The Israel Opera
Puccini: Il Trittico
Opera House, Tel Aviv
The three short operas that comprise Puccini's "Il Trittico," do not necessarily have to be presented together, as they lack any common denominator. But presenting all three in a row is achievable, provided there is a director capable of solving the considerable demands of such an intricate project.
Director Giancarlo del Monaco's penchant for overdone theatricality and superficial stage effects, however, did grave injustice to the refined atmosphere of "Suor (not "sour" as written in the program notes) Angelica." It also prevented the concentration of the audience's attention on the essentials in "Il Tabarro" with its confusing light manipulations.
Employing local talents for the lead roles is a commendable practice, no doubt. Their voices were excellent, but their singing and acting style was blunt and unprofessional, particularly that of the female characters - possibly due to the way they were manipulated by director del Monaco.
"Gianni Schicchi" at the end, came as a consolation prize. As the set's comic relief it was fairly amusing, though Puccini's finely pointed, sardonic social satire was substituted by crude farcicality and slapstick. This performance's redeeming feature was its most enjoyable female role, Anastasia Klevan as Lauretta. Not only did she display a lovely soprano, but she also knew how to use her vocal chords to best advantage by producing subtle nuances of dynamics and lyrical expression without any trace of strain. This is more than can be said about most of the other female singers. Eduardo Chama's sonorous bass-baritone served him well to emerge as a veritable comic talent in the title role.
"Suor Angelica," Puccini's most sensitive and humanly tragic opera, was the evening's disappointment. Soprano Ira Bertman's Angelica seemed to have been modelled after Tosca and her extroversion. This amounted to a vulgarization of this frail, delicate and introverted character. For Bertman, there seemed to be no other means of conveying grief and despair than shouting at the top of her voice and rolling on the floor. Understatement coupled with intensity of expression could have expressed much more profoundly moving emotions. Svetlana Sandler's harsh mezzo-soprano radiated antipathy, just as required by the Princesse's role.
In "Il Tabarro," the male roles had the upper hand. Vladimir Braun's forcefully resounding bass-baritone created a human, tortured, jealousy-obsessed Michele. Tenor Gaby Sadeh was a credibly passionate lover. Larissa Tetuev's radiant soprano maintained one incessant high-strung level of expression, with hardly any hint of lyricality - rather unlike the character of Giorgetta.
The Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion, conducted by Asher Fisch, effectively contributed the musical dramatic and atmospheric effects.