[So… show of hands: Who of you would go home with Iervolino’s
Aladdin ostracized violin virtuoso instead of the Disney Prince tenor? – Yep, that’s what I thought. And, look, there’s an entire evening of that on Culturebox to stream on demand! Teresa Iervolino (Beppe) and Alessandro Scotto di Luzio (Fritz) in Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz”, Venice/La Fenice 2016]
Since we have been on an extended Iervolino appreciation spree for the past two weekends, let’s make that three strikes – and return to a trouser role, too (unless you’re in Dresden today, then you can catch Iervolino in skirts, opening with “Barbiere” tonight at Semperoper – tickets still available, and standing room should be open, too. It’s the not-very-challenging Asagaroff staging with the guards marching up and down and up and down the stairs until you get migraines, but I trekked to it because of a Rosina before (Kasarova!) and would do so again).
Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz” (1891) is a late entry in the trouser role game, and the usual ‘harmless desexualized side kick’ fare
if you can talk about ‘harmless’ at all when Iervolino is singing, which I think you can not.
As a teenager, I only knew “L’amico Fritz” by the Pavarotti/Freni recording cover, which does sum up everything you need to know about this opera in one jpg. Bascially, it’s that Barbara Cartland novel about “The Bachelor Viscount”, set against a cutesy pseudo-Alpine background: rich confirmed bachelor landlord ‘in his prime’ ending up marrying a much younger village girl over whom he holds authority and who is showcased for her ingenuity and emotionality. (ickety ickety ICK, to phrase it academically)
In that setting, you then have a rabbi as a fatherly ‘best buddy’ figure, who of course proposes a bet about money and a vineyard and meddles in matchmaking. And into that mix, you throw the trouser role, ethnically framed as ‘gypsy’. I kid you not. This Beppe is, in the narrative, an outside commenter on love, but the figure who, through his over-emotional music, enables the romantic discourse of the lead characters. (he does, get to sing quite passionately about a past lost love at one point, though)
Now if you expected that this Fenice production would be addressing the racist and misogynist issues at hand, I would very much like some of whatever it is you’ve been smoking. Same goes for addressing the possibly subversive aspects of the trouser role as mediator of romance. Or all other subversion, really.
[The fun you could have with this! The severe Miss-Danvers-looking extra and Suzel (Carmela Remigio) are interchanging cherries. And eggs. How can you even stage that with a straight face? (And that is before the tenor walks in, and the ingenue soprano literally says, “I’ve got a surprise for you! Cherries!!” and the bachelor tenor literally replies, “oh, are they ripe already?” I mean come on! The librettist must have been snickering their way through writing this) – Mascagni’s “L’amico Fritz”, Venice/La Fenice 2016.]
Alas, this is ‘traditional’ in the sense of “standing around over-emoting in lavish and stereotyping costumes without any clear character cueing, unless a singer is good enough to forge their own narrative”.
So why look at this, until you’re into schmoozy verismo? (can it still be called verismo if the lead soprano sports a Minnie Mouse ribbon on her coiffure? What IS that thing?!)
— Well, watch it for Iervolino’s sound and energy, obviously. Also, because of her rather infectious grin. Plus, sideburns. (And, possibly, to contemplate over the Pirates of Pezance headgear ™ whether she’s gearing up for Azucena in some 20 years. Because I would be down for that. Unless I can have more Tancredi instead. Then I want Tancredi).
Since Beppe is only in four scenes, suffice if you check in as of 19’00, briefly around 45’00 and 59’00 (on the issue of apples. This is a fruitcake opera), and then again at 1’25’30. (plus finale appearance: 1’45’30)
PS. Also, in the intermission feature: I have no idea what is going on here, but it has Monica Bacelli in a tux channeling Tilda Swinton. Where do I sign up?