Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Financial Times on Trittico at Castleton Festival

Il Trittico, Castleton Festival, US
By George Loomis
Published: July 6 2010
Lorin Maazel began his musical career as a child prodigy and as he enters his ninth decade retains a capacity for music-making that can only be called prodigious. For several years, his estate in Virginia has been a gathering point for young musicians under Maazel’s tutelage, activities that last year blossomed into the Castleton Festival. This year it returns with an enlarged schedule (four crowded July weekends) and an enlarged principal venue.

The opening attraction, a new production of Puccini’s Il Trittico by resident stage director William Kerley, Maazel conducting, shows that it is growing artistically as well, with a slew of talented young singers deployed in Puccini’s triptych of one-act operas. The locales – a river boat for the lurid Il Tabarro, a convent for the religiosity of Suor Angelica, a Florentine townhouse for the romp Gianni Schicchi – demand more than a unit set. Nicholas Vaughan’s design achieves unity by fashioning a detailed boat and a cloistered square out of beige wood.

Yet Gianni Schicchi is the most imaginative of the three. In this tale of deception, the late Buoso Donati’s home has leather-and-chrome furniture and modern art, including a glass-encased stuffed mule – an objet d’art Donati’s’s heirs squabble over in lieu of the live animal Puccini left unseen. Corey Crider’s Gianni Schicchi is convincing, with Matthew Plenk bringing an appealingly light tenor to Rinuccio’s salute to Florence. Joyce El-Khoury showed promise as Schicchi’s daughter, so one was happy to encounter her again, replacing an ill colleague in the title role of Suor Angelica (performed last, in a departure from normal practice). You have to wince at Puccini’s clichéd depiction of convent life, but the plight of Angelica, cast off by her aristocratic family, is hard to resist. El-Khoury’s textured soprano serves the music beautifully, and Maria Isabel Vera is formidable as her cold-hearted aunt, the Principessa.

Il Tabarro yields another excellent soprano, Jessica Klein, in lustrous, resonant voice as Giorgetta. Noah Stewart sings Luigi with such tenorial power that it is almost implausible when Michele (Nicholas Pallesen), Giorgetta’s cuckolded husband, strangles him. Maazel drew an assured performance from his players that nicely projected the music’s colourful details.

Financial Times on Trittico Castleton Festival


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