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La Favorite - Teatro Real Madrid


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Teatro Real Madrid (ESP), Premiere April 13, 2003

La Favorite

Text: Birgit Popp, Photos: Javier de Real


Carlso Álvarez und Sonia Ganassi
Dolora Sajick und Manuel Lanza

With Donizetti's 1840 at the Paris Opéra first performed La Favorite the opera had its premiere at Madrid's Teatro Real on April 13, which had inaugurated - though in the altered Italian version - this opera house in 1850. Till the beginning of the 20th century Donizetti's masterpiece belonged to one of the most performed operas in the world and had a triumphal success. This does not surprise, since it owns a grandiose richness in melodies, whose basic tendency is coined by dramatic situations. Donizetti and his librettists around Eugène Scribe succeeded to create a rousing mixture of monks chorals, lyrical arias and duets and under the skin going cursing scenes. 

Regarding the musical style La Favorite is a connecting link between former and upcoming opera works and leads especially to Verdi. For example the lovely choir of the ladies in waiting in the second scene of the first act can be found later in similar form in the choir of the ladies in waiting in the second act of Verdi's Don Carlos. But, not only Verdi reminds about Donizetti, also in Donizetti's opera can be found bond issues, so to Rossini or Meyerbeer, but as well to Donizetti himself. As example might be taken the prelude to the second act of La Favorite, which reminds strongly at the three years before first performed prelude of the last act of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, when the protagonist has to go to the execution of his death sentence.

Fortunately, today the performance of the French version has re-established, whose contents is not only better but which is also musically more subtle. Donizetti has taken great care to let slip in his music the elegance of the French language and diction. But, not just Donizetti's melodies enchant still today, also the contents of La Favorite, which presented explosive issues for Donizetti's time and therefore could be performed in an uncensored version only at the more liberal Paris, still owns actuality: A priest must leave the church because he fell in love with a woman. The mistress, who had believed the man that he would leave his wife and marry her. At the end she is always fed with hopes, since the man plays with the thought of divorce, but never does the step. The stubborn reaction of the king, who cannot be anymore sure of the love of his mistress, but nevertheless does not want to bow to the decree of the church. Fernand's moment of madness, which can be still understood today, in a time, in which the honor does not play an as important role anymore as at the time of Alphonse XI. in the 14th century or at Donizetti's time in the 19th century. Hurt feelings still lead to the point that  reasonable arguments are not listen to.

Raúl Giménez
José Bros
Stefano Palatchi

The in France born and for a long time in this country working Spanish stage director Ariel García Valdés has set in his in its basic tendency traditional production with a quite plain stage design besides on splendid, historicizing costumes first of all on the quality and the power of the singers and the music. Refined is his idea to use an in his basic form rectangular rock as the major element of the stage design. Depending on the turn and on which side is shown to the audience the rock represents the entrance of the monastery, the pleasure grounds or the King's Palace. The effect of the rock is not only determined by which side can be seen, but also by the distance to the front edge of the stage.

The ensemble, which is this time not strictly divided into two different casts - particularly since it has anyhow just three double casted parts - and will mix especially in the second half of the performance series, offers some of the leading singers of the Spanish-speaking world. In the role of King Alphonse XI. alternate the Spanish baritones Manuel Lanza, who has sung with his well-tempered, melodic, especially in the lyric parts its strengths presenting voice the premiere at Madrid as well as of the same production at Barcelona in last year, and Carlos Álvarez. The latter, whom suits the part with his nearness to Verdi and its wide vocal extent and its changes between dramatic and lyric passage especially well, is able to repeat at Madrid his enormous success from the premiere of the same opera at Vienna of February 2003. 

As Fernand the Argentine tenor Raúl Giménez and the Spanish tenor José Bros take turns. Giménez, who was still handicapped at the first night of the consequences of a bronchitis, shined especially by his sensitive piani and the steady guidance of his voice through all registers. José Bros excels by his crystal-clear, beautiful tenor. The US-American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick can with her impressive voice material, which is in all heights and the deepest depths of the same outstanding quality and fascinating vocal sound, once more confirm her position as the world's leading mezzo in the lyric-dramatic repertory. Not far back behind her stands the Italian singer Sonia Ganassi, whose focus lies more than Dolora's, who has made her reputation first of all as a Verdi representative, in the belcanto-area. With the mighty and sonorous voice embodies the Spanish bass Stefano Palatchi impressively the Abbot Balthazar. 

Two young Spanish singers give with Susana Cordón, who is equipped with a very beautiful and in the heights certain soprano, as Inès and the tenor Antonio Gandía as Don Gaspar two very pleasing appearances with their vocal and acting presence. An excellent sound produces the by Martin Merry rehearsed choir of the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra, who had its highlights in the second scene of the first act as the ladies choir in the pleasure grounds, the monks choirs in the first scene of the first act and in the fourth act, in the by its cheerfulness the dramatic situation contrasting wedding choir and in the choir of the pride courtiers in the third act. The musically precise and with a beautiful sound realized rehearsing and the musical direction of the Madrid Symphonic Orchestra lies in the hands of the Italian conductor and former student of the Verdi Conservatory of Milan, Roberto Rizzi Brignoli, who cannot deny in his aspiration for perfection that he has been working for several years together with Ricardo Muti at La Scala.

Birgit Popp

Impressions of the rehearsals Part 1 - Part 2

mpressions & contents Part 1 - Part 2- Part 3 - Part 4

Cast - Further performances

Transmission in Spanish National Radio
Classic Radio  of the performance of April 26 at 8 p.m.

 Further information: www.teatro-real.com




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