As I mentioned in an earlier post, we headed to the Terme di Caracalla (CE 215) to see Turandot on our first Friday night in Rome (August 3rd – Santa Lidia) The Teatro dell’Opera has been presenting a summer season there since 1937 – with a break in the eighties when it was discovered that Radames’ charging horses were weakening the already fragile foundations of the remains of the calidarium. Now rather than on the ruins, performances take place on a vast temporary stage and auditorium in front of them.
Given that several thousand of us had headed out the Appian Way on a warm summer evening, things seemed well organized – the performance started on time, concessions and WC facilities were plentiful, staff beautifully dressed, smiling and helpful and the taxi system at the end of the evening efficient and speedy. And this is Rome???
The people-watching was incredible. Even at their most flamboyant – above-the-knee red bugle-beaded number, killer stilettos, peacock blue silk wrap, enough gold on display to pay the national debt and Farrah Fawcett premature-blond locks – Roman woman are stylish. And the Roman men have a certain indolent charm that Laurent insists comes from their mothers constantly assuring them they are the most handsome boys in the world. And though cell phones (telefino) were much in evidence during the intermissions not one sounded during the performance itself.
And the performance? An interesting production concept – an itinerant theatre troupe present Turandot in a village square in 1926 and involve the locals in the performance. At its best it worked beautifully – I’ve never been more poignantly aware of the point at which death stilled Puccini’s pen. At its worst? Is there anything less funny than European clowns or more embarrassing than faux-Martha Graham choreography?
With the exception of the Turandot (Giovanna Casolla) and the Emperor (Fernando Cordeiro Opa) none of the singers were of international standard. La Casolla has the big steely sound needed for In questa Reggia but managed the tender passages as well and made the melting of the Ice Princess believable. I can see why she is the Turandot of choice in Italy these days. Frankly I wish the Liu (Mina Tasca-Yamazaki) had died after her breathy Signor Ascolta in Act 1 and spared us her pinched Act 3 aria though when curtain calls came around she seemed rather pleased with herself. Antonello Palombi (and the large gentleman sitting next to me) sang a lovely Nessun Dorma, but for the rest he was content with loud, louder and, occasionally, loudest. The chorus made the big moments what they should be and Alain Lombard led a nicely-judged and at times almost jazzy-sounding performance. I’m not sure if it was the subtle amplification that brought out details I have never heard before but at one point I swore Benny Goodman was on clarinet.
Not a great evening at the Opera; but then how often does that happen? But it was definitely a damn good evening out our first week in Rome.
11 agosto – Santa Chiara