I am not skilled yet on doing reviews in English. My views are just personal and not professional.

The photographs' copyright, excepting the last one, belongs to its authors, so if some is uncomfortable with them appearing here, just tell me to remove them inmediately.

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