Das Rheingold

Alejo Pérez
Orquesta Estable del Teatro Argentino
23 March 2012
Sala Alberto Ginastera del Teatro Argentino La Plata
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanHernán Iturralde
DonnerErnesto Bauer
FrohMartín Muehle
LogeFrancesco Petrozzi
FasoltChristian Peregrino
FafnerAriel Cazes
AlberichHéctor Guedes
MimeSergio Spina
FrickaAdriana Mastrángelo
FreiaMaría Bugallo
ErdaIsabel Vera
WoglindeVictoria Gaeta
WellgundeGabriela Cipriani Zec
FloßhildeFlorencia Machado
Stage directorMarcelo Lombardero
Set designerDiego Siliano
TV director?
Buenos Aires Herald

Doubtful start of La Plata’s Ring

The Teatro Argentino’s Rheingold is marred by the worst vices of European productions

Last year something very special happened at La Plata’s Teatro Argentino: for the first time in their history they offered a Wagner opera (Tristan und Isolde) in German. Although the protagonists were below par, the other singers did very well, and so did the orchestra. To boot, the production by Marcelo Lombardero was a pleasant surprise.

This year an even greater challenge was announced: the first production ever at La Plata of Wagner’s gigantic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelungs, with operas two this season and the other two in the next one, to coincide with the bicentennial of the composer’s birth. The theatre’s authorities must feel very sure of themselves and of the Argentino’s resources to tackle such a task, the ultimate test of any opera company. Alas, although their technical elements proved to be quite impressive, conceptually Lombardero’s work was impregnated by the worst European influences.

As readers know, I’m completely against the “Colón Ring,” the conflation of 16 hours (in four days) into an enormous single-day seven-hour marathon. Unfortunately it will very probably preclude a “normal” Ring from the Colón in the near future, so the possibility of a new full Ring at our theatre with great international singers, even in installments, has receded into the far distance (the last one ended in 1998). Which leaves us with only La Plata.

The river plate gold. The enterprise was labelled in the announcements as having an “Ibero American” cast and “a 21st-century Latin American vision.” The first statement is a tall order, for Wagnerian voices don’t grow on trees and tend to be Nordic or German, but the double cast was very carefully chosen and at least in the Prologue, Das Rheingold (“The Rhine Gold”), coped quite well. We’ll see what happens when we get to the vocally much tougher later parts (in November, Die Walküre).

As to the second statement, it proved the Nemesis of this version. Several examples will prove the wrongness of the vision.

First Scene: the famous Prelude based on a chord of E flat major admirably depicts the flow of the Rhine waves. Here, well-filmed projections show the River Plate’s surface at first, and then the camera penetrates the waters and we peruse the bottom, with oil barrels, “Quinquela Martín” wrecks and all sorts of rubbish. And then, the Rhine maidens (Undines) appear, perched on industrial metal stairs, with the Ensenada oil installation in the background. Hardly the pure waters of the Rhine… The crucial moment when Alberich steals the gold is completely botched: up to then the gold was very poorly symbolized by a gold-coloured pennant; Alberich slits the throat of an Undine mafioso-style (Wagner only writes that he steals the gold, a big nugget) and the gold is nowhere to be seen in his hands… By the way, there are six Undines, not the three Wagner wants. And all dance like Tinelli girls!

Second Scene: It’s worth remembering that there are four groups of characters in Das Rheingold: the gods (and one demigod, Loge), creatures of light; the Nibelungen, ugly subterranean dwarves; the Undines; and the earthy Giants. And that the conflict concerns two main subjects: the gold and the ring made of it, as symbol of power; and the devious conduct of the main god, Wotan, who promises Freia (goddess of love) to the Giants as payment for the great fortress they built, the Walhalla. It’s a world of myth and fantasy, vaguely Medieval and Nordic. The symbols inherent in the story are plain for any person of average intelligence, and not only is there no need for any transposition in time and place, but such an alteration is fatally harmful. Here we see the Villa 31 shanty town (or something a lot like it) and then Puerto Madero, an aseptic high floor instead of the valley Wagner asks for; and the Walhalla is a slim tower crowned with a round platform. The Gods are all in white, with Fricka, the goddess of matrimony, looking like Jean Harlow. Of course, Donner (god of thunder), Froh (god of love), Freia and Loge (demigod of fire) all ascend by a modern lift. And they use DVDs and cellular phones… For some reason, the Giants come from somewhere else, a quite undetermined place.

The Third Scene (the Nibelheim, the mine where Alberich reigns) fares much better (I understand that a San Juan mine is used as background), and at least one moment is stunning: the enormous snake seen in projection gives us for just one minute a taste of what this production could have been. But then it’s back to business, and the capture of Alberich is very tame indeed. Good point: the descent and ascent to and from the mine are brilliant. However, instead of coming out to the earth’s surface, we find Wotan, Loge and Alberich in the same scenery as Scene 2! It’s arrant nonsense to see the Nibelungen (boys) bringing the treasure from the depths of the mine to, say, Floor 30 of a building in Puerto Madero… Ah, and Donner has no hammer but a gun, and Fasolt kills Fafner (his brother giant) not with a mace but with said gun. And Donner uses the same weapon to make a wall come down (thanks, Roger Waters!). Alas, no rainbow and no bridge into Walhalla, which turns out to be a very kitschy contraption. I did like a cosmic Erda singing from a projection, but it hardly saved the day.

For the record, the stage designs are by Diego Siliano and the costumes by Luciana Gutman; lighting by José Luis Fiorruccio; and no less than six people handle multimedia and effects.

the music front. The musical side was generally good: the singers in both casts knew their parts thoroughly and mostly had the adequate voices; and the disciplined orchestra responded professionally to the seriously considered reading of Alejo Pérez. The lack of power in the climaxes was due to what I felt was a wrong innovation: a roof covered the orchestra trying to mimic the mystical ambience of Bayreuth.

A look at both casts is encouraging. Wotan: Hernán Iturralde was steadier than Homero Pérez-Miranda but both were good. First-rate Frickas: Adriana Mastrángelo and Alejandra Malvino. Alberich (the most important part): the second cast’s Luis Gaeta was particularly impressive, because Héctor Guedes’s voice (first cast) is too soft-grained for this character, though he sang well.

A quite satisfactory performance from the two pairs of giants: Christian Peregrino and Ariel Cazes, Emiliano Bulacios and José Antonio García. Loge: the Peruvian Francesco Petrozzi (début) was a revelation, always meaningful in his phrasing, whilst Carlos Bengolea was in better voice than usual and acted skilfully. Excellent work from both Frohs (Martín Muehle and Enrique Folger), and a correct one from the Donners (Ernesto Bauer and Federico Sanguinetti).

A very good second Mime (Gonzalo Araya), but the first was only passable (Sergio Spina). Rather dull Erdas (María Isabel Vera, Claudia Casasco). Acceptable Freias (María Bugallo, Claudia Riccitelli), and very nice work from the three Undines in both casts (Victoria Gaeta, Gabriela Cipriani Zec and Florencia Machado; María del Rocío Giordano, Cecilia Pastawski and Rocío Arbizu).

Pablo Bardin | March 27, 2012


Compelling Das Rheingold Launches Teatro Argentino’s First Ring Cycle

With the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth approaching in 2013 many theatres will no doubt be paying homage with productions of his operas. Probably amongst the first is the Teatro Argentino, which has launched its 2012 season – and its first Ring cycle in its 122-year history – with Das Rheingold, the prologue of the tetralogy (with the other three parts to follow over the next two years – Die Walküre to close 2012, Siegfried and Götterdämerung in 2013).

The work is brought by the same team that was responsible for the local milestone Tristan und Isolde last year – director Marcelo Lombardero and musical director Alejo Pérez – and similar concepts, such as the extensive use of visual projection, particularly during the musical interludes, have been carried over. Lombardero’s aim, set out from the start, was this should be very much an Ibero-American production with two complete casts composed of singers from the region, and as we learn from an interview in one of the local music publications after considering several options he decided to set it in “places that appear familiar.”

That said and having come across the interview only after seeing the production the first thought on the borderless expanse of water appearing with the opening notes of the prelude was not the relatively narrow Rhine but rather the broad Río de la Plata, and this was further reinforced with the rubbish strewn river bank in the opening scene. But I get ahead of myself …

As the lights went down on the less than full theatre – this was the second production, with the “first cast” apparently that of choice – the prelude emerged, accompanied by a projection of water, into which one is gradually submerged, passing a sunken fishing vessel, a car and other modern day detritus. This then gives way to the Rhinemaidens disporting on a jetty, against a backdrop of what is presumably the gold mining operation. We then travel over a huge shanty town into a city of high rise buildings to alight in an upper storey of one of more prominent of them, in which is the aseptic white and chrome abode of the Gods. Alberich lives in an old caravan, far down in a lift past building structure and foundations and then ground filled with skulls. And finally Valhalla is revealed behind gates as a rich and opulent space high in the clouds atop a tower.

This ambiguity around modernity – a sense of familiarity with a touch of sci-fi – is also apparent in the dress, with the Rhinemaidens in fish like armour, the Gods in all white, and the giants Fasolt and Fafner looking like building site foremen, complete with hard hats.

As mentioned this was the second cast, although on paper at least it is not inferior to the first cast. And with good reports from colleagues on the first cast, the second is equally worthy of high praise. Particularly notable were the mafia leader like Wotan of Homero Pérez Miranda and Luis Gaeta’s solid Alberich, and Alejandra Malvino’s persuasive Fricka.

The orchestra, semi-enclosed in the pit to accommodate the extended stage, were also outstanding, with only minor points for comment, such as what seemed an abrupt, rather than a rising, opening. Pérez has clearly worked hard, as has Lombardero, and even if one doesn’t agree with all the latter’s ideas – such as Wotan chopping of Alberich’s hand to get the ring – the outcome is undeniably compelling.

So the stage has been set… Though styled as the prologue Das Rheingold is a substantial work in its own right, but the demands of the other parts are more significant, particularly vocally for the local singers, of whom few have much experience with Wagner’s music. Both vocally and visually there are challenges, but they are ones that are looked forward to with much interest and expectation.

Jonathan Spencer Jones | Teatro Argentino, La Plata. 17.3.2012

Tiempo de Musica

Wagner en el Riachuelo

Gran expectativa generó el estreno en La Plata del Prólogo de la tetralogía wagneriana que contó con un sólido elenco iberoamericano, una excelente dirección musical y una interesante puesta escénica.

Luego de un magnífico Tristán e Isolda y un disfrutable Lohengrin en 2011, los dos principales teatros líricos de nuestro país continúan este año saldando su deuda con el público wagneriano. Este año el Teatro Argentino de La Plata dio comienzo al ciclo de El anillo del nibelungo, tetralogía de la cual se verán este año sus dos primeras partes, dejando las dos siguientes para la temporada 2013, año del bicentenario del nacimiento del compositor. Por su parte, el Teatro Colón cerrará la temporada actual con una versión abreviada de El anillo, reducido a unas 7 horas de las 14 originales, con dirección escénica de Katharina Wagner, bisnieta del compositor.

El anillo del Nibelungo, subtitulado “Festival escénico en un prólogo y tres jornadas”, fue indudablemente la obra más ambiciosa de Richard Wagner y seguramente de toda la historia de la ópera. Su escritura demandó veintiséis años y constituye en si misma un manifiesto artístico ya que en ella el compositor alemán aplicó todos los principios musicales y estéticos con los que ya venía trabajando en Tristán e Isolda y Los maestros cantores de Nüremberg. Con estas obras se inauguró la etapa de los “dramas musicales” que dejaron atrás todas las convenciones de la ópera romántica —convenciones que aún estaban presentes en obras anteriores como El holandés errante, Lohengrin y Tannhäuser— y profundizaron en la idea de una “obra de arte total” en la que poema y música constituyeran una unidad.

La intención era crear una melodía infinita, es decir un relato musical continuo en el que los leitmotive o temas principales asociados a determinados personajes o conceptos permitieran al oyente asociaciones y, por lo tanto, una comprensión del drama en la que ya sería imposible distinguir o separar lo musical, lo visual y lo poético. De ahí la idea de “totalidad”. Wagner se sirvió de los poemas épicos medievales como el Cantar de los nibelungos o la Saga Volsunga, en los que encontró un héroe como Sigfrido, a quien veía como ese Übermensch (superhombre) capaz de restablecer el equilibrio en la Naturaleza devolviendo el oro robado por el nibelungo Alberico a su lugar de origen, el Rin.

La propuesta escénica de Marcelo Lombardero —junto a su equipo habitual formado por Diego Siliano en el diseño escenográfico y Luciana Gutman en el vestuario— planteó un mundo futurista en el que se pone de manifiesto la lucha de clases en los términos más brutales, incluyendo el trabajo esclavo infantil. En este contexto, el relato abandonó sus referencias mitológicas y así Lombardero nos llevó a un Rin más cercano al Riachuelo que a un río prodigioso, hacia un Walhalla que se asemejaba más a un decadente y pomposo lobby de hotel cinco estrellas que a la dorada morada de los dioses. Los dioses mismos se nos presentaron como unos aburridos y frívolos “nuevos ricos”, mientras que la raza de los nibelungos se transformó en niños explotados en las minas. El mismo intercambio de la diosa Freia como prenda de pago a los gigantes Fafner y Fasolt que construyeron el Walhalla, resonó en este contexto como un caso de trata de personas.

El recurso de la ironía, que Lombardero utiliza con frecuencia en sus puestas —recuérdese el torero reaggetonero de Carmen (2011) o la Vitellia dominatriz de La clemenza di Tito (2003/2006)— rindió aquí interesantes frutos conformando una interesante metáfora de la ambición y la explotación en la sociedad de consumo. Así desfilaron Fricka con sus bolsas del shopping, Loge hablando por celular con las hijas del Rin, Erda convertida en una pitonisa de la televisión y Mime tomando cerveza de lata, todos eslabones de una cadena de brutalidades e injusticias que nos son bien familiares en el mundo contemporáneo. Las proyecciones, animaciones y el vestuario enfatizaban la construcción de estos dos universos contrastados: el subterráneo, negro, opaco y trash versus el blanco, plateado y net de la clase privilegiada.

El elenco estuvo encabezado por el gigantesco Wotan de Hernán Iturralde un bajo-barítono de gran versatilidad y con sobrados medios vocales para hacer frente al rol. Su Wotan fue autoritario e imponente, en tanto Homero Pérez-Miranda en el elenco alternativo, también con buenos medios, apuntó a una caracterización del “dios” más elegante y aristocrática. La mezzosoprano Adriana Mastrangelo como Fricka, la celosa y despechada compañera del infiel Wotan, tuvo un buen desempeño vocal y una presencia deslumbrante, con un glamoroso vestido diseñado por Gutman, aunque la Fricka más fría y crispada de Alejandra Malvino en el otro elenco tuvo mayor impacto a nivel interpretativo.

Completaban el grupo de “dioses” un Donner violento y bien plantado de Ernesto Bauer que esgrimía un revólver en lugar de martillo, el Froh de Martín Muehle, la Freia de María Bugallo y el astuto y sonoro Loge del tenor peruano Francesco Petrozzi. La casta de los “gigantes” devenidos en enormes albañiles-operarios estuvo representada por los bajos Christian Peregrino como Fasolt y Ariel Cazes como Fafner, con mayor proyección vocal de este último.

El canto expansivo de Héctor Guedes transmitió todas las facetas del nibelungo Alberico, verdadero motor del conflicto al robar el oro que luego le es arrebatado por Wotan. Lascivo, avaro, aterrador, Guedes exploró cada una de sus características y no ahorró medios al enviar su escalofriante maldición al anillo que le acaba de ser robado. Su hermano Mime tuvo, en la voz de Sergio Spina, el carácter asustadizo y sombrío del personaje.

La decisión de hacer aparecer a Erda en la pantalla mientras se oye su voz fuera de escena, perjudicó en parte el efecto sobrenatural que tiene su misteriosa visión, y la voz aunque audible quedaba algo opacada. No obstante la contralto María Isabel Vera dio los acentos oscuros que convienen a esta deidad originaria devenida aquí en pitonisa. Victoria Gaeta, Gabriela Cipriani Zec y Florencia Machado conformaron el trío de hijas del Rin, las custodias del oro que al ser robado desencadena el drama que concluirá para nosotros a fines del 2013 cuando con los acordes finales de El ocaso de los dioses, la valquiria Brunilda se inmole mientras devuelve el anillo a su dueño, el Rin, restableciendo el equilibrio del universo.

Alejo Pérez, al frente de la Orquesta Estable del Teatro Argentino, ya había demostrado lo que puede hacer con una partitura wagneriana el año pasado con Tristán e Isolda, y renovó ahora sus credenciales como director wagneriano. Desde el acorde inicial que los contrabajos sostienen con gravedad para sumergirnos en el torrente del río; la claridad, la articulación y el equilibrio estuvieron presentes en la dirección de Pérez, quien llevó adelante el principio wagneriano de la “melodía infinita” con mucha naturalidad y fluidez, sin jamás sobrepasar a las voces.

Con mucha expectativa se esperaba esta gran apuesta del Teatro Argentino, que demostró una vez más que aquello que parece imposible puede hacerse posible, y que una producción argentina de El anillo del nibelungo con cantantes latinoamericanos está a nuestro alcance. Una poderosa puesta escénica, que seguramente irá tomando mejor forma a lo largo de las siguientes jornadas, un elenco vocal irreprochable y una dirección musical inspirada, estuvieron allí para comprobarlo.

Ernesto Castagnino | Abril 2012

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Possible dates: 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 25 March 2012