I Puritani

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Vincenzo Bellini created “I Puritani” in 1835, but of course because the theme is love, requited and reborn, it is never out of favor.

The Met this year reinstituted this beautiful work of art with authentic backdrops: steps, gardens, walls and other architectural effects that lent verismo to the entire three acts.

We had seen the opera in Zurich during a recent trip to Switzerland, and were impressed by the simplicity: Voluminous curtains which moved but never changed the sets, and rough hewn puritan outfits. Here in New York, however, even with cuts and care to scale back, one’s sense of visual truth was not compromised as we all evolved through the love story, the abandonment, and the… ending.

Elvira was the incomparable Diana Damrau; Arturo, Javier Camarena and their passion and presentation were riveting throughout. The NY Times loved Camarena, calling his phrasing a “model of grace” and his “high C… in his glory.” And of course, Damrau is Diana!

All in all, “I Puritani” this year was a model of what a “scaled down” version of Grand Opera can be. (And we’ve given up on “Rigoletto” in Las Vegas!)

Barbara Tober

 

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Posted: 03/03/17 by Fred Rubinstein

This is an opera where, unlike with “Tosca,” “La Boheme,” “La Traviata,” “Carmen,” “Rigoletto” and “Madame Butterfly,” you don’t come out humming an aria — one of my unsophisticated criteria for grand opera. Notwithstanding, it was an opportunity last night to hear two of the stars of this season at the Met, the Mexican tenor, Javier Camarena (Arturo), deemed by the NY Times opera critic Anthony Tommasini, to be the leading bel canto tenor of the day, and Diana Damrau, the beautiful German soprano, (Elvira) who sings, and acts, superbly. Tommasini gave the performance a very positive review with which I agree wholeheartedly. I would like to put in a good word for two other cast members, Russian baritone Alexey Markov (Riccardo) and the Venezuelan bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni (Giorgio), whom he damns with faint praise. To my untutored ear, Pisaroni, as well as Markov, both in their dignified acting and dramatic singing, more than held their own. In any event, the overwhelming applause, and the repeated curtain calls, indicated enthusiastic approval by the audience. I do agree, however, with Joshua Ruch (and Tommasini) that the sets look tired. In particular the scrim that you see between acts looks as if it could use a good dry cleaning.

A brief summary of the plot — Riccardo, an officer in the Cromwellian forces (the Puritani) arrayed against the royalist Stuart forces during the English Civil War, returns to a Plymouth fortress to find that the beautiful Elvira, who had been promised in marriage to him by her father, is about to marry a man she loves madly, Arturo (a Stuart partisan), because Elvira’s uncle, Giogio, was able to persuade her father to renege on his promise to Riccardo.

Arturo discovers that Queen Henrietta, the widow of the executed King Charles I, is a prisoner in the fortress. Loyal to the Stuart cause, he uses the bridal veil intended for Elvira’s wedding, to help the Queen escape. Elvira, left at the altar, descends into a madness that persists into Acts II and III. However, in Act III, when Arturo, pursued by Riccardo, returns to Plymouth and Elvira, she is finally snaped back into sanity. Unfortunately, Arturo, still under sentence of death, is now recaptured by Riccardo. However, at the very last minute, in one of many improbable plot twists, a messenger arrives with a pardon for Arturo and the lovers are permanently reunited for one of the few happy endings in grand opera.

Frederic Rubinstein

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Posted: 02/27/17 by Joshua Ruch

Saw “I Puritani” last night. Old tired production, but Diana Damrau and Javier Camarena and Bellini’s music made it one of the more exciting visits to the Met Opera in a long time. Only one more opportunity to see them on Tuesday night, February 28.

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