The Opera House in Tel Aviv was the venue of a historic premiere on March 29, 2017, when the opera La Gazzetta, by Gioacchino Rossini, was performed for the first time in Israel—101 years after the delightful opera premiered in Naples.
The production marks a busy season for the Israeli Opera, starting just four days after a co-production of the Israeli Opera with Teatro Regio Torino and Opera de Lausanne completed a three-week run of Charles Gounod’s Faust.
The current production features the chorus and orchestra of a visiting company from Liege, Belgium—the Opera Royal de Wallonie—with guest conductor Jan Schultz and guest director Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera. These visiting artists were joined by another foreign performer making his debut in Israel, impressive Baritone Laurent Kubla of Belgium, appearing in the prominent role of Filippo.
From the opening moments of the production, the audience becomes aware that they are in for a particularly madcap interpretation of the opera when Pomponio comes onstage with a pate looking somewhat like a grey-haired Ben Gurion having an extremely bad hair day. Similarly, his manservant Tomassino’s hair looks like it was inspired by Bart Simpson, while the interactions between Pomponio and Tomassino are occasionally reminiscent of a Marx brothers comedy.
The stage design lends its own peculiar character to the lighthearted atmosphere by recalling the production values of a French farce, with goings-on involving the opening and closing of lots of hotel room doors along a visible corridor. One line of dialogue mentioning tumultuous “din, in a respectable inn” arouses particular amusement, since prostitutes are clearly plying their trade in the Parisian hotel where the plot take place.
The meticulous costume design adds to the enjoyment, especially when the retinue of Quakers make their entrance. The artists displayed considerable acting ability while delivering their bravura singing performances.
There are no memorable arias in La Gazzetta, but the lilting music is nevertheless entertaining throughout—especially one pleasant quartet by the lovers, acrobatic trills by Lisetta, and rapid-fire counterpoint by Pomponio simultaneous with a melody sung by the chorus.
La Gazzetta will be here for an all-too-brief run through April 8. After the Passover holiday, Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del Destino will be performed in May.