Date: July 16, 2012
Conductor: Pietro Rizzo
Production: none; concert performance
Location: Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich.
At this point in her career, Edita Gruberova needed to prove nothing. Yet, at the age of 65, she made her role debut as Alaide in Bellini’s rarely performed La straniera. Gruberova still showed flashes of the brilliance that made her the queen of dramatic coloratura for a good part of last century. Her voice was still acrobatic, her tone was still crystal clear, and her timbre was imbued with the kind of melancholic sadness that made the listener sympathetic to such tenderly Bellini heroine as Alaide. Her diminished vocal resources were audibly evident but well managed. As the evening wore on, her voice warmed up enough to allow her to be more dynamically liberal and therefore, more dramatically liberated. Yet, Gruberova misfired miraculously at the beginning, especially in the Scene VII duet with Jose Bros when she was practically half a semi-tone flat for nearly the entire number. Her pitch problems continued to pop up throughout the evening, though slightly less so after intermission. Her Italian intonation was at times too artificially ornamented, as if, whether consciously or not, to attempt to sound more Italianate. She also tended to scoop at the horizon of a sustained, loud high note, though to her credit she nailed Bellini’s high notes of pianissime just fine. Some of these pitch inadequacies were simply inexcusable, yet there was this aura about her that made us want to believe that her presentation was deliberate, and therefore necessarily carried dramatic implication. In this regard, Gruberova was intense and fiery, even on a concert stage.
The rest of the cast was not comprised of your average run-of-the-mill singers. Jose Bros, as Arturo, sounded brilliant and round. Sonia Ganassi, as Isoletta, sang with passion and full projection. Paolo Gavanelli received a long, genuine applause at the end of Meco tu vieni, o misera, in which he set ablaze the Gasteig with hot-blooded emotion and a stentorian heft. Pietro Rizzo tried to muster all the sound and character from the Münchner Opernorchester and chorus, but the vastness of the Gasteig seemed eager to eat up much of Rizzo’s characterizations. They would have done better at Prince Regent’s Theatre.