The latex/high gothic Tancredi (Valentini Terrani, 1985)


Latex, brass wigs, corpse paint, a cage for Amenaide in Act II and a proper bad-ass boat. Hell, yea, I’d have liked that boat myself. Nevermind that in 1005AD work on Notre Dame de Paris hadn’t even started2, the stage design conveys a satisfyingly Medieval look, although I’m not sure how you can work latex into the Middle Ages. Logical considerations aside, it’s my favourite production design of Tancredi so far. Did I mention the boat? Oh, yea.

  • Tancredi: Lucia Valentini Terrani
  • Amenaide: Gianna Rolandi
  • Argirio: Dalmacio Gonzales
  • Orbazzano: Roberto Scandiuzzi
  • Isaura: Monica Tagliasacchi
  • Roggiero: Lucia Rizzi

Conductor: Bruno Bartoletti | Orchestra e coro del Teatro Regio di Torino (1985)

Stage direction: Pierluigi Pizzi (just so you rest assured Calixto Bieito1 was not involved in this production ;-))

This is an Italian TV (RAI) relay in all its ’80s glory – aka fuzzy. I also had to crank up the volume.

Maestro Bartoletti conducts in a lot sprightlier manner than Maestro Ferro does in Horne’s 1977 version, where the tempi – especially in the recits – can be a tad slow. I like the briskness3.

Haven’t heard Sra Valentini Terrani before, being as I am one of them modern-singer fans but she ain’t bad to begin with. She plumbs those contralto-ish depths with gusto and her middle register is pleasant. Better yet, she’s got that rare vocal quality4 which makes a mezzo credible in a trouser role. Hers is a very serious Tancredi; his part in the recit before his and Amenaide’s first duet was acted so earnestly I chuckled5. Though she started pretty good, by the end of Act II she was downright awesome.

Oh patria/Di tanti palpiti: the waters are pretty calm but not too docile. Tancredi’s entrance on that boat seems to me very “of its time”, he’s properly knightly. He’s also soulful in the recit, although he could have been a bit happier – after all, this is the one moment in the entire opera where he is allowed to be entirely happy and hopeful. Valentini Terrani’s Di tanti palpiti is great from the beginning; she uses some simple but effective fioriture and she aces the coloratura. All in all, great entrance.

Tancredi and Amenaide’s voices mesh well, which is crucial; really nice work on the coloratura and high notes from Gianna Rolandi. Roberto Scandiuzzi’s Orbazzano is a properly low-voiced villain6, which works really well in the duettino between him and Argirio and in the Act I finale. Dalmacio Gonzales’ Argirio doesn’t look like he’s in charge; his voice is nice but maybe too young – he sounds younger than Tancredi! All in all, I like that everybody’s voice is distinctive enough to tell them apart right away even in that beautifully crafted Act I finale ensemble.

tancrediAIFAlthough not exuding leadership, Gonzales’ Argirio is quite effective as a heartbroken father when he is forced to accept his daughter’s death sentence at the beginning of Act II.

The Argirio/Tancredi duet M’abbraccia, Argirio/Ecco le trombe… was done well; nothing fabulous, and no unusual fioriture, but their voices mix well.

Amenaide’s long aria that picks up the choir at the end was a tour de force for Rolandi with a special emphasis on the cabaletta. I’m not a big fan of her tone, but I’ve no complaints on her coloratura or the delivery of her top notes; in fact it’s rather exquisite.

Fiero incontro/Ah, come mai quell’anima: Valentini Terrani’s is a sensitive Tancredi under the guise of a hard-ass. There were glimpses of his sensitivity in the Act I finale; it’s quite obvious here, especially in the dejected way he answers “Addio” to Amenaide’s hopeful “Dunque?”. There’s passion and there are delicate touches from both her and Rolandi. In short, a touching effort and well acted too; you can feel their pain. The public loved it so much they broke into applause at the end of the cantabile. I don’t really like when that happens as it breaks the moment but, hey, I liked the cantabile, too. I also liked how they did the repeat on the si, tu sei la cagion del mio dolor bit, with Amenaide taking a very passionate stand. It drove home her own frustration with Tancredi’s failure to trust her. Every once in a while I’m reminded what an amazing thing a duet can be (if both singers are into it, if they’re well matched in tone and skill and if neither is trying to outdo the other).

Lovelorn, Tancredi sits on ruins, moping and declaiming in a Werther-like manner7. Saracens pass by then Amenaide8, Argirio and their retinue come looking for our unhappy hero.

Per che turbar la calma: when I said pah! at the title role being difficult and long I had forgotten how late in the game this mofo comes. Well, over two hours in and and yet another 6min+ of angst to go through – ok, I see the point.

I don’t know why, but I feel like either Rossini was still in the mood of Ah, come mai quell’anima or something, because the music of Tancredi’s tantrum of self-pity is inherently seductive (the non sa comprendere il mio dolor bit). However, Valentini Terrani doesn’t linger long with the soulful indecision. She snarls a fioritura back at the weeping Amenaide on the way to the battlefield – where Tancredi hopes to die so Amenaide can bitterly regret betraying him for the rest of her life. You have to see it for yourself, because Valentini Terrani’s acting on this is terrific.

Since this is the Ferrara version, Tancredi gets his dark wish and takes about 10min to expire (in recit form, mind). Still, not all is gloomy, as he finally believes that Amenaide loved him all along.

Verdict: This is very good. There are operatic productions I’ve watched and soon forgot but I doubt I’ll forget this one. Really awesome characterisation by Valentini Terrani and much better singers in the supporting roles than in Horne’s 1977 production, about which I’ll talk in my next Tancredi installment.

  1. Although given the latex and Amenaide’s cage, I wonder how he’d have worked the whole thing. Regie and opera seria ain’t so strange bedfellows. My theory is that Tancredi and Amenaide had already done the cha-cha back in Byzantium. Just a hunch – or a dirty mind. 
  2. Wiki says the first stone was laid in 1163AD and I’m only using it here as a symbol of this architectural style. 
  3. But the briskest “Tancredi”9 overture comes from this wonderful La pietra del paragone production, conducted at breakneck speed by Jean-Christophe Spinosi. That is, of course, for another post. 
  4. Sounding heroic as opposed to matronly. Trouser roles are mainly tragic heroes and a couple of teenagers. 
  5. She’s right, though; Tancredi is perfectly honourable but not much fun. Playing him is an exercise in shading dejection and anger. 
  6.  And he looks exactly like I imagined Orbazzano. 
  7.  He sits atop a mountain and nature mirrors his inner turmoil… 
  8. What in the world is Amenaide doing so near the battlefield?! 
  9. Pops Rossini was at it from the get-go: he simply lifted the overture from the wedding comedy La pietra del paragone (1812) and rehashed a number of its bits for this here opera seria. As you do! 

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on November 29, 2013, in favourite opera productions, mezzos & contraltos, rossini and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. she’s got that rare vocal quality4 which makes a mezzo credible in a trouser role

    Actually i’ve been thinking, that back then they groomed these mezzos you know, in contrast to a completely cleaner sound (i’d say something like Crebassa’s sound) now. Back then they also had Bernadette Manca di Nissa, quite a proper mezzo/contralto voice too.

  2. I think you’re very right! Back then they also weren’t so regimented with their repertoire.

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