Ritratto, after Hôtel de Pékin and The Tale-Tell Heart the third opera by the Amsterdam composer Willem Jeths (61), was the first victim of the pandemic at the National Opera in March. The piece was brought to ITA, where it was supposed to be the opening performance of the Opera Forward Festival, until the last dress rehearsal. However, both the premiere and the performances that were to follow were unfortunately canceled…
Fortunately, there was the saving virtual hand of YouTube. The general rehearsal could be streamed worldwide and was watched by 75,000 people – a multiple of the number that would have been possible in ITA.
DNO decided to give Ritratto a second chance this month. Again it seemed as if fate would be cruel for the piece because of the coronavirus. Only when mayor Halsema decided last week not to admit a maximum of 30, but 250 people to the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, Jeths was able to breathe calmly. All six performances would continue. There is also one disadvantage: because of the limited number of visitors, all those performances are already sold out.
Compared to the general rehearsal, of which a CD recording has now been published, the performance has clearly become even better, richer as well, because it touches on subthemes that are connected to today’s social developments. Take the role of Garbi, sung by Martin Mkhize, who in the opening scene makes his entrance to a still closed canvas like a black slave dressed in a golden costume, which he leaves at the end as a consequence of a liberation process.
Ritratto, which means portrait, revolves around the stony Italian marquise Luisa Casati, who, against the backdrop of the recent outbreak of the First World War, loses herself so much in her quest for artistic veracity in the portrait that is painted of her, that at the end she sticks out her eyes and dies. The demanding role is sung fantastically by the British soprano Verity Wingate, a young talent from the training of DNO. The Italian tenor Paride Cataldo also sings beautifully as Gabriele D’Annunzio, one of the celebrities who loved to visit Casati’s parties.
The costumes of Jan Taminiau are also a feast for the eyes again. Marcel Sijm was in charge of the clear direction and Marc Warning took care of the beautiful scenery, full of organic, abstract forms, which powerfully stimulate the imagination.
Challenge Records has released the CD of Ritratto. One can listen to this recording on Spotify and other platforms.