The inaugural season of the Greek National Opera took place on the 24th of October , in a new production by the very talented Rodoula Gaitanou. I had enjoyed a few years ago her imaginative production of Rossini’s “Cenerentola” full of gags and comic situations, however in this new production of the highly problematic , in terms of dramatic action opera, I was a bit disappointed.
The setting was a room full of “cabinet de curiosites” reminding one more of a Sherlock Holmes living room, rather than the sunny spacious rooms of a Naples Villa. The huge dark library with the two wooden library staircases created a rather gloomy dark and uninviting atmosphere, that would be better suited for Britten’s “Turn of the Screw”. The lighting was minimal, it only changed at the garden scene when the staircases created a kind of arch with plants all over the place, like a victorian “orangerie..”
The singing was rather uneven. For a start Antonis Koroneos and Dionyssis Sourbis (a young baritone who I hope will make an international career), were the two young lovers. Koroneos has sung this role many times, and his singing was sensitive with great attention to the Mozartian vocalita. Sourbis sang with a strong ringing voice, and great theatrical gusto, delivering a very enjoyable performance.
The two ladies were the young Greek soprano who already has sung in many foreign theatres, Myrto Papatanassiou, and the very talented mezzo Irini Karagianni, both looking gorgeous, in their very beautiful gowns by George Souglides. Although they started in a rather shakey manner, their voices, as the evening progressed, blended to perfection. The difficult “Come scoglio..” , with its infernal low notes, was rather taxing for the voice of Papathanassiou who in my opinion is better suited for the more lyrical Puccini heroines, however she sung with all her heart and her innate musicality won the audience. Equally well sung was Karagianni’s Dorabella, she looked and played the part with great theatrical gusto.
The revelation of the evening was the excellent Don Alfonso sung by Christoforos Stamboglis, who once more proved one of the most accomplished singers and an excellent actor. His rendition of a role that is usually overlooked and becomes rather decorative became in his hands the main character of the opera, he literally stole the evening away. It is the first time in my experience of the opera, that I really understood who Don Alfonso really is and what important part he plays in the action. C.Stamboglis towered over everyone, moving the strings of the action. He sung with sensitivity and dramatic force wherever necessary, his was a most enjoyable performance.I also enjoyed immensely the Despina of Mirsini Margariti. What a beautiful silvery voice she posseses, along with innate musical feeling for every phrase of the score. Her performance was comical without becoming over the top. A great singer,as well as actress.
The playing of the GNO Orchestra sounded under rehearsed , no wonder with three different casts singing.. Miltos Logiadis did his best to keep everyone together, not always successfully, but I felt that he was more preoccupied with this, rather than giving an enlightening performance.
The GNO Chorus was at its best, under the inspired direction of Agathangelos Georgacatos.
All in all it was an uneven performance, I think due to the lack of rehearsals. This piece is no joke, and the music is very taxing for the singers, not to mention the problems that it presents to any director, who has to create comic and dramatic situations in a rather static play. I dont feel that this was accomplished at the present production , which is in great need of revision, if it is to stand for a long time in the GNO’s repertoire.