O Rendetemi La Speme
February 16, 2003
Last night's performance of Bellini's I Puritani at the Bavarian State Opera was quite good. Friedrich Haider conducted competently, though the orchestra was, on occasion, rather louder than some of the singers. Also, sometimes the timing appeared off between singer and orchestra. But the blame more likely lies with the singers than the conductor.
Jonathan Miller's staging was pretty good, simple and following the music. The choreography was natural and worked well on non-dancer bodies. Isabella Bywater's sets were likewise plain, stoney tiles as a floor and lighter grey walls that could be moved up and down to suggest a square or a hall or courtyard. It was completely silent, which was excellent. The only thing amiss was a pulpit in the third scene of Act I, put stage left, near a down stage door. It seemed to have no purpose except to suggest the action was inside, not outside, and only once did Riccardo briefly climb its steps. Clare Mitchell's costumes were lovely, very much like Van Dyck paintings come to life. The colors were overwhelmingly blue, purple, and black offset by lace. The hairstyles were also done well.
The only real disappointment as far as the singing was perhaps Liliana Mattei as Enrichetta, widow of Charles I. Her dark soprano was not distinct and rather quiet. Bass Alastair Miles was fairly good as Giorgio, though his lower range did not project so well. Baritone Albert Schagidullin played scorned lover Riccardo well, though he projected even less well than Miles.
José Bros sang the tenor part of Arturo Talbot with passion, his high range is clear and very pretty, but his low range is gritty.
Edita Gruberova was a delight to hear as Elvira. Though her timing and intonation are perhaps imperfect, her flexible voice is lucid and bright.
All together a pleasant evening. Bellini's music is all melody and lyricism, and the opera is brief, a bare 2.5 hours. The 30 minute intermission after Act I seemed unnecessary. The Münchners do clap excessively I believe. They like to make noise, they stamp and scream, even after whispering fiendishly during recitative or orchestral bits. One listens with ears not mouth, and I simply don't understand what they have to say to each other that's so pressing.