Even with fifty percent of its seats empty due to the restrictions due to the pandemic that are still in force – on the street, however, they do not seem to exist, and it is enough to go to the Plaza del Duomo at noon, an authentic and festive anthill. -, a premiere at the Scala of Milan it is something truly impressive. Although without the pageantry of the official inauguration -on December 7, San Ambrosio-, in the stalls of the international temple of opera there are only smiles. The activity returned a few months ago, but those happy faces have a reason: the curtain is going to rise on the first new production -with all that this implies- since
the theaters will be closed in March of last year. And it couldn’t be with a more optimistic title: ‘The Barber of Seville‘, by Rossini.
“After many dramatic months,” he has written Riccardo Chailly, musical director of the theater-, La Scala begins to plan again with hope. The long period of uncertainty that we have gone through has affected the organizational and financial stability of cultural institutions, but also their artistic continuity ”. And continuity is what has been wanted with this new production, vertex of the Rossinian triangle with which the course has begun, and which is completed with ‘The Italian in Algiers’ e ‘The Turk in Italy’.
It had been more than twenty years – in 1999 – that La Scala had not presented a new production of Rossini’s most popular opera, which was presented at this theater for the last time in 2015. Added to the presence in the pit of Chailly himself and the debut in the stage director’s scala Leo MoscatoThey were more than enough ingredients for the theater to hang the ‘No localities’ sign for days (half of the capacity is 1,400 spectators).
And if the audience entered the room with a smile, they left the theater wearing it. Moscato proposes an ingenious and sympathetic version of Rossini’s opera, which he places in an old decadent theater that could well be called Seville, as he himself explained. “All the main characters in ‘Barbiere’ have to do with music,” he justifies. In that theater, Don Bartolo is the businessman, Rosina the star; Figaro the handyman who acts as a prompter, make-up artist, hairdresser, tailor and stagehand; Don Basilio the music teacher, Berta the choreographer of the dance corps, and Ambrogio the cleaner. “The only stranger,” Moscato continued, “is the Count of Almaviva, who may be the anonymous author of ‘L’inutil precazione'”, the work that Rosina invents to outwit her tutor.
There are no ‘originalities’ and a lot of sense of humor in a staging full of details, where the choreographies of Nicole kehrberger they give it a singular dynamism. Chailly demonstrates his category at the head of the Scala orchestra -which recovers the ‘sistrum’, a rare percussion instrument that Rossini introduces in three moments of the score-, and the cast offers a real Rossinian singing lesson: Maxim Mironov, Marco Filippo Romano, Svetlina Stoyanova, Mattia Olivieri, Laviania Bini and Costantino Finucci.
A ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ has been joined by another long-awaited premiere -in this case absolute-, that of the ballet ‘Madina‘, which the pandemic forced to postpone. It is a commission made by Scala herself to the composer Fabio Vacchi -one of the great names in Italian music today- and the choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti, which have been based on a novel by Emmanuelle de Villepin entitled ‘La ragazza che non voleva morire’ (‘The girl who did not want to die’).
Based on real events, the book tells the story of Madina, a young woman who, after being raped by soldiers from a country that has invaded hers, is pushed by her family to commit a suicide attack in a large western city. Terrorism, violence, hatred, revenge or conscience are the themes that gravitate in the novel and also in the ballet, whose libretto is signed by De Villepin herself. And from that tension, from that suffocation – Madina does not want to kill, she does not want to die – appears in the score, by Fabio Vacchi, about which there was great expectation. The composer uses, in addition to the orchestra and the choir, three voices -a mezzo, a tenor and an actor- to express in a steely way all the drama of the action. His music is intense, painful, sometimes violent, but expressive in all its bars. The moments in which he employs the chorus, always powerful, always eager, are perhaps the most successful – together with the vehement, almost aggressive use of percussion in the final scene – of powerful music, masterfully directed by the young man. Michele Gamba, who in a few days will direct ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’ in Menorca.
Manuel Legris, director of the Ballet de la Scala, has chosen Mauro Bigonzetti to tell this disturbing story with his movements. His language is highly stylized contemporary dance, and through the abrupt movements he manages to walk in parallel with music and history. Especially magnetic are the choral moments, which, aided by the scenery and the lights of the Carlo Cerri they achieve truly beautiful prints – more than lyrical moments and less inspired twos. Veteran Roberto Bolle and a tormented Antonella Albano They are the leading couple of this ‘Madina’ that the audience rewarded with about ten minutes of applause.