Hariclea Darclee - efigie

UNDER THE HIGH PATRONAGE OF UNESCO
AND OF
THE PRESIDENT OF ROMANIA

Hariclea Darclee

INTERNATIONAL VOICE COMPETITION

 

Letter from Bucharest

Don Giovanni at Braila

I have always thought that the only way to stop the decay of the opera performance would consist in the availability of a talented conductor, who respects and loves the score and the libretto, of an intelligent stage director, preferably a prestigious opera singer who respects and loves the score and the libretto; and, last but not least, the casting of singers with beautiful voices, perfectly trained from the technical point of view, doubled by a remarkable musicality, mastering the style, who respect and love the score and the libretto. The common denominator remains, therefore, the respect and love for the score and the libretto. The productions in which Verdi is performed as Puccini, Mozart as Verdi or Puccini as Wagner can not continue. The productions which only pursue to shock the audience through so called “modern” elements which are in fact only different forms of kitsch have become unbearable. It is not possible to listen to Zerlina and Don Giovanni singing their sublime duo in a funeral carriage, it is revolting to watch Oedipe elucidate the Sphinx enigma in a brothel, it is outraging to turn Mefisto into a Pope, a cardinal or a bishop. Actually, these mere aberrations are not related to “modernism” but only to artistic impotence.

The sine qua non condition of art in general and of the opera production in particular is the creation of a catharsis, an event which has no longer happened in our lyrical life for quite a long time. The public applauds an acute, a shrill kept beyond the limits of good taste or eventually a voice with a beautiful timbre. But when the curtain falls down, the audience leaves the theatre as poor from the spiritual point of view as they had come, deprived of that state of elation, of happiness, of release from the chains of mean passions, of spiritual grace which, actually, is the purpose of art.

Or, on Saturday, September 4, in Braila, during the artistic events occasioned by the Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition, I experienced the feeling of reliving one of those lofty evenings of the glorious past of the Romanian lyrical theatre and we all shared that state of catharsis, which we no longer dared hope for.

We attended a concert-show with the first act of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, created through the love, talent, skill, passion and artistic force of Dame Mariana Nicolesco, this huge reservoir of creative energy put in the service of art and of art lovers.

I said that we attended a concert-show: the performers clad in a sketch of attire, sketched a debut of acting performance. But, at what level! At what level of professionalism, of profound insight of the character, of perfect union between the gesture, the movement and the physical expression or the musical expression, and the human essence surprised by Da Ponte’s talent and Mozart’s overwhelming genius. Each element of the acting performance was loaded with significance, with the quest of the human truth, with suggestions and symbols, everything in perfect harmony, everything in perfect fluency, everything imbued with the observance of the unique personality of each character. Obviously, the score of this “opera of all operas” represents an inexhaustible source of creative fantasy, offering to the researcher a huge range of potential, authentic interpretations. Everything is to be able to search, without sliding beyond the score and the libretto looking for funeral carriages, brothels and other aberrations. The truth is to be found in the score and Mariana Nicolesco has found in Mozart’s work the entire humour, the whole human compassion, all the poetry and tragical character of the human condition which she rendered simply and directly, because - as Boileau would say - what is clearly conceived is clearly rendered. But Dame Mariana Nicolesco has done even more than that, she found alternative versions. When, at the end of the show, the ovations of the audience were requesting an “encore”, the entire finale of the first act was resumed: it was entirely different from the first performance with different colours, with a different significance, with a different meaning.

The production was created with the contribution of the Chamber Orchestra of the Romanian Radio, under the experienced baton of Maestro Marco Balderi, a conductor who in spite of asserting his own views, does not stifle the singers, who was overt and receptive to Dame Mariana Nicolesco’s musical conception, characterized by rigour, poetry and the blending, like in Paganini’s violin, of the smile with the tears.

The singers have proved to have the artistic dimension which we all expected from the laureates of the former and current editions of the Darclée Competition singing and performing their parts, not as young people at their debut but as they really are: genuine, accomplished artists. Don Giovanni was the winner of the Great Prize of this edition, baritone George Petean. Pathetically young, aged only 23, the artist is endowed with a particularly beautiful voice, he benefits from an impeccable technique, performing skills and, what is essential for the character, from an exceptional dramatic vein, to which he was able to confer the demoniac, damned character, so adequate to Don Giovanni. Leporello: the Italian bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, a splendid voice, a commanding physical appearance, an admirable technique, musicality and charm. His only shortcoming was the fact that he was not Romanian, but Italian. However, let us hope that he would return ever more often to the country where he obtained his consecration. Donna Anna: Doina Dimitriu - soprano with a huge voice, with an admirable timbre, well known to the opera fans thanks to her roles as the Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute or Marguerite in Faust. She sang with passion and dedication. Because of Serban Bacila’s vocal indisposition, the role of Don Ottavio was performed by the Polish tenor, Piotr Rafalko, a laureate of the current edition of this competition. Like his colleagues, he displayed the same musical intelligence in the service of a high quality voice, well conducted from the technical point of view. Zerlina: lovely Oana Andra, the young mezzosoprano with a voice like a silk velvet, with an excellent vocal ability and performing resources, with a virtuosity perfectly blending with her artistic sensitiveness, beautiful and charming. Masetto: Octavian Vlaicu, a remarkable voice and a remarkable acting performance. Together with Oana Andra, he was convincing, observing the nuances and the style. In his turn, Ioan Ardelean performed the Commendatore’s part.

Last but not least, Donna Elvira was the creator of this production, Dame Mariana Nicolesco. The entire show represented an anatomy of the human passions. Each performer illustrated a certain facet of the passion. But Dame Mariana Nicolesco’s performance concentrated in a unique artistic act the entire spectrum of passion: from pure love to sensual instinct, from compassion to fury, from abnegation to jealousy, from poetry to distressing realism, from truth to dissimulation, from vehemence to clemency. At the end of the show, I heard the great actor, Maestro Radu Beligan saying: “Back to Bucharest I shall order some new visit cards writing: Radu Beligan who saw and heard Mariana Nicolesco in Donna Elvira”. Obviously, it was a great artistic privilege.

Expressing my regrets for having missed the production of Idomeneo, I cannot conclude without mentioning what should represent the topic of a comprehensive article: the splendid results of the Contest and Gala Concert of the Laureates. The Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition was splendid. The concert performance with Mozart’s Don Giovanni was splendid. And this is what a great artist, a great creative force, a great Romanian conscience can achieve.

Sorin Bottez