Edita Gruberova (Alaide)
Sonia Ganassi (Isoletta)
José Bros (Arturo)
Paolo Gavanelli (Valdeburgo)
Randall Bills (Osburgo)
Sung Heon Ha (Prior)
Leonard Bernad (Montolino)
Münchener Opernorchester & Philharmonia Chor Wien
Pietro Rizzo (conductor)
So what is there to expect of an opera, which requires really first class singers to show itself in the best possible light and about a 67-year-old Primadonna who wants to prove to herself and to her public that she can still do it? Reading in advance the names of the rest of the cast I was wondering whether she would be able to carry/sustain the evening more or less on her own. The cast is the same as on the night of her debut as Alaide last year in July at the Munich Gasteig.Yes, Gruberova still can do it and she was better than expected (or feared). And yes – she still has her mannerisms, her little vices and exaggerations as well as her stiff notes and her weak lower register. And, of course, she knew exactly where she had to show her true colours and where she could save a little. As always with her, there were notes or expressions, which made you shake your head in anger and then there were passages which left you with mouth wide open and which you were drinking in, as you knew you wouldn´t be hearing phrases and notes like these again so soon. She audibly was in good voice, which still is admirably firm without a hint of a wobble, its sound is remarkably „healthy“. She is a little short of breath and power towards the end of the top notes, but really: who else sings such notes today with such intensity and such a well-focussed cutting edge? Personally, I felt that Alaide suited her better than Elisabetta in Devereux and certainly Norma. It is among the best things I heard from her in the last 10 years and she certainly has got guts and does not avoid risky top notes. She was only one singing without the score in front of her. – A professional from head to toe, one could hear that she was the only one on stage who had a „plan“ about her role, a structure and a shaping of her vocal part while the others were struggling (more or less so) with the vocal demands oft he score. While the voice itself is not exactly a „voce modesta“, but no vocal miracle either, as a singer she is still towering head and shoulders after 45 years of career (which she celebrated in this performance) above almost all colleagues today – certainly above her co-singers in this „Straniera“. She certainly sounds younger and in better vocal health than Sonia Ganassi in her late Fourties:
Sonia Ganassi is adequate, but I could not think of any significant virtue to be singled out. The middle range is the better part of it, but while she pushes the low notes her top sounds harsh and forced. The sound is rather thick and not well focussed, a lyric voice really, but Ganassi audibly tries to artificially create a bigger and darker sound than that of her natural voice.
Apart from Gruberova I found José Bros the most satisfying of the rest of the cast. His passionate singing mostly making up for the lack of volume and incisiveness. He mostly sings forte, pushing too much in the middle range thus the top sounds forced and narrow. When he tries to sing mezza voce the voice does not carry and respond like it should.
Gavanelli had almost raving reviews in most cases. Newspapers were writing about a „cultivated and noble sound“… Nothing could be further from the actual truth. He is loud and making big, mostly ugly, sounds, but at least he does try so differentiate a little and add some nuances. The voice sounds almost torn in two: the lower middle range and low notes sound better, but from the passaggio area upwards he has major intonation problems, the top notes he just blurts out with full power.
Randall Bills (Osburgo), Sung Heon Ha (Prior) and Leonard Bernad (Montolino) were ok, but nothing more.
Standing ovations for Gruberova who is said to have stated in an interview with a wink that she would mind any applause lasting less than 20 minutes. Well – she missed it by only 60 seconds…