(Photo: Stradella Y-Project)
Located about a two-minute walk from Rome’s Piazza Navona is Palazzo Altemps, a building originally designed by Melozzo da ForlÃ¬ for Girolamo Riario, lord of Imola in the 15th century. Over the years it has been enlarged and developed into what is now a magnificent Renaissance residence.
The Riario family’s tenure on the building was relatively short, and the property changed hands on several occasions, with cardinals and foreign ambassadors among its former owners.
Today it is one of the sites of the National Roman Museum, housing a spectacular collection of sculptures from the ancient world. Although bypassed by many tourists, it is truly a remarkable collection and a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in sculpture or antiquity. One piece that caught the eye on a recent visit was the Juno Ludovisi, a giant marble head of the goddess Juno from the first century CE. The novelist Henry James included it in his 1873 prints of the Villa Ludovisi where she was housed at the time, writing “where the colossal mask of the famous Juno gazes with blank eyes”.
Palazzo Altemps also houses a private 17th century chapel and a small theater built in the 16th century, where the young Mozart once performed. Although the theater has fallen into disuse, it was restored to its original design in the 1980s and has just hosted two performances of Alessandro Stradella’s final opera “Moro per Amore” from 1681.
Opera on the surface is the usual story of jealousy, love and rejection, disguises and misunderstandings in which it all ends happily. However, the libretto, written by the Francophile Flavio Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, contains within it a political and social portrait of the end of the 17e century Rome, in the midst of its intendant social tensions, was inscribed in the context of the power games between France, Spain and the Church.
The director Fabiano Pietrosanti, supported by the scenographer and costume designer Nicole Figini, has brought the decor up to date. The set was simple, consisting of a lounge chair and two chairs on a black and white background.
However, it served its purpose well and, with the colorful costumes, ensured that the staging was functional and pleasing to the eye. Pietrosanti also managed to clearly define and bring the characters to life through the use of gestures, facial expressions and his clever handling of interactions.
The performances were given by the Stradella Young Project, an organization founded in 2011 to promote the music of Baroque composers from the Lazio region of Italy, in particular the music of Stradella by employing young singers and instrumentalists. While the cast is certainly young, a quick glance at their biographies showed that they all had performing experience, albeit to varying degrees with some of them already having a substantial performance repertoire. on their CV.
The most demanding role is that of Eurinda, the Queen of Sicily, who not only has many tunes to sing, but is also responsible for carrying much of the drama. Poor performance in the role would kill production. The role fell to soprano Joanna Radziszewska who was more than up to the task, producing a most impressive performance, in which she not only successfully captured the character’s passions, but also injected a bit of humor in the role, as she arrives on stage exhausted. after a hard day of shopping.
She has a strong, bright and versatile voice with a well-grounded technique, which she has used intelligently to bring depth and nuance to her performance, and has successfully engaged in what is a diverse range of arias. . There was still a lot of movement in the voice, as she emphasized the vocal line with emotional accents and dynamic inflections, and was comfortable spinning long, smooth lines, accentuating colorings, or enveloping the voice of emotion.
The aria “Sepellitevi nel core ciechi affetti che nascete” was well delivered and displayed its careful phrasing, despite the occasional emission of squalls, while “Con lo strale che fatale” allowed it to show its coloring and expressiveness. musical. However, the aria that really caught the eye was “Fury terribili” in which she expressed her anxieties and frustrations, and showed her ability to identify with the character, in what was a very moving take on. His recitatives were also delivered with the same success.
Cypress King Floridoro, who for most of the opera is disguised as a servant Feraspe, was played by countertenor Danilo Pastore. After reviewing Pastore’s past performances a few times, this was the opportunity to see how he develops. Clearly, he is a singer happy to sing the baroque repertoire, in which he embraces the ideals of elegance and refinement when approaching a character, both in his singing and in his acting. There are rarely histrionics on display, emotions tend to be idealized, and this is certainly an approach that can work.
However, this didn’t quite match Pietrosanti’s approach, which encouraged a more emotional presentation, so Pastore tended to appear distant and cold, not fully emotionally engaged. There is also a reluctance for him to take risks, everything tends to be correct and precise, maybe too much. Nonetheless, he presented his tunes neatly, albeit a little weak, but never stepping outside of his comfort zone.
His tune âla fortuna Ã© non troppo avaraâ showed his voice at its best, with a pleasant lyrical presentation, in which he let the darker colors of his baritone seep into the vivid tones of his countertenor. It was a performance that, in another production, could have been more successful.
Soprano Ines Vinkelau was cast as Lucinda, the Court’s first lady, whose impulsive behavior is responsible for causing big problems. She produced a performance that had a lot to admire, in which she displayed both musical and textual sensitivity.
The recitatives were delivered with passion and energy, although at times overly stressed. The tunes were nicely rendered, although there was a noticeable hardening of the voice as it pushed into the top of its upper register. The tune “T’intendo, si t’intendo” was the star, in which his phrasing, vocal control and emotional sensitivity impressed. “Fugga il pianto, o miei pensieri” also received an affective reading, in which she successfully and imaginatively embellished the vocal line.
Mezzo-soprano Eleonora Filipponi was wonderful as nurse Lindora. She has a very distinctive voice with an exceptionally wide color gamut that she has put to good use to produce a well-defined presentation full of energy and detail. The tunes were delivered with a keen eye for their dramatic impact and were used successfully to develop her character. They were also designed to bring out nuances in text through the use of well-placed accents and abrupt tonal color changes, which produced an interesting chiaroscuro effect.
In addition, she has a very strong stage presence which she has used successfully to produce a strong and sympathetic portrayal of her character. Her recitatives were lively and expressive, and her interactions with the other characters were bold and spirited.
Tenor Carlos Arturo Gomez Palacio, who was arguably the most inexperienced in the cast, was parted ways as Filandro, the Naples ambassador. He produced an interesting performance, in which his inexperience, although clearly evident, was counterbalanced by the pleasant timbre of his voice and his ability to produce smooth lyrical lines. He was, however, too conservative in his approach and needs to attack his roles with a little more energy and passion to fully convince.
Soprano Alicja Ciesielczuk produced an ambitious and enthusiastic, albeit inconsistent, performance as Floridoro’s servant, Fiorino. Her voice displayed agility and strength, but she often compromised vocal beauty by focusing on vocal characterization and emotional affects, to the point where she sometimes lost the right balance.
Rodrigo, the Queen’s loyal adviser was played by bass Masashi Tomosugi. Although not a big role, he made a very strong impression. His voice has a dark and warm texture with a clear sound, which he projects with power and with a confident air. The recitatives were expressive, all the attention paid to their meaning, and his tune displayed both beauty and technical skill. Overall, this is a performance of considerable maturity.
A talented young orchestra
The theater is only small and its stage is not very high above the auditorium floor, and there is no specific space for the orchestra, which compromises the balance between singers and orchestra. Placing the orchestra directly in front of the stage was not really an option, so it was split into two parts and seated in front, but to the left and right of the stage with music director Andrea De Carlo in the center. Visually it worked. Musically, it worked for the orchestra, which consisted of ten musicians. However, the sound of the singers had to pass through the sound of the orchestra, and this meant that some singers struggled to be heard with sufficient clarity.
De Carlo got an excellent performance from the young orchestra, producing an integrated, sharp but sensitive sound that managed to bring Sradella’s melodies to life. Many aria are rhythmically strong, and the orchestra showed real flair in the way it attacked them, as it was bursting with energy. He also succeeded in creating calmer tunes that were rendered with a greater degree of reflection. Despite the balance problems De Carlo supported the singers
All in all, it was an interesting and successful presentation of the Stradella Young Project, not least because it is not often the occasion to attend a performance of one of Stradella’s operas, and the fact that it was presented so well by such a young cast was a real bonus.