La Favorita is not what I call a "great" opera and I don't put it in my top 3 Donizettis(Lucia Di Lammermoor, L'Elisir D'Amore, Don Pasquale). It is one of those operas where the story is not as good as the music, I find that it is not the easiest of plots to follow. La Favorita is a long way from bad though,- in fact I think it is very overlooked- the music is wonderful(Toscanini said of the music of La Favorita that "every note is a masterpiece", I agree with him).
For the only production- that I know of- that is available on DVD of La Favorita, this Tokyo production on the most part serves it well. Well there is the 1952 black and white film, which is interesting but severely cut, but I am not sure whether it's on DVD(I saw it in its entirety on YouTube). The production is not without imperfections though. The production values are not very easy I find on the eyes. Actually the costumes are not bad at all, but the sets do look cheap and the lighting is too dark. But I don't think the washed out picture quality helps.
Sadly Sesto Bruscantini also disappoints. It is not as if I don't like Bruscantini, I actually like him very much especially as Malatesta. But here either he was having an off night or he was just not suited for the role of King Alfonso. I found his overall interpretation too gruff from a dramatic point of view, which couldn't be more different from the fun characterful nature that he most excels in. But it was vocally that proved to be more problematic. Bruscantini has the Italianate style, but his articulation is surprisingly sloppy, his pitch approximate(not helped by the very pronounced wobble, which I have never noticed before) and the long lines needed lack elegance and support.
However, the other principals were much more successful. Ruggero Raimondi, who is effectively made to look younger than his 29 years, is very good as Baldassarre, if not in his element. He always was a fine actor, and there is a noble command as you'd expect from Baldassarre, no signs of inexperience or what not. He is in good voice as well, the quality of it sonorous and smooth as silk and his phrasing is excellent. What isn't so good is his bottom register, which I don't think has ever been Raimondi's- who I personally have always considered a bass baritone- strong point, he does sound underpowered at times.
As Leonora(the La Favorita of the title), Fiorenza Cossotto is marvellous. Her voice as ever is powerful and thrilling, her experience in Verdi shows, and when the role calls for nuances Cossotto gives them. Her O Mio Fernando is moving and strikingly sung. Although she is not the most subtle of actresses and she was the sort of singer who acted more with her voice, she is still arresting, not one time did I not take my eyes off her.
But it is Alfredo Kraus who stands out, he is nothing short of amazing. People have often described Kraus as elegant, that sums him up to a tee, not just his voice but also his stage presence and how he looks. His style is immaculate- few bel-canto tenors had a technique and style as good as Kraus', Pavarotti though comes close- and his top notes both effortless and beautiful especially in Spirito Gentil. His whole voice rings out, making it a pleasure to hear him. He also makes for a handsome, charming and dignified presence, making it very easy to see what Leonora sees in Fernando in the first place.
The rest of the musical values are great as well. The orchestra play with so much vigour and accuracy, as well as a lush, beautifully textured sound. That is exactly the same in regard to the chorus. Olivier De Fabbritis' conducting is never less than secure, by all means it is not a flashy style of conducting, nor did it need to be. The sound is occasionally muddied, but I've heard much worse. Overall, a good production if more musically(excepting Bruscantini) than visually. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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