Rossini rolls out the laughs at Opera Galleria

The Opera Galleria is gaining a reputation for being ‘the place to be’ on Saturday lunchtimes when there are taster recitals of forthcoming operas. Last Saturday was testament to the ever growing popularity of the free lunch music performances, provided by the Royal Opera House Muscat, as the courtyard began to fill up fifteen minutes before kick-off and extra chairs had to be set up for the standing on-lookers.
Small wonder this show was so popular; it was a pure Gioachino Rossini recital, featuring extracts from three ‘farsa comicas’ from the great Italian composer. Performed by soloists from the ‘Rossini Opera Festival’ in Pesaro on Italy’s Adriatic which will perform his hilarious 1812 ‘Silken ladder’ next weekend, this light presentation was a sample of spoofs and love songs to come.
First up was Lindoro and Mustafà’s Duet from ‘L’Italiana in Algeri’, a wordy-patter song, performed by Italian Tenor, Manuel Amati and Azerbaijani Bass, Elcin Huseynov. From the moment they landed on stage their brilliant comic delivery was apparent, acting through the dialogue with such expressive facial gestures and clear diction, the meaning of the parody was clear without subtitles. They were hilarious; the handsome, dapper Amati pitted against the larger presence of Elcin – though still too young to be seriously scary. Accompanying the performance was pianist and company repetiteur, Italian musician Vincenzo Scalera with amazing dexterity and musicality throughout.
Taddeo’s Aria, sung with exaggerated facial expressions and huge gesture by Costa Rican Baritone, William Hernàndez Ramírez was equally dapper and compelling with laugh-out-loud moments. Hernàndez was last in Muscat in October 2017 with Rossini Festival’s production of ‘L’Ocassione fa il Ladro’ so it was a pleasure to see him back in town again with even more stage presence than ever.
Manuel Amati returned to the stage for Lindoro’s beautiful Aria, ‘Languir Per Una Bella’ which needs no translation. It was a lyrical Love Song in belcanto style, delivered with accuracy of intonation and full of heartfelt pathos, even in his highest tessitura. Concluding the section, Elcin Huseynov performed Mustafà’s, ‘Già d’Insolito Ardore’ in a powerful, declamatory bass with some virtuoso moments in his lower register, reflecting great presence and gravity despite his youth.
The remarkable Armenian Soprano, Lusine Makaryan in red flowered dress appeared with the first extended extract from ‘La Scala di Seta’, as Guilia in a decorated, belcanto duet with Hernàndez as Germano. Makaryan has a light lyrical soprano, an agile voice which blended well in virtuoso duet passages. Their acting ensemble was delightful and the aria ended with some surprising coloratura acrobatics from Lusine Makaryan.
Narciso’s sympathetic Aria from ‘Il Turco in Italia’ was performed with impressive breath control and stamina by tenor Manuel Amati. This decorated, belcanto lament allowed Amati’s expressive and passionate qualities to be heard. It was followed by Fiorilla’s lyrical Aria sung by Lusine in her light coloratura so full of pathos, yet reaching amazing heights of pitch and drama at the climax of the song. Ms Makaryan possesses one of those voices one could listen to all day, and this extended solo was captivating throughout. Returning to the ‘Silken Ladder’, Hernández returned with the funniest Aria of all as Dorvil. Opening with an over-acted recitative full of gesture and expression, it melted into a more lyrical mood at the extremes of his range and ended with an exuberant, syncopated fast patter which received resounding applause.
After Ms Makaryan’s final decorated belcanto, ‘Il Mio Ben Sospiro e Chiamo’ as Guilia, Manuel Amati concluded his impressive performance with the most heartfelt interpretation of Germano’s Love Aria, ‘Amore Dolcemente’. It was a superb performance, full of pathos and huge dramatic gesture. It concluded with sustained and impossibly high control at the top of his wide tenor range – achieving another rousing ovation. Not to end on that note, Elcin Huseynov and Lusine Makaryan returned with a another duet from ‘La Scala di Seta’ – a fast patter, reminiscent of Don Giovanni’s bass gravitas, except it melted into a brighter mood with reconciliation and good ensemble between the two in an almost Mozartian language. Sadly these soloists will not be heard next weekend as they are still young covers. So those lucky enough to attend Saturday’s production will count themselves blessed to have heard these stars of the future while they were still within their grasp.

Photo credit Khalid al Busaidi