giugno 2008
Teatro dell'Opera Roma

Complimenti per una rappresentazione grandiosa, un lavoro meraviglioso!
Grazie, Andrea!

Carmen, this opera is full of dramatic and passion, full of emotions and feelings!
Carmen herself (Ildiko Komlosi - great voice) - she is a devil, she uses every advantage, she is playing with feelings, especially with the feeling of Don José. As he is no longer useful, she let fall him.
Don José (Andrea) is a very sentimental man, he loves Michaela, a girl from his home village. But more and more he is interested in Carmen, finally he is inflamed in love to her. And he has to make a decision between his duty and his passion for Carmen.

First act: after the first scene with Michaela, Ltd. Zuniga and the choir, Don José comes on stage, together with other soldiers - Andrea looks phantastic in his uniform! No wonder that Carmen has an eye on him, she tries to get his attention, touches him and at least she throws the flower on his breast.
Than the duet with Michaela "Parle-moi de ma mère.."- very strong and absolut the first highlight - strong applause after the scene!
The end of the first act: José arrests Carmen, because of a knife attack against another woman. She asks him to let her escape. José, who at first was very negative against her, but now more and more falling in love to her, refuses, but than he opens her chains, she knockes him down to the bottom and escapes....

Second act: at first Carmen, than Escamillo (Natale De Carolis: he had some problems with the deeper notes) with "Votre Toast".
In the middle of the act finally José again, alone with Carmen, she dances. And the Floweraria "La fleur que tu m`avais jettée.." - it seems to be that Andrea has put all the power of his voice in this aria - absolutely great - at the end much and long applause and Bravo-shouts!
Carmen asks him to come with her, José, again between duty and his love, says "no", in this moment Ltd. Zuniga enters, he insults José, short fight with swords, Carmen seperates the fighters. No way back for José!

Third act: in the mountains, Carmen and José quarrel, he suffers, because he is not sure, if she still loves him.
Mercedes, Frasquita and Carmen tell the fortune, for Carmen with the result: death! She is shocked.
Aria of Michaela.
José, now member of a group of smugglers, with a gun in his hands, meets Escamillo. He is jealous, they fight with knives - very dramatic and very good! - José is shortly before to kill Escamillo, Carmen again seperates them. That makes José more jealous, the smugglers must hold him back, he always wants to attack Escamillo again, he clenches his fists.
Carmen wants the seperation. Michaela enters the scene, now José is standing between her and Carmen, but he doesn`t love Michaela any longer, and Carmen doesn`t love him any longer - what a dilemma! And Michaela tells him, that his mother is going to die - he is desperate!

Fourth act: Bull fight in the arena - Carmen and José clash in front of the arena. Carmen confesses that she loves Escamillo, she throws José`s ring away. He knocks her down, shakes seems to be as if he will strangle her...and at least he stabs her...
The last notes "Vouz pouvez m`arreter.." he is singing with wide streched arms, before he breaks down on the dead Carmen....
Phantastic and dramatic final!!

....Also one day later I am breathless while talking about it .....

It was a wonderful evening, Andrea was phantastic, he was singing phanatastic and also acting phantastic!!

Ancora una volta, grazie Andrea, e molto successo per le prossime rappresentazione!
by Anne-Karin D. Hamburg, Germany


Je suis revenue de Rome à la fois exténuée et ravie. Exténuée par la chaleur du soleil ardent, ravie par la soirée inoubliable que j’ai passée à l’opéra.
Ma journée du 20 a été entièrement consacrée à Andrea dans l’attente de Carmen. Visite à Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, achat du CD, discussions entre fans, attente devant l’entrée des artistes  attente couronnée de succès surtout après le spectacle. 

Enfin l’heure de Carmen arrive et le groupe francophone se retrouve.
Dès les premiers accents nous admirons la mise en scène et les décors de cette production, les somptueux jeux de lumières, les trompe-l’oeil, les costumes aux couleurs chaudes rappelant l’Espagne.

J’ai personnellement beaucoup apprécié Ildiko Komlosi dans le difficile et omniprésent rôle de Carmen bien en accord avec le jeu de Don José, une belle voix de mezzo.

Anne a très bien raconté le déroulement de l’opéra, je ne peux faire mieux. Dès l’apparition d’Andrea au premier acte les applaudissements ont fusé, très vite mon duo préféré “ma mère je la vois” qui a été chaleureusement ovationné par le public.
Comme s’il était encore possible à Andrea de faire mieux, non seulement il met toujours autant de sentiment dans sa façon de chanter, mais sa voix a gagné en puissance ; il nous a montré aussi ses réels dons de comédien puisqu’il devait chanter mais également parler, et le faire dans une langue étrangère était une difficulté supplémentaire. De tous les participants on peut affirmer que c’est lui qui avait la meilleure diction. Il n’a pas craint certaines scènes difficiles comme de se battre en duel. Son interprétation de “la fleur que tu m’avais jetée” était sublime. Il a été bouleversant dans le quatrième acte : “Carmen il est temps encore”, et la fin est tragique.

Comme toujours il s’est entièrement coulé dans le personnage, pris entre sa fidélité envers Micaëla et la passion que lui inspire Carmen, passion empreinte de jalousie qui le conduira au meurtre.

C’est la quatrième fois que je vois cet opéra, avec plus ou moins de bonheur, celle-ci restera gravée dans ma mémoire.

Ensuite il a fallu quitter Rome. Dans le train de retour j’ai admiré les paysages baignés par la lumière du soleil couchant avec un peu de nostalgie au fond du coeur et de merveilleux souvenirs en tête.

Bravo Andrea ! Tu as relevé un défi encore une fois. Merci d’avoir à nouveau choisi un opéra français, c’est un très grand honneur pour nous. A quand le prochain ?
by Francesca, Paris, France


To Cross an Ocean for a Song: Carmen, Roma, 2008
Andrea has lured us to so many unforgettable first-time adventures—Sicily, Naples, Bologna, Verona, Wales, Detroit (!?) —but the Eternal City was already familiar territory to us. For Andrea, however, it was really the first staged opera performance in a major world capital—an exciting setting. As we got into the cab for opening night, it was thrilling to pronounce the lilting Italian sound of our destination, Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma, and enchanting to follow our course over the cobbled streets round the curve of Castel Sant’Angelo, over the Tiber river with a glimpse of St. Peter’s dome catching the sun’s twilight glow, along the busy via del Corso, through the many crowded piazzas each with its distinctive fountain or obelisk, and finally to the open sunken square before the Teatro with its marble-paved courtyard studded with lush palms. The adventure of Carmen was about to begin!
The Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma is a study in gold and crimson, with multitudes of graceful arches, and the whole interior sumptuously punctuated with hundreds of crystal chandeliers. The ceiling of the soaring dome is adorned with a beautiful fresco. Among the world premieres at this theater have been those of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana in 1890 and Puccini’s Tosca in 1900. In a famous controversial performance in 1958, the supreme diva Maria Callas abandoned a performance of Norma after the first act because of vocal problems. The current seating capacity for the floor and the four tiers that rise to the dome is about 1600, and for all of Andrea’s four performances, as nearly as a visual survey could determine, they were sold out. According to the comment of one reviewer, this did not seem to be the norm for the theater.
La Prima
The patrons were in elegant evening dress opening night and abuzz with anticipation—perhaps not completely because of curiosity about Andrea’s debut in this role and in this theater. Italy was playing France that night for a place in the World Cup finals and every possible version of electronic gadgetry was universally tuned to check for the score during intermissions, including I’m sure in Andrea’s camerino! Andrea’s mother was in the first box to the right of the stage. Alberto was in a nearby box. Loyal Verano had come with a group of friends from Tuscany. We saw Tony Renis, and Bruno Vespa, the host of the popular TV talk show Porta a Porta, was two rows in front of us. So was Ivano Berti, Veronica’s father. (Andrea’s sons were both there for the second production. Also, in the front row, was Nicola Piovani, the composer who gave us the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack for “Life Is Beautiful” and who will conduct part of the program for the 2008 Teatro del Silenzio concert.) The varied languages filling the hall attested to the international crowd, which of course included an enthusiastic representation from the US. The opening night included a good many patrons who held un abbonamento (season subscription) and were undoubtedly curious about Bocelli and most probably waiting to be convinced about his operatic credentials.
Among the skeptical was an older couple seated in front of us. During the intermission after the first act, the man enquired about where we were from in the United States. Within a few minutes, between my basic Italian and his tentative English, I learned that he was retired, lived in a coastal town between Rome and Naples, grew up in Cassino, and was 13 at the time of the decimating World War II military campaign there that destroyed the town and its crowning jewel, the irreplaceable eleventh-century Benedictine monastery of Montecassino. It seemed urgent to him that we know that his father, a soldier, had died in some unknown town of Russia and that to this day he frequently visited the graves of the war dead—both German and American—as a consolation for the inability to visit the grave of his own father. He was clear that he felt his country owed a great deal to America. When he heard that we had come specifically to hear Andrea in this opera, he remarked, with what struck me as carefully chosen diplomacy, that this was perhaps not Bocelli’s role. In truth, I thought Andrea had seemed a bit nervous and somewhat vocally tentative in the first act. But such jitters were not unusual for him. “Give him time,” I said to our doubting friend. That time came in Act II when Andrea hit his stride with the famous aria “La fleur que tu m’avais jette’.” Infused with earnest and plaintive longing, Andrea’s pure tenor wove its palpable emotional connection with the audience. At the moment when we all finally stirred from the tender caress of the final notes and burst into appreciative applause, the old man turned round to me with a beatific grin that filled his face and pronounced unreservedly in English, “THAT was beautiful!!” Yes…
I Bei Momenti
If Andrea had given us only this single gorgeous aria, it would have been enough. But there were so many delightful mental snapshots to keep. There was Brigadier Bocelli’s first stride onstage in that gold-buttoned, high-collared, impeccably fitted white and navy uniform coat, complete with epaulettes and tan pants tucked into the jaunty brown boots that set off his height. Yet, despite the elegant military look with sword flashing at his side, handsome belt, striking white cross-strap on his chest, the costume repeatedly evoked from him the most charmingly engaging sporadic fidgeting ever produced onstage. Fortunately, this added a believable dimension of unease to the character portrayal. In any case, Andrea’s acting ability has continued to develop. It was a pleasure to see the effectively detailed gestures incorporated into his performance: the adorably ineffective body movements to evade the wiles of Carmen and maintain his military composure at their first encounter, the characteristic slap to his thigh indicating frustration, the predictable surreptitious rope check (each of the four nights) to be sure that this necessary prop was tucked into his belt for the moment when it would be needed to dutifully bind the hands of his prisoner Carmen, his convincing reactions while “watching” the alluringly seductive dance of Carmen. Later, we saw Daniel Boone Bocelli in the mountain hideout setting, trusty musket thrust before him to stoically challenge the intruder Escamillo. Then there was the continuing drama of the unforgettable evasive red poppy, so central to the first encounter of Don Jose’ and Carmen when she marks him for her next conquest with the thrust of the fateful flower. That dauntingly wayward flower prop seemed to evade Andrea’s every attempt to stoop casually and take it in hand as called for in the scene. Each time it fell to his feet just out of reach, and he was forced to feel around a bit for it. And each of the four nights, either Carmen or Andrea devised some new subtle means to effect a smoother retrieval. Yet, every night the willful red menace continued to confound him, until the final night. With tenorial tenacity, subtly but firmly, he stomped it in place with his handsome booted foot as it dropped to the floor to keep it, at last, right where he wanted it…a small stage triumph that made us smile.
La Messa in Scena
From the first downward stroke of Maestro Alain Lombard’s baton, the passionate thrust of Bizet’s music explodes and sweeps you into its force. It is intoxicating—infused with the colorful pageantry and passionate tradition of Spain. The production captured this as well in varied ways…the opulent costuming; rhythmic energetic dancing performed with color, style, and surging energy; the full-voiced chorus; and the use of some rather unique projected imagery. These projections on a scrim placed at midpoint onstage, dividing the stage action before and behind, added interesting dimensions to the production, They provided a broadened panoramic feel; created scenic backdrops like the mountain crags or an enchanting cloud-swept full moon at dawn; and evoked the excitement of swirling senoritas, lively street vendors, and boisterous crowds in the parade scenes in front of the grand arena of Seville. In the first moment of the opera, the opening image of the arena that became progressively larger on the screen and drew us virtually into its depths effectively foreshadowed the drama of life and death about to unfold that mirrored the cruel tragedy played out in the bullring.
Il Primo Attore
Through the course of the four performances, as Andrea achieved a comfort level, his interactions and reactions with the singers became increasingly more confident. I thought a great deal about the strength of will it requires of Andrea to do what it takes to appear in staged opera. Initially, during the beginning of the first act, I was a bit disappointed in what seemed to me the director Pier’Alli’s lack of confidence in giving Andrea more freedom of movement onstage. To me, the first few entrances and exits gave an appearance of his being led about too much. This, after all, was the man who had swept Cio Cio San into his arms and carried her cavalierly to the summit of a steeply raked stage “hill” for a climactic embrace in Madama Butterfly; who had climbed the two dozen steps of the church altar without missing a beat when the set unexpectedly and perilously split apart and who had also achieved a firing squad death scene that was to die for (so to speak) in Tosca; who had, in L’Amico Fritz, flamboyantly scaled a ladder to a dizzyingly high outlook and hung precariously over the edge and, in the finale, twirled Suzanne in a jubilantly triumphant feet-off-the ground sweeping circle; and who had ridden horseback onstage in one production of Werther and, in another, wandered in desolation unerringly from stage rear to stage front of a movie theater setting and dropped convincingly to the floor after dramatically shooting himself. Why were they giving him nothing to do here? To my relief, however, the situation rapidly improved as Andrea was thrust to the floor and achieved a well-executed fall during the Act I escape of Carmen, managed a quick moving swordfight with his superior officer in Act II, navigated a menacingly dramatic knife duel with Escamillo that required a mutual test of strength and pinning his rival to the floor in Act III, and, most dramatically of all, realistically depicted the murder of Carmen in the final act.
Altri Protagonisti
Actually, there were a few other people in the cast besides Andrea. The opera is called Carmen after all—and Ildiko Komlosi was really brilliant in this demanding role: fiery, passionate, flirtatious, and alluring. Who knows what Carmen was thinking when she set her sights on poor Don Jose’, a literally fatal decision. But seeing Andrea in that uniform, well, who could blame the girl? This is a woman who states, “I am not afraid of anything,” and she means it with every fiber of her being. The mezzo brought her convincingly to life. Her vocal control was impressive, with mood and expression ranging from insolence and power, to seductive sorcery, to vulnerability, and stoic acceptance. From the first moment she makes her entrance until her death in the final scene, she is hardly ever off stage. Watching her subtle interactions with him, it was evident that Komlosi was an attentive and open-hearted colleague to Andrea throughout their performances. The other principal singers rotated throughout the four productions we saw. Of the two Escamillos, Natale de Carolis (who sang Schaunard on the La Boheme recording with Andrea and also appeared in the Bologna Werther) gave the proudest toreador impression, though some of the lower notes in the challenging range of the role eluded him. Simone Alberghini was, I thought, livelier and a more convincing combatant in the knife duel with Andrea. I personally preferred the softer, sweeter portrayal of Micaela achieved by the second of the two sopranos, Cinzia Rizzone. I thought she was a better blend with Andrea’s beautifully rounded timbre. Maria Carola seemed a bit harsher and more mature than the soft, shy, country-girl demeanor that the role of Micaela requires. The other minor roles were uniformly good, offering some lively and very entertaining duets, trios, and quartets. The very young dancers who portrayed the ragamuffins of the town who mock and tease the marching band of soldiers at the changing of the guard in the opening act were quite adorable, particularly the littlest one who skipped about with excited abandon that won a sympathetic audience response each night. When Andrea, with back to the audience and hands crossed behind him, took up his parade-rest guard position in this scene, he had an engagingly charming moment of visual interaction with these teasing little ragazzi. With his natural affinity for children, I would bet he thoroughly enjoyed working with them during rehearsals.
Brigadiere Innamorato
Andrea had already commented in an interview before these performances that the role of Don Jose is a true test for any tenor, an important debut for him, and a role that was dear to his idol and maestro Franco Corelli. The program called the role difficilissimo (ultimately difficult) because of the constant alternating between a sweet lyric and more dramatic tenor vocal expression. There is no doubt that he worked very hard to portray this role, and, secondo me, it reflected a new level of vocal maturity for him.
There are many vocal highlights. Unforgettable, and one of the sweetest, was Andrea’s beautifully melodic and confident a cappella performance of the optimistically jaunty tune of “Dragon d’Arcala”—perfectly and proudly intoned with capable trills—that announced his second act entrance. He begins it offstage and it culminates with the final thrill of the high note, held long and strongly, that marks his actual appearance onstage. It is a rare, light-hearted, optimistic moment for Don Jose’, newly released from prison and in the throes of love, before his world begins to crumble around him. It was bittersweet to have to hear it for the last time on the final night…but we have the CD!
One of the most memorable scenes for me, and one that seemed most demanding for the singers, begins midway through Act II with Carmen’s dance for Don Jose’, moves through his profession of love with the beautiful and familiar aria “La fleur…,” and then through the interaction that leads to his final surrender to her sorcery and to his desertion. Throughout this scene, Andrea’s portrayal of the agonized torment caused by the clash between his irresistible attraction for Carmen and his sense of honor and commitment to duty was intense, although carefully measured. The intricate interplay of the first part of this Act II dialogue is reinforced by the intertwining rhythms of the castanets of Carmen’s dance and the trumpet call for retreat to quarters that interrupts her seduction and draws Don Jose’s attention from her. She reacts explosively to his distraction. To calm her, Andrea stands behind her, slowly draws from his coat the treasured flower that he has kept with him in prison and tenderly lifts it to her face while beginning the gently sweet melody of the aria that describes his powerful feelings. His voice grows in intensity as he sings of the ardent emotion that has increasingly possessed his soul— “one desire…one hope” that she will love him. Andrea was masterful, his interpretation was sheer perfection, particularly the final night. While singing, he comes round beside Carmen and, when he finally helplessly drops to his knee beside her in utter submission with the final declaration “Je t’aime,” the combined effect of the enchanting spell of his artistry, the urgency in his beautifully modulated voice, and the sweet gesture of his surrender were indescribable. Every time, the audience responded with enthusiastic applause, particularly the final night that drew many bravos. It had to be the most satisfying moment for him. All I could think was there is no other tenor I have heard singing today who could possibly produce such delicately nuanced melodic beauty. Unfortunately, Carmen is less impressed. Her immediate cold response is “Tu ne m’aimes pas.” She proceeds then to vocally berate him with what he would do if he really loved her. Her mocking intensifies. For his part, with the repetition of just one word—“Carmen”—Andrea conveys a world of pleading emotion and increasing desperation. At one point, it seems Don Jose’ may yet summon the will to resist Carmen’s unreasonable demand that he give up all that represents honor and duty for him, and Andrea reinforces this moment with firm voice and strong sudden movement away from Carmen that are perfectly coordinated. But fate takes a turn with the interruption of the fatal knock on the tavern’s door of Don Jose’s lieutenant, and the jealousy Don Jose’ feels toward this possible rival finally overcomes all sense of duty. The two clash heatedly with drawn swords and the insubordination to his superior seals the fate of Don Jose. He now no longer has the choice to return to his life as a soldier. But, for the moment, the band of brigands convinces him that this new rebellious life is one of liberty and freedom. In this Act II choral finale, Andrea’s voice rang loud and clear above the massed singers, and on the final night as an added flourish, he swept the mezzo off her feet with an energetic lift as the curtain fell.
Without question, the most intense dramatic and vocal challenge for Andrea was the heartbreaking final scene when the grieving and broken Don Jose appears alone to confront Carmen for the last time. Silhouetted in the spotlight onstage is the dearly familiar noble Tuscan profile. Facing Carmen, he says only, “C’est moi.” In this scene, Andrea’s quietly simple approach stripped of theatrics is powerfully effective. Bereft now of all that had meaning for him—beloved mother, gentle love of Micaela, the honor and dedication of his military career—he makes his final plea to Carmen to come with him, still clinging desperately to the unrealistic hope that they can begin a new life “under new skies.” This musical dialogue is unbelievably challenging, progressing as it does through the incredible emotional range of quiet hope, to despairing realization, to near psychotic jealousy and rage. It was thrilling to watch Andrea meet the challenge both vocally and dramatically, vividly reflecting it all through the powerful music Bizet gives to him. The physical intensity of his crazed stranglehold on Carmen’s throat followed by his fatally powerful thrust of the knife in sync with the dark rage of his words produced a startlingly convincing murderous effect. Who would have thought our soft-spoken gentilissimo tenore could have mustered such anger? When he finally slumps despairingly over the body with the final words of the opera “ma Carmen adoree’,” we felt drained by the drama he had played out and the desolation he conveyed. Then, after momentarily stunned shock, the appreciative, well-earned applause poured over all from the audience. The curtain calls were uniformly triumphant for the cast and, of course, rose to a predictable level of intensity first for our star, Andrea, and then for the nominal star, Carmen. The moment of achievement was sweet indeed.
La Sfida Enorme
In a curious way, I had a flash of insight into the enormity of the effort Andrea must expend—mental, physical, and emotional—to achieve the finished product of a staged operatic role. One afternoon Jack and I were driving out of Rome for an excursion for about the third or fourth time. The process is a challenge of Olympic proportions—a hair-raising, stomach churning , white-knuckle affair requiring all the mental focus and steeled nerves of both driver (Jack) and navigator (me). The experience is a toxic mix of three to five lanes of fast moving and unpredictably shifting traffic, haphazardly ineffective signage in a foreign language, unfamiliar traffic symbols, unexpected one-way and controlled access streets, and a mysterious secret code of Italian traffic etiquette, all complexly interwoven with the insane maneuvering of crazy motorino drivers who do not seem to be required to follow any laws or standards of reason or logic whatsoever. To try to assimilate all of these components and arrive successfully from point A to point B is supremely nerve-wracking, to say the least. In the midst of this particular trip, it suddenly hit me that we might be feeling something akin to what it must seem like to Andrea as he assumes the challenge to memorize, master, coordinate, and apply the hundreds of cues, pathways, posturings, expressions, gestures, and split-second timing required of his performance, while adjusting to partners of three separate cast changes, and to do all this while singing a technically demanding score beautifully, yet forcefully, in a language that is not his own. The challenge is unimaginable. Yet, here is his comment on the production that provides some insight into his characteristically calmly determined approach not only to this project, but to life in general: “Certainly I encountered difficulties because of the huge expanses onstage, but I believe that problems exist to be resolved, and the greater a problem appears to be, the bigger the satisfaction in succeeding in overcoming it.” (Il Giornale dei Grandi Eventi, 17 giugno, 2008, trans. CM). Andrea met this newest challenge of his operatic repertoire head-on, with his usual spirit and courage. I hope his satisfaction in doing so is as boundless as the ocean we happily crossed to share it with him!!
A Casa
Now, we are at home again. It has been nearly a week since the curtain fell on the final performance of Carmen. The persistent sensuous rhythms of that music and the distinctive timbre of Andrea’s Don Jose continue to replay in relentless soundtrack mode in my mind. Perhaps it seems crazy to have crossed an ocean for a song. But we would do it again for this and for all the other beautiful moments of this production. What a wondrous gift it all was.
Bravo, carissimo Maestro! Alla prossima volta…
by Cami McNamee, Washington, USA


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