One of the things that ended after the disaster of the Second World War was the great Italian opera tradition. Puccini, its abscess, died in 1924; In the midst of the conflict, modernism dominated European music, and certain lyrical stages came to an end.
This adds a bit of poignancy to the fact that Ricky Ian Gordon is the incarnation of that tradition, his new opera “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” set in Ferrara, Italy, at the top. point of the war, between members of the city’s Jewish Community, who were largely blind to the tragedy that awaited them. Their impending destruction is reflected by the melodic, emotional form used to tell their story.
Emotional and melodious, yes, but here too it’s overtone and long. Based on Giorgio Bassani’s 1962 novel of the same name, adapted into a 1970 film by Vittorio De Sica, Gordon’s opera replaces the poetic richness of the source with a stentorian earnestness that makes it feel as if it were. continued unabated, with a pause, of three hours.
Presented by the New York City Opera and the National Folksbiene Yiddish Theater at the Jewish Heritage Museum in Manhattan, this piece, because of pandemic delays, opens roughly simultaneously with an opera Gordon’s other, “Intimate Apparel,” at Lincoln Center Theater. Together, they are a substantial showcase for a composer known for his artful songs, as well as his eclecticism and versatility. “Intimate Apparel,” set in New York in 1905, based on Americana and ragtime; “Finzi-Continis,” italianità.
But while Gordon is clearly aiming for Puccinian extravagance and extroversion, the score isn’t exactly that; The 15-member orchestra, conducted by James Lowe, doesn’t deliver over-the-top hits like a plush tapestry and punctuation for avid singers. The sound lines are also not ear-deep. They only continued to rise in full monologues and ensembles.
It is a story without whispers. Giorgio is a middle-class young man caught up in the encirclement of Finzi-Continis, aristocratic Jews living on their verdant estate in idyllic isolation from an increasingly unfriendly world. He was madly in love with Micòl, the daughter of the family, when the Fascists took over Italy and anti-Semitism was codified in the law.
It’s as simple as that, but in an opera, too much is packed into 19 scenes, not counting the opening and closing sequences – a journey of unbroken presentation. Michael Korie’s libretto may have been substantially destroyed; Among other things, the extra episode about Micòl’s brother, a reclusive gay man longing for his former roommate as his health declined, may have been left out in a way. easily. And Korie’s text, which often rhymes, can tend to be risky: “I infer a sense of anarchy.”
As Giorgio, tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro barely stopped roaring during Sunday’s performance, but at least he did it tirelessly and with pure tone. Soprano Rachel Blaustein brought sweetness to Micòl, showing the character’s capriciousness. Michael Capasso and Richard Stafford’s staging did their best to handle the pile of episodes, based on a simple setting illuminated by John Farrell’s evocative projections.
The opera’s ending surprises with the post-Holocaust imperative – doctrine at the moment – to “never forget”. Standing behind the fighting at Ferrara’s ruined synagogue, Giorgio spoke of his memories, singing, “To live my life, I need to let you go.” It’s a fascinating twist from tradition in a work that, on the contrary, is all but relentlessly carried away.
The Garden of Finzi-Continis
Through Sunday at the Jewish Heritage Museum, Manhattan; nycopera.com.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/arts/music/garden-finzi-continis-opera-review.html Review: An Opera Sings of a World on the Verge of Ending