Bianca e Fernando (DVD)
Salome Jicia, Giorgio Misseri, Nicola Ulivieri; Orchestra e Coro dell’Opera Carlo Felice Genova/Donato Renzetti; dir. Hugo de Ana (Genoa, 2021)
Dynamic DVD: 37954; Blu-ray: 57954 148 mins
Director Hugo de Ana’s production of Bianca e Fernando for Genoa Opera is so relentlessly busy that Bellini all but plays second fiddle to the reworking of his early opera Bianca e Gernando.
Silver balls roll around the stage, a small boy wanders aimlessly with a balloon, and there’s a vast model of the universe with the planets circling the sun. A troupe of actors come and go with sticks and ropes while the chorus, dressed in surgical gowns and masks, stands in serried ranks at the top of an ellipse that slides open. At least Gilardoni and Romani’s libretto about the tyrant Fillipo brought to book by Fernando and Bianca, the children of the Duke of Agrigento who has been unjustly imprisoned, is dressed to match the age of the piece.
The unceasing stage business hampers singers, who tend to lapse into traditional operatic semaphore. (Though this may be a directorial choice too!) Nevertheless, Giorgio Misseri is a useful Romantic tenor in an age when there too few of them, and his aria ‘Allor che notte Avanza’ when he discovers that his father lives is genuinely affecting.
As the villain Filippo, the bass Nicola Ulivieri is dark toned and suitably melodramatic. At the end of the day, though, it’s Salome Jicia’s Bianca who leads, most notably in ‘Deh! Non ferir’, the new Act II finale aria that Bellini composed for Genoa.
In the pit, conductor Donato Renzetti usually keeps the band on its toes, though I rather hope he had a word with his principal flute after the performance. Bellini would not have been pleased.