BWW Review: LA GAZZETTA at The Israeli Opera
Ever since the New Israeli Opera was created in 1985 there's usually been one guest international production in each of its seasons. This year the Royal Opera of Wallonie from Liege, Belgium, brought its fun production to Tel Aviv, Gioacchino Rossini's opera buffa La Gazzetta (The Magazine) which is presented for the first time in Israel, over 200 years after it was written.
The story of La Gazzetta takes place in a small hotel in Paris called Hotel L'Aquila. Many tourists arrive at the hotel and among them are Don Pomponio, a Neapolitan merchant, his daughter Lisetta and his assistant Tommasino, as well as Anselmo and his daughter Doralice. As Pomponio, played by the spectacular Enrico Maria Marabelli, places an advertisement in the news website "LaGazzetta.com" in search of a husband for his daughter, a comedy of errors begins with many misunderstandings regarding possible matches for Lisetta, a short mix-up between the two daughters, new visitors in the hotel, and more.
Though the story itself isn't very profound or challenging, Rossini's music is exquisite and rich, especially with the harmonies during the duets and quintets. That being said, as much as the orchestra of the Opera Royal de Wallonie played magnificently, in many cases the music was lacking the much needed volume and strength that both the scenes and conductor Jan Schultsz required from it.
As there are only two settings, the hotel's street entrance and its lobby, set designer Jean Guy Lecat created rich and detailed designs, creating a set that looks very much like a modern European boutique hotel. On the other hand, the set's two elevators may have been an impressive gimmick but also a bit two much, even though director Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera made the most of it, especially during Filippo and Lisetta's duet in the second act. A duet, by the way, where both Cinzia Forte (who plays Lisetta) and especially Laurent Kubla (who plays Filippo) show their incredible musical articulation and especially staccato abilities, which they have presented throughout the entire show. Further completing direction by Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera was the way the entire Chorus moved and acted on stage and gave a feeling as if the hotel was real and truly functioning, which indirectly completed the missing richness in the opera's plot.
Other than the settings and digital magazine, adding to the modern feeling were costume designer Fernand Ruiz's whimsical costumes, slightly resembling designs somewhere between Susan Hilferty's detailed and singular costumes in the musical Wicked and the futuristic and rich costumes used in The Hunger Games film series.
To say this is a must see opera would be false, mostly due to the simple and quite ridiculous storyline that requires the viewer to arrive very open-minded to the opera house, but with a combination of great talent both on and off stage this production truly makes up for it and provides a joyous show to watch.
Photo Credit: Liege Opera.