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Teatro Comunale
January 22, 25, 27, 29

Prima della Prima; RAI, Werther Bologna, Januar 2004

I just wanted to say a few words about Andrea's performance in Werther. I don't want this to be about me, but let me preface by saying that when I heard that the production would be modernized, I felt more than a little trepidation, because I don't appreciate the modernization of opera. But after seeing it, I can only say that the director, Liliana Cavani, is an absolute genius! She had a vision, and it worked!! This was truly the most compelling opera production I've ever seen. It was spellbinding, enthralling, and absolutely beautiful. The sets and costumes were just magnificent as well.

Andrea strode onstage in the first act, and from the moment he opened his mouth, one could see that this man just owned the stage. He was confident and sure. His voice was enormous! He was Werther! Julia Gertseva was a beautiful and sympathetic Charlotte, and there was a lot of chemistry between them from their first moment together until he died in her arms.

I've seen Andrea perform in Werther 5 times, as well as 3 times in Amico Fritz, and twice in Butterfly. This is a different Andrea. And although his voice is huge, and projects completely, it's lost none of its beauty. It's still the voice that we've come to know and love throughout the past years. And it should be very clear to anyone who was there for this production that there is absolutely NO doubt in the world that this man was born to sing opera! He was absolutely amazing.

Prima della Prima; RAI, Werther Bologna, Januar 2004

What struck us all the most - beyond his incredible musical presence - was his acting. O Dio! This man can act! When I saw Werther in Detroit, I loved it. I thought he sang well, and I thought his acting was good. And although I could see his pain, this time he really made you FEEL his pain! He was a young Werther, so desperately in love with Charlotte, and so desolate when that love wasn't returned. His facial expressions and body language were absolutely right on the mark every time!! Again, I think Cavani really brought out the absolute best in him. Of course, it had to be within him to begin with for her to be able to find it, but it was there. So many moments!! But one that really stood out was in the third act, after Charlotte runs away from him and slams the door to her room - Werther's utter disbelief that she could treat him this way was mirrored in Andrea's face in so many ways that only one with the coldest heart could not have been brought to tears. I've never experienced a moment like this at any opera. It was truly incredible.

Prima della Prima; RAI, Werther Bologna, Januar 2004

If I had to sum up the production, and the performance, in only one word, which is truly impossible. it would be that it was totally compelling...from the first note to the last. Yves Abel did a wonderful job with the orchestra, bringing Massenet's dramatic score to life, and the sets were not only appropriate to and symbolic of the time and place, but really breathtaking in their simple beauty.

We can only hope that one day this will be filmed for all to see, because in my opinion - and not only mine - this was truly the most glorious highlight of Andrea's career, and we all feel so fortunate to have been there to witness it. Bravi a tutti, ma specialimente al maestro, Andrea Bocelli - BRAVISSIMO!

January 24

La neige tombait doucement sur Bologne, recouvrant de blanc la ville rouge.
Dans le splendide teatro comunale aux murs ivoire et or et aux fauteuils de velours vert nous attendions le coeur battant que se lève le rideau sur le nouveau décor de Werther qui, au premier acte, représente le jardin de la maison du bailli. Et c'est là, parmi les fleurs, qu'est apparu Werther/Andrea, vêtu d'un costume gris clair, le col de la chemise ouvert, très décontracté. J'ai été agréablement surprise par son jeu d'acteur. En plus de sa voix magique il a vraiment des dons de comédien et une diction parfaite en français. Il se déplace sur la scène avec une aisance étonnante, il est criant de vérité tout au long de l'action et sa voix suit les différentes étapes de l'histoire, il nous bouleverse, IL EST WERTHER, amoureux fougeux, puis sombre et désespéré.
La transposition de l'action dans les années 30 ne m'a pas gênée du tout, le dernier acte dans une salle de cinéma obscure est sinistre à souhait et vous glace le sang, bien qu'on se demande pourquoi Werther est allé se tuer dans un cinéma.


Prima della Prima; RAI, Werther Bologna, Januar 2004

Julia Gersteva était une excellente Charlotte ainsi que la jeune Magali Léger dans le rôle de Sophie qui a été chaleureusement applaudie.

Mais évidemment nos meilleurs applaudissements et standing ovation sont allés à Andrea qui a, une fois de plus, relevé un défi. On ne peut sortir indemne d'un si merveilleux spectacle :
"Je ne sais si je veille ou si je rêve encore !...
Tout ce qui m'environne a l'air d'un paradis ;"


F. Senger

WERTHER 2004, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, 22, 25, 27, 29 di gennaio: Recollections

The ushers smiled good-naturedly and shook their heads in feigned disbelief. We were back again, for the Sunday matinee at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. We really were going to see this opera all four times. "We can’t understand it," they said in accented English, laughing. Of course, we weren’t the only ones. There were so many other Americans there as well, and in fact, fans from all over the world . . .Australia, Japan, England, Austria, Germany, South Africa, Holland, Canada. The excitement was contagious. We had front row seats, Jack and I, stage right—as it turned out, directly in front of most of the action for Andrea, and I could bask in every little detail of the drama.

The production was beautiful in every respect. Mickie has already summed it up perfectly in her early comments. First, the skill and vision of Liliana Cavani in choosing and bringing to reality the period of the 1930s for this drama must be acknowledged. Updating it to the 20th century gives Werther an immediacy that makes it live for us and intensifies the emotional impact. This director brought out the very best not only with Andrea but in the realistically detailed background action with the entire cast. The sets of Dante Ferretti were marvelously convincing, simple yet so beautiful, as were the fabulous details of the costumes (Gabriella Pescucci) and the gorgeous fabrics (by the way, the style of this era suits Andrea to a T, as you have by now seen in the photos from the production on his site). The lush power of Abel’s conducting was captivating and made the richly romantic music almost tangible. Even so, for the record, never once was Andrea "drowned out." As intent as my attention was on every sound and move from Andrea, the uniformly strong supporting cast was really a joy to watch and hear—Charlotte (Julia Gertseva ) with her virtuoso vocal command and powerful dramatic acting ability, and so genuinely attentive to and sweetly interactive with Andrea; Sophie (Magali Leger), utterly charming and animated with a glorious, soaring soprano; Albert (Natale De Carolis), a mellow, masterful baritone, and quite handsome); the bailiff (Giorgio Giuseppini) comically philosophical with a distinctly capable voice. The theatre is entrancingly beautiful with its off-white baroque interior and glittering chandelier and intricately painted ceiling. All in all, it was utterly intoxicating! . . .all four times!!!

This Werther was no formulaic role, bound in a traditional blue coat with yellow breeches. This was a real man. Andrea claimed a Werther distinctively his. For this Werther, Andrea found a voice from a heart that knows loss—a voice of beautiful dimension and color, infusing this role with emotion and humanity. Heartbroken and inconsolable in the loss of the only love he wanted, this Werther’s desolate loss was conveyed by Andrea with understated resolution, quiet strength that was undeniably convincing and irrefutably moving. And I learned a new word to describe Andrea’s voice from one early positive review—slancio, meaning melodic or emotional bravura. Yes.

As Mickie said, there is no denying that Andrea is finding himself on stage—the body language and expression striking just the right mood and tone. So many memorable gestures. In the first act a gentle inclination of affection toward the little girl who is sharing with him an interesting book; leading Charlotte off stage for their evening together in a confident stroll, arms intertwined affectionately, just so; lightly tender caresses of Charlotte’s hair, face, waist, arm accompanying the aria where he extols her beauty (truly conveying "extase"); the helpless, despairing, disbelieving slump to the stairs at hearing the devastating truth that the love of his life belongs to another. In the second act: the yearning look from the café that convincingly follows Charlotte with longing as she moves across the stage and into the church behind, lost to him in the arms of another; the clutch of despair at the chain link fence when she abandons him; the abrupt, confused departure to his exile. In the emotionally draining third act: Andrea conveys exhausted desolation in his inability to resist returning to Charlotte and stands before her with evident yearning, then the explosive release of the banked-down passion he can no longer hold inside in the effort to convince Charlotte to be his at last ("Tu m’aime, tu m’aime,"), and then registering the final inconceivable rejection of his last plea, his hand helplessly, hopelessly extended to beckon her, but with no response. In tragic solitude onstage, a cappella, he sings one word: "Rien" ["Nothing"]…and the voice is utterly convincing in its simple power to convey his total anguished loss. In the death scene of the final act: the voice of Charlotte is as shrilly desperate in her realization of what she has lost as Andrea’s is powerfully and quietly resigned to his fate. You believe without question that this is the voice of a dying man. The two are locked in a heartwrenching portrayal of loss, Charlotte frantically but tenderly continuously stroking the beautiful head as if to somehow keep the life from seeping away from her. Lying flat on his back (how is it possible to sing this way?!), Andrea projects this solemn, sacred emotional moment…sending the anguish straight to your heart. Every one of the four times he lay dying, I believed it completely.

Surely, our tenore is giving opera a new life. It is exemplified in the young man who sat next to me for the third performance. He was a student in Bologna—twenty something—adorable. He spoke English, Spanish, Romanian, and a little Italian. He was from Sweden. On his way home that night, he had passed the Teatro Comunale and spotted the Werther poster. He had never seen an opera, but he knew Bocelli— "Con te partiro"—and he decided to buy a ticket to see what this Werther was about. At the final curtain call, he was ecstatic, eyes shining, exuberant, beeeeg smile! He LOVED it! He loved Bocelli!! He wanted to see another opera as soon as he could. Oh yes, in his own determined way, Andrea is giving opera new life. Another chapter is written. Once again it was our privilege to be present. Grazie, Maestro.

Cami McNamee

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