Much talent for nothing
by Susanne Krekel
FLORENCE, March 3 2022 - One always comes to the Teatro del Maggio with high expectations as to the artistic quality of the show, and on this head we were not disappointed. The opera in itself, however, manages to be at both stupid and grandiloquent: a rich young man, generous and beneficient, declares that he is by principle a bachelor, he want’s to be everyone’s friend, so he takes a bet not to marry in a certain lapse of time, promptly finds out that he is in love and - well, one can guess the rest. The music is just as banal and sentimental, with a touch of aggression in fact, as if the author wanted to insist on the patriarchal moral of the story.
Fortunately, the staging is pleasant and the cast and orchestra more than up to the task.
Rosetta Cucchi has transferred the action to the 1950s United States, a logical choice, since the petty plot defends the values of that time : love, marriage (heterosexual of course), family, all this to please God. The fact that it’s a Rabbi who is the advocate of these principles and not a catholic priest could add some reflections to the libretto, but - no such luck…
Act I and III are taking place in a classic American drugstore, with its bar, some round tables, outside we can see the typical facades with their fire ladders; the policeman doing the rounds has adapted the pose of the little macho man with a little bit of power. The place is crowded, Fritz is holding his court, we see him help a poor young couple get married, we learn how he helped feed a group of starving orphan children. It’s Teresa Iervolino in the role of Beppe, a gypsy violinist, who tells this touching story, and she is also touching, formidable with an exceptional mezzo of a warm and strong bronze timbre, and her acting is fabulous, she might really be a young man. No need to present Charles Castronovo who plays Fritz admirably and his radiant voice goes perfectly with the silvery soprano of Salome Jicia in the role of Suzel. Their ‟cherry duet” is sung enchantingly, and as their spirited and light acting is a delight. Act II takes place in Fritz’ vineyard and we wonder fleetingly how the idyllic and vaguely Tuscan surrounding landscape goes together with the New York drugstore ambiance we saw before. It’s a nice idea however, the golf cart that brings Fritz’ friends, complete with picknick and rabbi. Massimo Cavaletti is playing this character with lots of drive and a huge stage presence, although his velvety barytone sounds a bit strained sometimes in the high notes. Despite all the talent and professionalism of the cast, their acting remains shallow, and we get the feeling that they don’t quite know how to fill the hollow text with genuine emotions. Likewise, Riccardo Frizza conducting the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale and its very good soloists don’t manage to give some depth to the meaningless music.
An evening of mixed impressions this was, leaving us somewhat perplexed; the discovery of a work henceforth to avoid.