Opera Critic » Teatre Liceu

Spain’s premiere opera company pursues a traditional repertoire (including two Wagner operas this season) with a bit of zarzuela mixed in.  Its formidable resources helped it gather two leading lights in the Verdi repertoire for this old favorite – the first Italians of note to appear in it on the international circuit for some time.  Marco Berti missed most of his scheduled appearances as Radames at New York’s Metropolitan Opera earlier this autumn, but in Barcelona the Catalan elite and intrepid international opera goers had a chance to hear him in full form.  Most of the evening showcased his best, a resounding young tenor of considerable skill and vigor.  But more than once, despite considerable (and noticeable) effort, he could not muster the vocal support for most of the role’s thrilling high notes.  It may have been the fault of the staid stage direction, but his generous physique appeared to hinder dramatic impact.  Micaela Carosi’s clarion soprano proved well suited to this smaller European house, indicating the extent to which it may have appeared underpowered in the cavernous Met.  Teatre Liceu’s more intimate space allowed every note to register like a crystal bell.  Carosi’s delicate piano emerged in fine relief to the rest of the cast.  “O patria mia” was one of the best I have heard in years.
          The remainder of this entirely Italian cast fell into a different league.  The throaty mezzo Marianne Cornetti’s Amneris sounded as though it were being held in reserve for the fourth act confrontation with the priests of Isis, the only scene in which she really came alive.  As Amonasro, Ambrogio Maestri accompanied bellows with stock acting moves.  Bass Andrea Papi’s Ramfis needlessly covered what sounded like a well trained voice.  Daniele Callegari conducted with great care, but perhaps too much.  His slow tempi suited only the final scene, perhaps the evening’s most emotionally striking.  Dramatic intensity waned the rest of the time.  The unenergetic orchestra did little to help.  Liceu’s production is extremely traditional, but makes admirably accurate use of the original coloration found in ancient Egypt.  A handful of sly touches – including a furtive assignation of two young extras at the beginning of the Nile scene – lent some originality.