The new production of the Israeli Opera is La Fille du Regiment, a popular comic opera by Gaetano Donizetti. This is the first time this opera is being staged in Israel, and the cast includes fine international and Israeli singers. But the best news is probably that renowned Italian conductor Alberto Zedda, one of the world’s leading specialists in bel canto, returns to Tel Aviv.
During his long artistic career, Zedda has led major opera orchestras throughout the world and served as artistic director for several major opera houses such as La Scala, as well as many festivals.
He has recorded numerous albums of symphonic music, chamber music and opera, and his contribution as a musicologist and teacher is impossible to overestimate.
Local opera aficionados may well remember the lightness and elegance with which the maestro led the Israeli Opera musical forces through Rossini’s Cenerentola some 10 years ago, while others may recall his Israeli debut with the Israel Philharmonic.
At 8 p.m., after a long and tiring rehearsal day, the 83-year-old Zedda does not show any sign of fatigue. On the contrary: He sinks into his armchair in the conductor’s room at the Opera House with a serene smile and begins to talk about what he loves most – music.
“La Fille du Regiment is a very Rossinian opera – lucid, light, with joie de vivre written all over it,” he says.
“One should not look for great dramatic depth in Donizetti’s music, but as a comic he is at his best. As is well known, Donizetti was a good friend of Rossini’s and was strongly influenced by him. This is one of the last bel canto operas ever written, and it is like champagne.”
Zedda goes on to explain that singing Donizetti is far from simple and demands special experience from the singer. “For this repertoire, a singer needs not only an excellent vocal instrument and virtuosity but also a lot of intellect – to transform notes into images, emotions, sentiments. Bel canto is about playing with the voice, it’s about vocal colors, about freshness. A story is usually just a pretext to showcase a singer’s vocal abilities. That said, although there’s not much depth here, situations in which people find themselves today do not differ much from those of the past – the same problems.”
The conductor stresses that bel canto implies only the best performance.
“When you listen to, say, La Traviata, you will cry even if the performance is not fantastic because the musical drama carries you away. But in bel canto repertoire, the line between greatness and banality is very thin.”
Zedda has nothing but praise for Iride Martinez in the title role and Israeli soprano Hila Baggio in the supporting role. “Very beautiful voice, simply marvelous. And I believe that when the orchestra hears the singers, it will help them to grasp and to express the beauty of Donizetti’s music. The miracle happens – they play with joy. It does not stay on earth, it flies.”
And he goes on to speak about bel canto, raising his elegant conductor’s hands as if caressing with his flexible fingers the tender fabric of Donizetti’s hedonistic music, repeating with a smile: “Bello, bello, bello…”
La Fille du Regiment with Iride Martinez (Costa Rica), Covert McFearson (US). Director: Emilio Saachi, (Spain).
February 8 – 19, The Israeli Opera, Tel Aviv.
Additional programs: Towards Opening Sat February 5 at 11 a.m.
Backstage tours Feb 12; Feb 14; Feb 16; Feb. 19. All start at 7 p.m.
Opera Talkback on Feb 8; Feb 13; Feb 16; Feb 18.
http://www.israel-opera.co.il For reservations: (03) 692-7777
By MAXIM REIDER