La bella dormente nel bosco
Angele Nisi, Shoushik Barsoumian, Antonio Gandia, Vincenzo Taormina, Veta Pilipenko, Claudia Urru; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari/Donato Renzetti; Dir. Leo Muscato (Cagliari, 2017)
Naxos DVD: 2.110655 Blu-ray: NBD0106V 88 mins
Commissioned for puppets in 1922 then revised for children to perform 12 years later, Respighi’s version of Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty has rarely been re-awakened. Yet its modest resources and a score that skilfully weaves together musical jokes from the Baroque to 20th-century dance music via Strauss and Wagner has much to commend it.
Alas, this well-intentioned revival at the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari is unlikely to convince any prince of opera to give Respighi’s Beauty the kiss of life… Halfway through the first scene when the fairies, led by the good Blue Fairy, accept the invitation to the Princess’s christening and twirl ribbons on sticks before searching for suitable gifts for the royal baby, Leo Muscato’s production seems at sea without a rudder.
The simplest kind of fluffy illustrations for children’s books are combined with a lazy eye for pastel shades of baby pink, peacock blue, mauve and apple green. The principal characters stride about the stage in front of a huge cut out moon looking for direction, though the Blue Fairy waves her wand very nicely.
As ‘any fule know’, when the princess pricks her finger on a spindle she falls asleep for several centuries. So why is the Beldam she finds at the top of a dark turret that fateful day knitting on two large needles and not spinning with a spindle? Fairy tales should be logical in their irrationality.
Angela Nisi is a disappointing royal narcoleptic who seems to have pitch problems. However, Antonia Gandía as the Prince, who will wake her in the 20th century in this version, gives a passable impersonation of an Italian tenor. And Donato Renzetti in the pit makes the most of Respighi’s last musical joke, a final dance that’s a haunting foxtrot. How much better if this production had abandoned the nursery for the ballroom.