LA WALLY di Alfredo Catalani
Teatro del Giglio
2018 January 19th
direttore, Marco Balderi
regia, Nicola Berloffa
scene, Fabio Cherstich
costumi, Valeria Donata Bettella
luci, Marco Giusti
Orchestra Filarmonica Pucciniana
Coro del Festival Puccini
maestro del coro, Elena Pierini
Wally, Serena Farnocchia
Stromminger, Francesco Facini
Afra, Irene Molinari
Walter, Paola Leoci
Giuseppe Hagenbach, Zoran Todorovich
Vincenzo Gellner, Marcello Rosiello
Il Pedone, Graziano Dallavalle
La Wally is the last work of the composer Alfredo Catalani born in Lucca in 1854, it was premiered in Milan in 1892 conducted by Edoardo Mascheroni and having as main charachter the famous Romanian soprano Hariclea Darclée. On the following year the unfortunate young musician died of tuberculosis.
La Wally is unanimously considered the better opera written by Catalani always enjoying success with the public, less with the critic especially the Italian one, while in Europe it had a certain diffusion, we can recall that in Hamburg it was also conducted by Gustav Mahler. In Italy its staging is almost a rarity, the stagings in these last decades are very rare, even if all Italian opera lovers know at least its most famous aria Ebben? Ne andrò lontana sung by the main character.Arturo Toscanini was a great admirer of Catalani and of this opera so to give two of his sons the names of Wally and Walter.
The literary source is a novel of the German writer Wilhelmine von Hillern, from which Luigi Illica drew the libretto of the dark story of love and death. It is a rather lengthy opera with not many happy moments, but above all hits us as a whole with its symphonic and dramatic character. Some scenic-theatrical situations are really effective (who else dared to put on the stage as a final of an Act an… avalanche?) but the characters seem barely sketched, while the mountain environment appears recreated with slightly rough brushstrokes but with a certain effectiveness.
The return of the opera in the birthplace of the composer Catalani could have marked an important date to remember, but the performance hasn’t globally raised above a medium level: surely not bad for a provincial town, but perhaps not for the city where Catalani was born on 1854 June 19th.
The conductor in a bleak drama such as this is extremely important, he has to keep in hand a difficult work that demands dramatic hold. Marco Balderi on the whole gets away even if without particularly interesting results and on the contrary with some trouble. He does diligently his job even if we would have preferred more theatrical pacing, and less uncertainties coming from the not memorable orchestra. The choir is no more than willing.
About the vocal cast we must immediately recognize the curious discrepancy between the subtleties required by Catalani from the orchestra (the opera also contains some very refined symphonic pages) and the a bit summary vocal line, especially for male voices. Important interpreters, both men and women, engaged with difficult trials during the decades in Wally, an opera written almost for bomb-proof voices as perhaps there were decades ago more than today both in terms of volume and expressiveness, in one word typically “verist” voices. There are two extremely challenging roles in this opera, the main character Wally and the tenor, to whom especially in the fourth act is reserved a really “ruthless” treatment by the composer, being his vocal line disseminated with top unconfortable notes.
The soprano Serena Farnocchia following her vocal characteristics is a more lyrical than anything else Wally: she lacks a bit in volume and above all of imperious phrasing which makes her not too reliable, having also problems with some top notes, but considering that this performance was her debut in the role we think that on other occasions she will be able to deepen further vocally her character.
The tenor Zoran Todorovich as Giuseppe Hagenbach sports a rough and torrential voice, we can’t ask him subtleties that he probably could not even do, has some pitch problems but overall his character comes out with a certain crude effectiveness.
The baritone Marcello Rosiello as Vincenzo Gellner sings with a certain style and correct way of singing. Maybe that his character from the interpretative point of view is rather generic, but overall he is effective.
The other singers were on an average level.
The visual part of the opera directed by Nicola Berloffa, with scenes by Fabio Cherstich and costumes by Valeria Donata Bettella, was didactic and reassuring. Apart from postponing the story from nineteenth to the early decades of the twentieth century there was everything that more or less there should be in a Wally. The acting of the singers seemed too much left to their personal initiative, and the movements of the choir and the dance were instead heavily influenced by the narrowness of the stage of the Teatro del Giglio. Some details of involuntary comedy (Wally, transformed by the director into a beginning of the twentieth Century “fatal woman”, walking on the snow barefoot or with patent leather heel shoes, and doesn’t take away her pearl necklace even to descend into the crevasse to save Giuseppe Hagenbach thrown there by the rival in love, and so on) do not seem to invalidate a setting all in all normal in its simplicity.
The audience was quite numerous, and everyone was warmly applauded.