With Fedora, Umberto Giordano created a quintessential opera verista: the rigid recitativo-aria structure was abandoned, the text was seamlessly integrated with the music in a continuous flow, the singing style was more declamatory, and the concept of Leitmotiv was employed generously throughout the composition. The uninterrupted musical flow was enhanced in Christof Loy's Kungliga Operan production by the complete absence of intermissions: one and a half hours of music in one go, with just a very short break between acts. It fitted the musical concept very well, and made the whole evening very enjoyable. A bold and winning choice, for the Scandinavian première of the opera.
The plot revolves around Princess Fedora Romazov, whose fiancé is assassinated in the first act. She ends up falling in love with his murderer, Loris, who, as it turns out, is actually quite a good guy. Before falling in love with him, however, she reports him to the authorities as a murderer, and her statement causes the death of Loris' brother and mother. The opera ends with Loris finding out that she is the cause of his own family's destruction, and she commits suicide.
The orchestra of the Royal Opera House, conducted by Tobias Ringborg, did a very good job of driving the action forward and giving the singers a rich musical carpet on which to shine. Ringborg conducted with force, never timid or afraid of covering his singers, but nevertheless careful of their needs. The strings provided a lustrous wall of sound when required. Several elegant details in the complex score were correctly highlighted. A very good performance.
The production was set in the 1960s (if we are to judge by the furniture), but in quite a timeless setting. The same big room served as a set for all three acts. In the middle of the wall, facing the audience, was a very large golden frame, where black and white movie clips were shown, mostly of the protagonist, Fedora. She was shown, for example, backstage with all the theatre personnel around her. This created a distance between the audience and the character of Fedora, which was detrimental to emotional participation.
In other moments, the golden frame showed an "alcove" where other parts of the story took place, such as the piano playing scene in the second act, with all the party guests cheering, while Loris and Fedora sit alone in the main portion of the stage, closer to the audience.
The two leads, both making their role debuts, came through with flying colours. Fedora was sung by young Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian. She has a very powerful voice, with confident high notes and a strong middle, with plenty of metal. Her instrument is always very well set, and it comes out strongly with great projection. Her high C, in the love duet, was perfectly in tune, even if a bit squally. Grigorian is a very good actress, and her interpretation turned out to be emotional and heartfelt.
Andrea Carè, as Loris, was in wonderful form at the première. The role is perfect for his voice, and he gave us a memorable interpretation. His “Amor ti vieta” (the opera's best known tune) rightly stopped the show. His technique is impeccable, solving all the problems of the part with nonchalant ease. His tenor is powerful in the chest register, it goes a bit in the nose as it gets higher (a little too much for my taste), but then, at the following passaggio, it blooms in high notes which are extremely easy, natural and beautiful. In general, here was a natural, Italian, spontaneous voice, which perfectly suited the young, reckless lover.
The interpretation of the two main characters was very enjoyable: Grigorian's Italian pronunciation is excellent, and the two singers showed very good chemistry. They also successfully steered away from the typical exaggeration of verismo, always singing with elegance. Carè's sobs, at the news of his mother's death, were realistic but proper, which is very hard to accomplish. And Grigorian's "Loris, dove sei?" (a known pitfall for all Fedoras, who tend to yell and scream these words) was sweet and in very good taste.
The rest of the cast was on point; Sofie Asplund's Olga came out particularly fresh and enjoyable, while Ola Eliasson as De Siriex has maybe a slightly weaker voice. They both gave a very good interpretation of their solo moments to contribute to a triumphant performance.
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