Cyrano,’ Undeterred by a Giant Nose

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lennygoran
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Cyrano,’ Undeterred by a Giant Nose

Post by lennygoran » Wed May 03, 2017 4:58 pm

We saw it twice with Placido and liked it alot! Regards, Len

Music|Review: An Operatic ‘Cyrano,’ Undeterred by a Giant Nose

By CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM MAY 3, 2017

You can blame or thank Plácido Domingo for bringing Franco Alfano’s “Cyrano de Bergerac” to New York. It was his advocacy for this rarely heard opera from 1936 — by a footnote-worthy composer otherwise best known for completing Puccini’s “Turandot” — that persuaded the Metropolitan Opera to first stage “Cyrano” in 2005. Now Francesca Zambello’s handsome production is back for a short run (three more performances, through May 13) led by the tenor Roberto Alagna and the soprano Jennifer Rowley.

For most of the opening performance on Tuesday, I found myself faulting Mr. Domingo’s judgment: The music is an unappealing mix of syrupy textures and tart harmonies. But the brilliance of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play survives intact in Henri Cain’s libretto, and the two leads poured so much heart and intelligence into their performances that I left grateful for the experience.

It’s easy to see why a composer would be attracted to the story. Cyrano is an irresistibly complex hero, a swashbuckling poet-soldier who doesn’t dare to declare his love to the beautiful Roxane because he is ashamed of his enormous nose. When Roxane falls for the handsome but tongue-tied Christian, Cyrano becomes his ghostwriter. Only years after Christian’s death in battle, and moments before Cyrano himself succumbs to an assassin’s blow, does Roxane learn whose letters and verses had bewitched her.

As in a great Woody Allen movie, there are equal parts comedy and tragedy in every scene and every character; Alfano’s biggest shortcoming is his inability to capture that bittersweet tension. Too often his music is hard-edged and heavy, even in a scene like the opening duel, in which Cyrano needles a puffed-up actor with his sword and verse. Perhaps the conductor, Marco Armiliato, could have done more to rein in these moments of verismo pomposity. Rostand’s play isn’t so much about brain versus brawn; it celebrates wit, sprezzatura and the art of improvisation. Mozart might have done wonders with it.


Still, Mr. Alagna’s enthusiasm for the often demanding title role came through undimmed. Even encumbered by a giant prosthetic nose, he produced his characteristic virile tenor, his sound bright, taut and slightly metallic. His tone became dramatically warmer and more pliant in the scenes in which he woos Roxane.

The role of Christian is scored for a second tenor, here Atalla Ayan, whose timbre is darker and more soft-grained than Mr. Alagna’s. But the score often adds bright orchestral colors to scenes featuring the two tenors, resulting in a crowded bandwidth. Among the secondary roles, the bass-baritone David Pittsinger stood out as Le Bret.

For Ms. Rowley, this was a breakthrough. Originally an understudy for Patricia Racette, she took over when Ms. Racette pulled out in March, and on Tuesday, she sang with an even, radiant tone and effortless, chiffony top notes. The scene pitting her against the always excellent men’s chorus, here soldiers preparing for battle, might have called for more heft. But at the heartbreaking ending, when Roxane discovers too late Cyrano’s selfless devotion, Ms. Rowley sang with an intensity of expression and a subtly embittered sound that suggested a singer of enormous gift and promise.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/arts ... ctionfront

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