Thursday, 20 April 2017

Rossini's La Gazza Ladra from La Scala, Milan

Rossini: La Gazza Ladra - Teatro Alla Scala, Milan (Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano)
Rossini: La Gazza Ladra - Teatro Alla Scala, Milan (Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano)
Rossini La Gazza Ladra; Rosa Feola, Edgardo Rocha, Alex Esposito and Paolo Bordogna, dir: Gabriele Salvatores, cond: Riccardo Chailly; Live broadcast from Teatro Alla Scala, seen at Barbican Cinema 2
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on Apr 18 2017
Star rating: 3.0

Rossini's rarely performed opera semi-seria fails to take wing

The first performance of the Thieving Magpie took place at La Scala almost exactly 200 years ago. It was received as “one of the most glittering, most single minded triumphs”. Here “the cast brings together the cream of a new generation of Rossinian bel canto” singers under the baton of Riccardo Chailly for a live broadcast direct from La Scala with Rosa Feola, Edgardo Rocha, Alex Esposito and Paolo Bordogna, directed by Gabriele Salvatores.

Rossini: La Gazza Ladra - Teatro Alla Scala, Milan (Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano)
Rossini: La Gazza Ladra - Teatro Alla Scala, Milan
(Photo Marco Brescia & Rudy Amisano)
The ubiquitous overture aside, I have wondered why we don’t hear La Gazza Ladra very often. I suspect that it’s not so easy to sustain a coherent balance between the comic and what is, after all, an ugly injustice. An opera semiseria, this hybrid of love, friendship and the abuse of power tells the story of Ninetta, a servant girl condemned to death for the theft of a silver spoon. The accidental and timely discovery of the titular thieving magpie saves her from an untimely demise.

Conventionally staged, the director’s principal idea is to imagine the magpie as the director of the action, swinging around the stage and managing the unfolding drama – so far so inoffensive but apart from a few visual tropes that’s where the inspiration ran out. The paucity of ideas rendered the drama curiously banal, something the musical direction struggled to compensate for.

It sounds mean-spirited to say it, given the technical demands of Rossini, but the singing was workman-like rather than sparkling. Rosa Feola (Ninetta) has a lustrous voice but displayed precious little colour until ‘Deh, tu reggi in tal momento’ when she shook me from my torpor. Edgardo Rocha (Giannetto) again technically proficient but unable to elicit more than polite applause for 'Vieni fra queste braccia' which made me sad for him. Gottardo (Michele Pertusi) was suitably unctuous as the mayor. They were all uniformly solid, just not terribly interesting – that said, Matteo Mezzaro in the tiny role of the gaoler grabbed my attention with his ringing tenor and one of the few moments that made me smile.

It’s a great pity there wasn’t more to engage me as I love Rossini.
Reviewed by Anthony Evans

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