Ensemble

The Belcanto Concerts

GIUSEPPE PENNISI sends his last report from this year's Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

 

The 'bel canto concerts' are a tradition of the Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) although 'belcanto' is associated more with Bellini (and other composers of the early nineteenth century) than with Rossini. As a rule, these 'bel canto concerts' used to take place in the late afternoon at the Rossini Theatre – on evenings when two of the three operas generally scheduled were staged at the Arena. They featured a soloist - often engaged in one of the ROF's three operas - accompanied by an orchestra of young artists or by a pianist. The programs of the concerts included arias mainly, but not exclusively, by Rossini. This year, the Festival, as reorganized due to the health emergency, includes six concerts for soloist and orchestra. They take place outdoors in the Piazza del Popolo. I saw and listened to two concerts during the week I spent in Pesaro.

The first was focused on the soprano Olga Peretyatko, accompanied by the Gioacchino Rossini Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Nikolas Nägele. Both are young artists. Ms Peretyatko, from St Petersburg, perfected her singing at the Rossinian Academy in Pesaro, where she made her name in 2006 in Il Viaggio a Reims and the following year in Otello (as Desdemona). From there the leap for a great international career: I remember her at La Scala in March 2014 as the protagonist of The Tsar's Bride, co-produced with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and conducted by Baremboin. Nägele, although young, has a long career already in Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Nikolas Nägele and Olga Peretyatko at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro's Piazza del Popolo on 9 August 2020
Nikolas Nägele and Olga Peretyatko at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro's Piazza del Popolo on 9 August 2020

At the 9 August 2020 concert, she alternated vocal pieces by Rossini (from Matilde di Shabran, L'Inganno Felice, Guillaume Tell and Semiramide) with Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni - and Glinka (from Ruslan and Ljudmilla) and the request for encores was answered with an air by Gounod (from Roméo et Juliette). In between the arias and the rondos, symphonic opera music was played. The audience was surprised by Glinka's presence in the program and discovered a pure coloratura piece that Rossini and Bellini would have envied: pure Russian 'belcanto'. Olga Peretyako, in full vocal maturity but fresh as when she was very young, enchanted the audience with the variety of genres and styles in the two hours or so of the concert.

Olga Peretyatko with Nikolas Nägele and the Gioacchino Rossini Philharmonic Orchestra at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro's Piazza del Popolo on 9 August 2020
Olga Peretyatko with Nikolas Nägele and the Gioacchino Rossini Philharmonic Orchestra at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro's Piazza del Popolo on 9 August 2020

In the 10 August 2020 concert, Nicola Alaimo, one of the most well-known bass-baritones, now seventy years old, a resident of Pesaro although born in Villabate - a small municipality that is now part of the metropolitan area of Palermo - presented an original program, with the Philharmonic Gioacchino Rossini directed with grace and wisdom by Alessandro Bonato.

Nicola Alaimo performing at the Rossini Opera Festival with Alessandro Bonato and the Philharmonic Gioacchino Rossini on 10 August 2020
Nicola Alaimo performing at the Rossini Opera Festival with Alessandro Bonato and the Philharmonic Gioacchino Rossini on 10 August 2020

The concert, two hours without interval, was an anthology of bass-baritone pieces from Rossini to Giordano, hence a small essay on the history of operatic music from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. It included, in addition to Rossini, Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Cilea and Giordano, alternating comic or funny pieces with dramatic pieces. The vocal part was intertwined with orchestral operatic music. Alaimo was also able to show off his acting skills.

Nicola Alaimo on-stage at the 2020 Rossini Opera Festival
Nicola Alaimo on-stage at the 2020 Rossini Opera Festival

Applauded, he concluded with an encore: 'La Calunnia' from the Rossinian Barbiere di Siviglia.

Copyright © 14 August 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy

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FURTHER INFORMATION: GIOACCHINO ROSSINI

FURTHER ARTICLES ABOUT THE ROSSINI OPERA FESTIVAL

FURTHER ARTICLES ABOUT ITALY

 

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