La gazza ladra

Rossini La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie) opera to a libretto by Giovanni Gherardini. Directed 2007 by Damiano Michieletto at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy (Rossini's birthplace). Stars Paolo Bordogna, Kleopatra Papatheologou, Dmitry Korchak,  Mariola Cantarero, Alex Esposito, Michele Pertusi, Manuela Custer, Stefan Cifolelli, Cosimo Panozzo, Vittorio Prato, and Matteo Ferrara.  Dancer Sandhya Nagaraja stars in the non-singing role of La Gazza. Also features Giulio Zappa on fortepiano and Paolo Pucci on cello continuo. Lü Jia conducts the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento and the Prague Chamber Choir (Chorus Master Lubomír Mátl). Set design by Paolo Fantin; costume design by Carla Teti; light design by Mark Truebridge; video direction by Tiziano Mancini. Released in 2012, disc has dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

This is a melodrama or opera semiseria---an idiotically contrived plot created purely as a platform to yank tears and support silliness. The story hinges on crimes committed by a bird, which lead to a multitude of fatal complications that can only be solved by a last-second pardon from the King. Piled on this we have 3+ hours of high-voltage Rossini orchestration and coloratura singing. So how do you balance off the inane story with the glorious music? Here Damiano Michieletto turns the entire story into a dream, which allows his crew to get away with a lot without seeming illogical.

Thank Goodness this was done in a real opera house (not at one of those outdoor festivals).  This allows the magpie to really fly and for Paola Fantin to go crazy with his enigmatic cylinders, small and large. Light designer Mark Truebridge probably earned 3 times his fee, and Carla Teti managed to use something from every bin at her warehouse without looking silly. All the visual shenanigans are neatly and aptly captured by video director Tiziano Mancini, who is building an excellent reputation for great work at smaller venues. (See, for example, his Edgar and Thais at Regio Torino and his Turandot from Palau de las Arts.)

So the dream conjured by Michieletto has enough weight to support the singing, even for today's taste, which demands never to be bored. All the singers were fine for the light-weight nature of the project, perhaps in part because this production does not sap too much energy with acting demands. And the orchestra sounded brilliant throughout while never drowning out the singers.