|Elvira||Leticia de Altamirano|
|Lord Aruturo Talbot||Javier Camarena|
|Sir Riccardo Forth||Armando Piña|
|Sir Giorgio Valton||Rosendo Flores|
|Enrichetta di Francia||Isabe Stüber|
|Sir Bruno Robertson||Enrique Guzmán|
|Lord Gualtiero Valton||José Luis Reynoso|
|Scene||Luis Manuel Aguilar|
|Orquesta e Coro del Teatro de Bellas Artes|
After more than 30 years of its last performance at Bellas Artes, Vincenzo Bellini's I Puritani returned to Mexico's most important opera house with five performances plaied by a talented all-Mexican cast led by soprano Leticia de Altamirano and tenor star Javier Camarena, making both their role debuts as Elvira and Arturo. Young baritone Armando Piña sang Riccardo, bass Rosendo Flores was Giorgio and Isabel Stüber portrayed the short but very important role of Enrichetta. Srba Dinic led the Orquesta y Coro del Teatro de Bellas Artes and Ragnar Conde was in charge of the staging.
Belcanto operas like I Puritani are, most important of all, about beautiful singing and that is exactly what the Mexican audience had on May 29th, the last of five performances that were planned of this Bellini masterpiece. Leticia de Altamirano and Javier Camarena gave a performance that the audience will remember for many years. The roles of Elvira and Arturo are fiendishly difficult vocally speaking and they both sang them with pure belcanto style and passion.
All eyes were on Camarena's role debut as Arturo and he certainly didn't disappoint at all; he exceeded all expectations. His "A te o cara" was beautifully phrased, with blazing high notes and full of elegance. It was not a show-off moment for Arturo, it was a declaration of love in its most sublime way. Camarena's voice is big and you can hear him clearly through the orchestra. One of the highlights of this performance was Camarena's aria "Son salvo, alfin son salvo... Corre a valle, corre a monte", where he sang with panache and skin deep expressiveness. His duet "Finì, me lassa" with De Altamirano was gorgeous and it was received by the audience with a thunderous ovation that lasted quite a lot. Their voices blended beautifully which gave this scene a real touch of belcanto perfection. In "Credeasi misera", Camarena's high Ds were like sunbeams: they come out and shine effortlessly. It was a tour-de-fource performance indeed!
Leticia de Altamirano was a revelation as Elvira, a role that suits her voice like a glove. It is the longest role in this opera and she faced the challenge with excellent results. Her voice, by itself is beautiful, and add to that her musicality and her elegant way of singing and you have a wonderful example of what a belcanto singer should be. She also acted the role with total command of the stage. Her "Son Vergin vezzosa" was playful, with secure high notes and portaying Elvira's innocent game with the veil without making it a diva-moment. De Altamirano's voice rang effortlessly through the orchestra during the finale of Act I "Vieni al tempio". As with Camarena's high notes, hers are secure, with squillo and they have a shimmering tone. In Act II, her "Rendetemi la speme... Qui la voce" was sung with delicate phrasing, rich tone, full of melancholy and showing Elvira's diverse states of mind during this pivotal scene of the opera. Her acting during this aria was marvelous, without exagerating Elvira's madness. She gave her all the vocal colors needed to express her sadness, her sudden joy and then her almost evocative character. A true triumph for this young Mexican soprano.
Armando Piña sang Riccardo his aria "Ah, per sempre io ti perdei" with power, nice phrasing and a robust tone; he just needs to give more nuances to his singing to portray in a more vivid way the different feelings of the character. Rosendo Flores was a noble Giorgio. His voice was not at his best during the duet with De Altamirano in Act I but got better in Act II to sing a heartfelt "Suoni la tromba" with Piña. Isabel Stüber was a fabulous Enrichetta singing with lovely tone. She also has a very regal stage presence and knows how to move on stage. Bass José Luis Reynoso was a solid Gualtiero Valton and tenor Enrique Guzmán sang with sweet tone the short role of Bruno.
Maestro Srba Dinic led brilliantly the Orquesta y Coro del Teatro de Bellas Artes with vibrant tempi, when needed, and a beauty of sound that came from an orchestra that was perfectly molded to play the gorgeous Bellinian melodies with clarity of tone. Kudos to the brass section, specially the horns and the trumpets, who sounded better than never in the prelude and in the duet "Suoni la tromba". There was a clarity of tone in that brought out even more the beauty of this opera. The chorus sang with its usual rich sound and intensity.
The only weakness in this performance was the poorly conceived staging of Ragnar Conde. There was no concept at all, just some scenes were mildly understandable and some key moments of the opera, like Arturo's entrance, were overcrowded with chorus members who didn't know exactly what to do and stood looking at each other without any action. Elvira was forced to put on her wedding dress on stage, mounted in a bit rock that was in the right side of the stage during the duettino of Arturo and Enrichetta, taking away the beauty of the moment where she suddenly enters from backstage in "Vergin vezzosa". The scenery was the same during the three acts and it "symbolized" a ruined castle with some gothic archs and, as I said, a big rock in the right side. A pity given the marvelous cast and the wonderful performance of the orchestra and chorus. The costumes were a mixture between XVII and XVIII century and some of the wigs were not very flattering for the male singers.
All in all, thanks to the singers, the chorus and the orchestra, this I Puritani will be remembered in Mexican operatic history as one of its best belcanto performances in years.
The review is about the performance of 2016, May 29
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