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Rossini: Journey to Reims
Opera House premiere
An opera without plot or action is a contradiction in terms. But that's what Rossini's Journey to Reims is - a complex melange of love, intrigue, jealousy, gossip, witticisms, anger and other emotions, leading nowhere. This can be digestible if all the singers are excellent. In the Israeli Opera's production, some of them are.
Hen Reiss stole the show in the role of Folleville. Apart from her captivating bright, radiant, flexible, lovely soprano and brilliant, effortless coloraturas, she has also an irresistible natural charm that makes her performance a pure delight.
This is more than can be said about most of the other singers. On the whole, the male roles had the upper hand. Noah Briger, as Trombonok, displayed a sonorous baritone and an appealing sense of humor. As Lord Sidney, Josef Wagner's bass-baritone was impressive, seasoned with a discreet comic talent.
The female roles were disappointing. Mirela Gradinaru's soprano, as Madame Cortese, sounded too unsteady for pleasure. Melibea's initial dislike for Libeskof's tenor, impersonated by Javier Abreu, was more understandable than the latter's infatuation with Sarah Castle's mezzo-soprano. These strip scene involving these two lovers left something, at least, to the imagination. Stephania Bonfadelli's soprano, as Corinna, sounded more appealing off-stage than when she made her appearance.
Director Mariame Clement's decision to substitute an airplane for the hotel as prescribed in the libretto, was a forced, artificial and naive attempt at being modern and original. Even nowadays there are enough elitist spa hotels as to make such a location not seem anachronistic. An airplane, on the other hand, lacks credibility in this context and becomes irritating as the long show drags on.
The well-polished, inspired playing of the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion, conducted by Pietro Rizzo, created the appropriate light-hearted atmosphere for the work.
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