The season at Accademia Santa Cecilia is almost over and it has been a good one – I’ll be posting something on last Saturday’s concert later today. Sure there has been at two or three clinkers – Lorin Maazel leading the most leaden Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette I’ve ever heard, an uninspired Verdi Requiem under Antonio Pappano and a dull evening of Debussy and Ravel led by Heinz Holliger – but its been a season of some fine – in some cases outstanding – performances and interesting programming. The list of conductors and soloists has been impressive and the chorus and the orchestra are, in MHO, the best in Italy and amongst the best in Europe.
Amongst the highlights have been:
- A slightly dowdy looking Martha Argerich sitting down at the piano and suddenly becoming the most beautiful woman on earth as she showed us how the Beethoven Number 1 should be played.
- The Labèque girls – Katia in scarlet party-girl flounces, Marielle all matronly somber black – under the fatherly eye of Georges Prêtre in an exciting reading of the Poulenc Concerto for two pianos; preceeded by an enchanting performance of his Les Animaux modeles.
- Pappano, who I find so disappointing in the more classical repertoire, tearing the place apart with a wonderfully noisy Mahler 6th – sledge hammer and all. Then further proving he knows his way around 20th century music by conducting some of the finest performances I’ve heard of Bartok, Shostakovich and Ligeti.
- That wonderful chorus helping Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos find new things in Orf’s shopworn Carmina Burana one week then giving a Broadway umph to Porgy and Bess the next. Plus being all Germanic solemn and sanctimonious in Medelssohn’s Elijah, a first rate performance with Rene Pape of a second rate work and barbarically Polovesian in Borodin’s Prince Igor. The later under Gennadi Rozdestvenskij who coupled it with a lush reading of the Tchaikovsky Pathétique.
And speaking of the chorus – Norbert Balartsch’s forces will get quite the workout this coming week with the Verdi Te Deum and the prologue to Boito’s Mefistofele in a concert under the title Angeli e Demoni.
The bright lights at the Accademia’s publicity department are capitalizing on the forthcoming movie of the Dan Brown pot boiler for the general public and the current golden couple of opera , Anna Netrebko & barihunk Erwinn Schrott*, for the more hard core classical music fans. Both the photo and the English blurb advertising the concert on the website are as cheesy as my home made lasagna. Aside from the fact that its really badly Photo Shopped, it looks to me like Antonio’s using some of that sweat he works up conducting to repel Erwinn’s Devil. I’m a bit disappointed that Erwinn is fully clothed as there are some fine pictures out there of him showing what abdominal exercises can do – I mean for the voice, of course.
We almost always tend to picture the Devil as a horned monster. In a word, repellent. But if he has the capacity to seduce us with all those temptations for which we humans promptly fall, he must be equipped with superior intelligence, to begin with, and he must also be irresistibly attractive.
Therefore, Uruguayan bass Erwinn Schrott is made to play Mephistopheles. Dazzling as a fallen angel (and the fortunate consort of equally gorgeous Anna Netrebko, the celebrated Russian soprano who recently gave him a son) Schrott will sing the title role in the Prologue to the opera Mephistopheles by Arrigo Boito, the pièce de résistance in the first concert in May conducted by Antonio Pappano.
Still the thought of the forces at Santa Cecilia plus Erwinn – even if he remains fully clothed – doing one of the most fun pieces in Italian opera has me eagerly anticipating this weekend at the Parco.
*My dear friend OC has posted some great shots of Anna, Erwinn and operadom’s favorite baby. You have to admit they make a really pretty family.
28 aprile – Luigi Maria Grignion de Montfort