Last month, with the Alagna imbroglio, we all witnessed the dark, snarky side of the audience at Teatro alla Scala –- the "Roman Arena" (Alagna’s words) -- that smells a singer's blood and then goes for the jugular, booing and harassing some of the biggest names in the business (past victims include in recent years Fleming, Pavarotti and Ricciarelli, and in more distant times even Freni and Callas).
A few hours ago, Opera Chic has instead witnessed the other side of La Scala: a demonstration of pure exaltation and praise for a beniamino (idol) of the audience: Baritone Leo Nucci, who celebrated tonight his thirty years of opera at La Scala, (trent'anni alla Scala) gave an impressive, unusual recital: the "greatest opera hits"; arias plucked from the various operas that he has sung at Teatro alla Scala since 1977 (in the early 1970s, solista Maestro Nucci, displaying his humbleness and humility, decided to go back to study again singing technique and fundamentals, and joined the Coro del Teatro alla Scala for five years...a decision that he still considers key to his success as a singer, and frankly, a decision that should inspire some arrogant and ill-prepared young singers of these starstruck times). Message!
Tonight at Teatro alla Scala the Leo Nucci cult was in full effect at his recital di canto. Did I forget to mention the sing-a-long that Nucci staged during the bis? No?! Well, more on that later. First, my wardrobe: I wore a creamy white, high collar Miu Miu shirt, with a vintage grey Brigatti cashmere sweater. Covering my bottom was a Romeo Gigli pleated dark purple skirt, a pair of black Costume National boots, and my Fay black windbreaker. Lissner would be proud.
I arrived at the theater to an almost full house, and a sign on the placard outside of the theater declaring that the performance was completely sold-out. Nucci clearly has quite a following in Italy, and I was officially indoctrinated to the Nucci-phenomenon last year, during the night of the worst snowstorm to hit Milan since the late 1960s. The night was January 26, 2006, and I had a ticket to attend the La Scala Rigoletto with Maestro Riccardo Chailly at the helm.
Between tenor Piotr Beczala's insulting Duca di Mantova (his voice fully cracked two times during the performamce, once during La donna è mobile) and soprano Andrea Rost's weak and unimpressive Gilda, Leo Nucci's powerful interpretation of Rigoletto was the only thing (aside from Chailly's superb conducting) that kept afloat the entire performance. Exiting La Scala late that night under a white blanket of snow, Nucci's tormented Rigoletto haunted me with resounding sadness.
Since Nucci doesn't normally perform in recital format (his last one was twelve years ago), the house was packed, with a crowd that is better suited for an opening night of an opera. I've seen a handful of recitals at La Scala during this first year that I've been here (including Waltraud Meier, Angela Gheorghiu, José van Dam, and Renée Fleming) and the crowds are never as big as they are for the opera...but Nucci's fan club is apparently humongous. Lucky for all the Nucci fans, there were at least four video cameras stationed throughout the palchi, so this recital is sure to make it to DVD.
Sitting in the Presidents Box at the center third palco was none other than Maestro Carlo Bergonzi and his wife, Adele. His two sons were behind in Busseto to tend restaurant for the night. Bergonzi enthusiastically applauded Nucci's arias, and even acknowledged the baritone with a few standing ovations. (In the image below, Bergonzi is front-row left.)
The selected program was thorough, filled with greatest baritone hits ev4r. Classical Gold. Classical Thunder. Nucci started with an animated version of Largo al factotum from Rossini's Barbiere. He began fully warmed-up, in great shape, full of energy, and really hammed-up the performance. Nucci was extremely effective in his acting, emoting, and idiosyncrasies, that one almost felt that he was still within the reaches of the opera, transported in scene. It superseded most recitals that I've witnessed.
Although the program was basically flawless, from the first half there were quite a few delicacies: Nucci's Perfidi! All'Anglo..Pietà, rispetto, onore from Verdi's Macbeth was stunning. Another contender was Alzati!...Eri tu from Verdi's Un ballo in maschera that put other baritones to shame.
Almost all of the entire second half was stellar. Puccini's Era uguale la voce?...Ah! Vittoria from Gianni Scicchi was great fun. His two Verdi selections from after the intermission (Tutto e' deserto...Il balen del suo sorriso from Il trovatore, and Cortigiani, vil razza dannata from Rigoletto) were excellent and lovely. After the balen del suo sorriso, there were shouts of bis bis, as many wanted him to repeat the magic of that specific Verdi aria. At one point, there was a clear scream from the audience of, "Sei come Cappuccilli" -- The ultimate compliment, "You are like [Piero] Cappuccilli." And the audience reacted accordingly. There was a constant stream of bravo, bravissimo, and endless applause. It was intense, and almost exhausting the energy that pervaded throughout the theater.
Then came his encore, four selections total, interrupted by witty quips and fluid banter with the audience. He presented himself as an interactive singer. His first was an aria from Verdi's La traviata, Germont's Di Provenza il mar, il suol. He joked that he was practicing for his July appearance, and accordingly plugged his upcoming 2007 performances of La Traviata at Teatro alla Scala on July 17 and 21, where he will sing Germont in the highly anticipated Maazel/Vargas/Gheorghiu production.
The second bis was Nemico della Patria from Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chénier, which was outstanding (btw, here is a YouTube clip of Piero Cappuccilli singing the same aria). He joked that he would be auditioning for a slot next year, as the Giordano opera is planned to be in the La Scala line-up for 2008. ha ha.
The third encore I was familiar with, but just couldn't peg because Nucci launched right into it without any banter or commentary.
The last song was literally staged as a sing-a-long. Karaoke with Nucci. He introduced the selection, and asked the audience to help him out. He launched into an endearing, popular song by the name of Mamma, a hit from Beniamino Gigli in 1940. This Americana wasn't familiar with the traditional Italian canzone, but was nevertheless entertained by the loyal audience participation, who sang collectively, and quite vociferously during the chorus.
All in all, I would buy from again from this seller. Please sign me up for the newsletter. Voted 10.