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Let the river run « parterre field – “Probably the most very important weblog in opera!” – New York Occasions


Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas is the 3rd paintings in Spanish to be carried out on the Metropolitan Opera within the corporate’s historical past. It should really feel like the start of one thing new. Certainly, the passion of Thursday evening’s target market used to be palpable, with a rallying voice crying “Viva los angeles ópera en español!” moments earlier than Yannick Nézet-Séguin introduced down his baton. Alternatively, whilst Florencia may well be new to the Met—and whilst “los angeles ópera en español” is surely an exhilarating prospect—it’s also a 27 12 months outdated opera, written to sound a lot, a lot older. In its Met premier, neither a skilled forged nor some stunning musical moments have been sufficient to make Florencia really feel new or necessary.

The Florencia program be aware leads with an acknowledgement that “vital responses” to Catán’s opera “frequently evaluate the opera to the tune of any other composer.” I rarely wish to harp in this well-worn theme, however I additionally can not deny that Florencia resembles a learn about in Puccini pastiche—or a brand new tackle WQXR’s Opera Quiz, the place lovers may compete to spot the opera’s many musical and textual references to the best hits of the operatic canon. Referentiality is all properly and excellent, however the comparisons invited by way of Catán’s tune in the long run do no favors to Marcela Fuentes-Berain’s libretto, which is frustratingly unsubtle and banal.

Take, for instance, the titular diva Florencia Grimaldi’s first act aria. Florencia is on a riverboat down the Amazon, touring incognito looking for her misplaced lover, Cristobal, who woke up her nearly magical musical ability years in the past. On my own at the deck of the El Dorado, Florencia describes her want to go back to a time earlier than she become Los angeles Grimaldi and to reconcile the sweetheart she used to be then with the artist she is now. In its contemplative construct to a hovering heart-song, Florencia’s aria is musically paying homage to Minnie’s act one aria in Los angeles Fanciulla del West. Minnie’s textual content, too, might be termed banal: she describes her oldsters’ marriage, how she used to look them enjoying footsie beneath the desk whilst they performed playing cards. However the simplicity of Minnie’s phrases is an intentional distinction to the grand sweep of Puccini’s tune. In combination, phrases and tune mix to put across the concept that under Minnie’s easy, country-girl impact lies a virtually unbearably huge emotionality that will have to burst out in track. 

Florencia’s aria, too, is explosively emotional, however her textual content is banal in in a different way solely: Florencia simply states that she has liked, that she longs to search out her love once more, that she can’t be wholly herself till she does so. Her phrases and her tune make the similar observation. In combination, they impart not anything greater than the information—a long way not up to the sum in their portions. 

This aria is a waste of a excellent Puccini pastiche; on Thursday, it used to be additionally a waste of the very excellent Ailyn Pérez. Pérez’s voice would possibly not were the biggest, nevertheless it had a remarkably dense, supple high quality—columnar, nearly. If Catán’s orchestration, as this system be aware claims, seeks to breed the ambient sounds of the Amazon, Pérez’s voice used to be like a river snake, rippling elegantly during the waters. As Florencia, Pérez shone with a sincerity and intensity of feeling that made the libretto’s banality the entire extra irritating. I sought after Pérez’s Florencia to have her Minnie second—or her Mimi second, or her Tosca second—however that alchemy of music-drama simply isn’t in Florencia, in spite of the libretto’s repeated insistence that the opera will probably be an area of transformation.

Certainly, Fuentes-Berain’s libretto used to be inert in ways in which no longer even an vigorous forged of singers may struggle. The hole scene’s glut of exposition, for instance, used to be delivered commandingly by way of Mattia Olivieri as Robiolo (you’d by no means bet it used to be his Met debut), however neither his muscular tone nor assured level presence may cover Robiolo’s inelegance as a story tool: a semi-magical narrator who exists to, in the first actual scene, inform the target market the entire related information in regards to the different characters’ lives, conflicts, and wishes. 

Those information contain the whole thing of what the ones characters themselves will articulate over the process the opera, so one wonders why they’re imparted in an instant after the curtain rises. Robiolo tells us, for instance, that the Captain’s nephew Arcadio is upset together with his lifestyles at the river. Now not ten mins later, Arcadio, sung with infectious power (if no longer solely sufficient quantity) by way of Mario Chang, comes on level and broadcasts that he’s upset together with his lifestyles at the river. As Arcadio’s love pastime and Florencia’s would-be biographer Rosalba, Gabriella Reyes used to be charmingly passionate, with an exquisite, unfurling high quality to the highest of her voice. 

Arcadio and Rosalba have two persona characteristics every: he needs to be a pilot, she’s writing a ebook, and so they’re no longer certain whether or not to succumb to the affection they really feel for one any other. Because the quarreling married couple Paula and Alvaro, Nancy Fabiola Herrera and Michael Chioldi had even much less to do, besides they did it properly, bringing comedian timing to their spats and emotional sincerity to their reconciliation. 

That reconciliation, on the other hand, used to be marred by way of the inertness—or extra correctly, the sameness—of the ranking itself. The tune is gorgeous, textural, swelling to a crescendo earlier than ebbing again to its stunning texture. After which it does that once more. And once more. Within the pit, the superhumanly constant Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Met orchestra gave all that lovely texture a lushness and a stability in spite of the loss of pleasure.

A equivalent consistency with out drama characterised Mary Zimmerman’s staging. As has frequently been the case with Zimmerman, Florencia used to be introduced in a mode that might possibly be termed “gestural realist”—a most commonly naked level, with some light-weight, modular set items that floor the manufacturing within the information of the libretto. In relation to Florencia, that naked level used to be the river, cradled on all sides by way of curving banks of vegetation-green LED monitors that evoked a collaboration between the sculptor Richard Serra and a Home windows screensaver. The realist set items, wheeled off and on, have been curved sections of deck railing and the ones giant pipes you spot on boat decks in outdated motion pictures. 

That is gestural realism: the staging is abstracted slightly, however the deck pipes and railings tell us that the environment is, in reality, solely literal. I’m certainly not adversarial to realist productions, however Zimmerman’s staging struck me as frustratingly noncommittal, hedging its bets with a stylized aesthetic that used to be nevertheless painstakingly non-threatening and nearly solely unsurprising. 

On the subject of the one staging selection that gave the impression able to sudden the target market used to be its least realist part: the dancers who animated, thru some Lion King-esque puppetry and choreography, the wildlife of the Amazon. Swishing as colleges of fish around the level in piranha headdresses and piranha panniers over blood-red ball robes, those dancers gave the impression of transient flashes from any other manufacturing—one with just a bit extra creativeness. 

At its best possible, non-realist theater is essentially slightly semiotic; the items and pictures onstage don’t constitute the information of the environment or the libretto, so, preferably, they provide one thing else in regards to the paintings as an alternative, one thing under the extent of the literal. Zimmerman’s calmly abstracted minimalist realism has the distinctive feature of stylishness—a distinctive feature to not be discounted—however her Florencia lacked the layers of which means that a success non-realist theater can give. 

A loss of semiotic intensity isn’t inherently an issue. Continuously, a basically fashionable manufacturing has the advantage of getting out of its personal approach and enabling a piece to talk for itself. The issue with Florencia, on the other hand, is that in spite of the clicking fabrics’ repeated invocation of the time period “magical realism,” it itself suffers from a loss of layered or implicit which means. From time to time, it gave the impression as regardless that neither the paintings nor the director had a lot to mention in any respect. 

Tellingly, this lacking standpoint used to be maximum noticeable in moments the place the opera claimed to plumb some Amazonian intensity: moments the place Florencia promised rupture, transformation, even apocalypse. The typhoon series that maroons the riverboat, for instance, contains within the libretto a plea to the gods that they no longer finish the sector—however the ranking supplies not anything extra catastrophic than some timpani rolls, and the staging not anything extra transformative than a rain of confetti and the deck railings tipped over on their aspects. 

No disaster, it gave the impression, used to be sufficient to damage the graceful, harmonious consistency of Florencia’s ranking and staging—to dredge its placid depths and pull the rest of actual which means to the skin. As a substitute, its naked level used to be for probably the most section simply that: a naked level, filled with stunning tune, signifying not anything.

Footage: Ken Howard/Metopera



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