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12 ,13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19 May 2006
Samuel Barber
Vanessa
Opera in three acts
Libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti
Conductor Jan Latham-Koenig
Director Cesare Lievi
Set and Costumes Designer Maurizio Balò
Coreographer Giuseppe Della Monica
Assistant director Laurie Feldman Santoliquido
Assistant Set Designer Antonio Cavallo
Assistant Costumes Designer Virginia Santini
Lights Designer Bruno Ciulli

Fondazione Teatro Massimo Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet
New Production




Cast

Vanessa Jeanne Michèle Charbonnet May 12, 14, 17, 19
Brenda Harris May 13, 16, 18
Erika Brigitte Pinter May 12, 14, 17, 19
Kremena Dilcheva May 13, 16, 18
The old baroness Agnes Zwierko all performances
Anatol Gerard Powers May 12, 14, 17, 19
Marcel Reijans May 13, 16, 18
The old doctor Fabio Previati May 12, 14, 17, 19
David Wakeham May 13, 16, 18
Nicholas Ercole Mario Bertolino all performances
A footman Gianfranco Giordano May 12, 14, 17, 19
Cosimo Diano May 13, 16, 18
 



Timetable

Friday 12 May 8.30 pm PREMIERE
Saturday 13 May 8.30 pm F
Sunday 14 May 5.30 pm D
Tuesday 16 May 6.30 pm E
Wednesday 17 May 6.30 pm B
Thursday 18 May 6.30 pm S/2
Friday 19 May 6.30 pm C




Pictures
(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Pictures of the opera Vanessa
Anatol, Vanessa, the doctor and the footman

Erika and Vanessa

Erika


Ensemble

Ensemble

Anatol and Vanessa

Erika

Anatol and Vanessa

Anatol and Vanessa

Anatol and Vanessa

Anatol and Vanessa

Vanessa and Erika

Pictures Franco Lannino ©Studio Camera


Synopsis

Act I
A winter evening. Vanessa, a still-beautiful middle-aged woman, 20 years before had an affair with a married man, Anatol. When he refused to leave his wife for her, she shut herself up in her house. Now she awaits Anatol’s return. With her are her mother, the Baroness, and her niece Erika, an attractive young woman. Finally a man appears silhouetted at the door. Vanessa, with her back turned to him, tells him that, unless he still loves her, she will not let him look on her face and will ask him to leave at once. The man replies, “Yes, I believe I shall love you”. But when Vanessa turns around, she sees that he is a stranger. She rushes out of the room, calling for Erika. After helping her aunt out, Erika returns to confront the impostor. He explains that he is Anatol, the son of the man whom Vanessa had loved. A month later Erika tells the Baroness, her grandmother, that on the night of Anatol’s arrival, he seduced her. It was the only night she slept with him and now she finds she both hates and loves him. Anatol and Vanessa come in for breakfast, glowing with happiness. Vanessa offers a gushing confession to Erika: She has fallen in love with young Anatol and he, it seems, with her. When Anatol enters, Erika demands to know if he has in fact implied to Vanessa that he wishes to marry her. He points out that he has asked Erika to marry him. But he also makes it clear that his idea of love is easy-going, and most likely temporary. He is waiting for her answer when Vanessa summons everyone to the chapel for Sunday service. Erika decides to let Vanessa have Anatol.

Act II
New Year’s Eve. There is a big party to announce: Anatol and Vanessa’s engagement. Vanessa is upset her mother and Erika have refused to join the party. The guests are shepherded off to the ballroom. As the hallway clears, Erika slowly makes her way down the stairs, listening to the announcement. Suddenly, as if very ill, Erika faints on the steps. The Major-Domo finds her and offers to fetch the doctor, but she asks him to leave. Erika runs out into the winter night murmuring that Anatol’s child “must not be born”.

Act III
Erika’s bedroom, a few hours later. Search parties are out looking for her. Anatol finds her and carries her back to the house. Vanessa asks Anatol if he knows why Erika acted so rashly. He is evasive, saying he knows Erika doesn’t love him. When they have left, Erika calls her grandmother and tells her the child will not be born. The drawing room, two weeks later. Anatol and Vanessa are going to live in Paris. Vanessa has willed the house to Erika. Regarding her actions on the night of the engagement, Erika says evasively, “I thought I loved someone who did not love me”. Erika summons the Major-Domo and asks him to make everything as it was before. It is now her turn to wait.


Notes

Barber’s first opera, Vanessa, is saturated with twilight hues of the late borgeois prose of Ibsen and Strindberg. However, the text limits itself to a bitter sentimentalism, without going as far as a true and profound tragicalness. In essence, Vanessa is a vocal  prima donna, rather than theatrical. Anotol is a vain lover more than a rogue, and Erika, who is in a certain sense the true protagonist, a character that is more admirable than memorable. There emerges a substantial existential pessimism originating in the failing of the sentiments during the single moment in which an abstract drop-curtain substitutes the tone of realism, a quintet ( “to leave, to break”) in which the fundamental characters suspend the tempo of the narrative to reveal their ruined destiny. Even a supporting character such as the old family doctor, which should give lightness and variety to the plot, shows a resignation barely masked by wishful thinking ( “I should never have been a doctor, Nicholas”). This fact also applies to the libretto of Menotti. Not even the musical syntax hazards a break with the set pace, even though it’s true that, for instance, in the third act’s dance we do hear bolder musical expressions. We notice a breath of a more modern nature in the way the scenes are handled, during which the stylistic musical aspects (arias, duets, solos) flow in time with the scene changes, varying with the expressive intensity like film sequences that differentiate between near and distant focus. Barber’s style is admirable, however, be it in the writing for voice, or for the orchestration, and it also shows great quality of lyrical introspectiveness in its melodic imagination, which is probably the most characteristic aspect of this American composer.

Oreste Bossini
(Dizionario dell’opera, Baldini & Castoldi, Milano, 1996)