The cemeterial, empty worship of dead singers and dead conductors and the adoration for the good old times that might or might not have actually been that good in the first place, together with the YouTube reviewers is one of the most fascinating phenomena in opera -- and probably the creepiest. Historically awesome productions must therefore, to follow the cult of the past, considered de facto lame because, say, Montsy or Claudione or whomever is not there anymore, and the past is always king (for some).
That's why among the more dogmatic Scalagoers the revival of Luca Ronconi's staging of Il Viaggio a Reims was by definition A BAD THING -- because it was once staged with greater musicians on the stage and in the pit.
OC's reaction to all that? She went twice (the premiere before Easter and the seconda rappresentazione after it). And she even liked it more the second time, imperfections and all (because opera is livelier and cooler and, frankly, more alive on a stage than on YouTube or in someone's cranky, possibly unreliable memories)
Rossini's legendary Coronation opera, the last Italian opera he inked (although we hear a revival in Le comte Ory -- one of the four, subsequent French-language operas Rossini stamped before he died), was originally commissioned to celebrate the 1825 coronation of King Charles X in Reims.
Viaggio a Reims is a demanding work, requiring 14 soloists (three sopranos, one contralto, two tenors, four baritones, and four basses culminating in a "Gran Pezzo Concertato" for 14 voices), and to stage coherence amid so many voices and Rossini's sometimes insensitive, comical undertones is a daunting task. There's also the multifaceted chorus, and the entire army of Charles' coronation party. But director Luca Ronconi's direction was sparkling with just one intermission (coming almost 2 hours into the production), and the 3+ hour opera seemed to last only a fraction of the running time.
Ronconi's legendary directorial premiere of Viaggio a Reims was in Pesaro for the 1984 Rossini Opera Festival, which was the first time it was heard with the rediscovered cuts & reconstruction, meticulously prepared by musicologist Janel Johnson & professor/musicologist Philip Gossett in the 1970s. The same production has been resurrected a handful of times: In 1985 at La Scala (again with Claudio Abbado); in the early 1990s at Pesaro & Ferrara for Rossini's bicentennial; and in 1999 for the Rossini Opera Festival (this one boasting Daniele Gatti leading our lamby prince, Juan Diego Florez ). Director John Cox tried for Covent Garden in the 90s, as did James Robinson for the New York City Opera, but none could adequately compete with Ronconi's perpetual exposition...not even Dario Fo's excellent (but politicized & liberally adapted) version for the Finnish National Opera in 2003.
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