(photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
On the whole, the Israeli Opera achieved an effective season’s end with Verdi’s
Director David Pountney and set designer Stefanos Lazaridis
seemed obsessed with the need to demonstrate originality at all cost, whether it
made sense or not. Letting Gilda act in (and out of) a glass cage was fairly
innovative, though also quite obvious.
Why Gilda should have sung her
aria on the roof of her glass cage, however, remained a mystery. The secondary
use of her cage as Maddalena’s trap in Act Three seemed to serve no other
purpose than making good (?) use of a prop that was superfluous in the first
In the title role, Carlos Almaguer stole the show. His
dark-timbred, powerful, magnificently expressive baritone, superb acting and
persuasive identification with the role were profoundly moving. His anguish and
rage in “Cortigliani” and vow of vengeance in his duet with Gilda were
overpowering. His desperate outcry “La Maledizione” (the curse), the opera’s
shattering climax, however, was deplorably overshadowed and rendered almost
inaudible by the ungentlemanlike, boisterous orchestra.
As Gilda, Hila
Baggio, blessed with an uncommonly beautiful, pure soprano, displayed
excellently polished coloraturas.
Her voice sounded too assertive and
sharp in the higher registers, though, for this gentle and lovable character.
Determined to display her voice clearly and forcefully, she apparently does not
(yet) know that profound emotions are conveyed most intensely and enchantingly
by a soft, caressing voice. This luckily emerged, finally, in her death scene,
which was genuinely moving, but might have been expressed earlier, in her love
In the role of the Duke, Jean-Francois Borras’ admittedly radiant
tenor was mechanical and dry in his first aria.
bass-baritone sounded appropriately low as Sparafucile, but there was not much
of this character’s menace and evil.
The Israeli Opera Chorus was a
fullfledged hero of this performance. In the unisono as well as harmonic parts
it contributed exciting drama and emotion.
So did the Symphony Orchestra
Rishon Lezion, conducted by Daniele Callegari.