By The Nation
CELEBRATING ITS 20th anniversary this year, Bangkok’s Festival of Dance and Music is presenting some of the world’s leading opera singers in a masterful performance of “Carmen” by Teatro di San Carlo from Naples, conducted by the celebrated Zubin Mehta.
Scheduled for September 12 and 14 at the Thailand Cultural Centre, this passionate rendering of Georges Bizet’s much-loved classic stars tenors Saimir Pirgu and Carlo Bosi, mezzo sopranos Veronica Simeoni and Giuseppina Bridelli, sopranos Jessica Nuccio and Sandra Pastrana and baritones Vito Priante, Fabio Previati, Roberto Accurso and Gianfranco Montresor.
These are voices that ring out regularly in Milan’s La Scala, the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall, as well as Teatro dell’ Opera in Rome and the Paris Opera.
Essaying the fiery and passionate femme fatale Carmen is mezzo soprano Veronica Simeoni. A noted Carmen, her rich and powerful voice underlines a passionate heroine.
Simeoni’s interpretation is bold, craving for freedom and seeking revenge, raging against an obsessive love. As one critic put it, “A certain magnetism is essential to play such a character” – and she embodies it.
Matching Carmen’s passion for passion is tenor Saimir Pirgu’s Don Jose. A Grammy nominee who’s considered among the brightest stars in the international opera world today, Pirgu was discovered by the great Luciano Pavarotti when he was only 19.
He went on to study one on one with Pavarotti and it was under Pavarotti’s guidance that Pirgu prepared most of the roles he sings now. As a singer, he does channel his mentor and is not for nothing referred to as “the Fourth Tenor”.
Pirgu’s Don Jose is sung with distinction and fervour. His commanding presence onstage and his perfect characterisation underline the obsession that Carmen is to Don Jose.
Pirgu’s King Roger, performed at London’s Royal Opera House, received a Grammy nomination in 2017 for “Best Recording – Opera”. In 2013 he was awarded the coveted Pavarotti d’Oro. He has performed at every major international operatic venue, including the Metropolitan, Vienna State Opera and Berlin Staatsoper. He has also collaborated with the eminent conductors Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, James Conlon and Mehta, as well as with film directors like Franco Zeffirelli, Woody Allen, Peter Stein, Graham Vick, Deborah Warner and Robert Carsen.
Zuniga, Don Jose’s superior officer, who also yearns for Carmen’s love, is played by baritone Gianfranco Montresor. Verona-born Montresor’s Zuniga is a cold man in love with his position and the power it bestows on him. The portrayal is brilliance in itself. The talent that Montresor brings to the table has ensured regular appearances at all of the major opera venues of the world in his 25-year career.
Another tenor of note, Carlo Bosi, is essaying Remendado. Regarded as the greatest comprimario tenors of his generation, Bosi is on the list of all the leading opera houses.
Adding his voice to the drama that is “Carmen” is baritone Vito Priante, playing the flamboyant bullfighter Escamillo. His Escamillo is self-confident, fearless and entirely masculine. Also in great demand as a concert artist, Priante has a voice that is elegant and burnished, stylish and seductive.
Another baritone, Fabio Previati, voices Doncario. His stage presence and his remarkable voice underline his vast experience as a performer. He too is a regular in all the leading opera houses.
Roberto Accurso, winner of the International Competition at the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale “A Belli”, takes on Morales, Don Jose’s friend.
Note must also be made of mezzo soprano Giuseppina Bridelli (playing Mercedes), who is also in great demand in all the important opera productions in Europe and has recorded with major labels like Glossa, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and Ricerca. She was last year declared the winner of the prestigious As.li.co International Singing Competition.
Rounding off this amazing list of talent are sopranos Jessica Nuccio (as Micala) and Sandra Pastrana (as Frasquita). Nuccio is the winner of numerous international awards and opera competitions, including first prize in the First International Singing Competition for both Simone Alaimo e le sue opere and Voci del Mediterraneo.
Pastrana is another champion of international competitions, including the Manuel Ausensi and Francisco Vias competitions in Barcelona, and the Ottavio Ziino in Rome.
The festival is made possible by the support of the Crown Property Bureau, Bangkok Bank, Bangkok Dusit Medical Services, BMW Thailand, B Grimm Group, Dusit Thani Bangkok, Indorama Ventures, Ministry of Culture, Nation Group, PTT, Singha Corp, Thai Union Group, Thai Airways International and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
THE BEST OF BIZET
“Carmen” will be staged on September 12 and 14 in the Main Hall of the Thailand Cultural Centre in Bangkok.
Seats are now available at www.ThaiTicketMajor.com and (02) 262 3191.
Learn more at www.BangkokFestivals.com.