Today was the second and final peformance of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci at Berwaldhallen in Stockholm. They were conducted by Daniel Harding, principal conductor of the orchestra of the evening, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In view of the up-coming La Scala Pagliacci they were most likely Harding's try out of the verismo style at a safe distance from the nasty loggionisti at La Scala.
And quite good it was, especially for a first try of the verismo style. Harding was on point in milking some of the score for dramatic effect, after all it's verismo blood and death. On the whole he kept things going forward, with good dramatic instincts. The score actually sounded more transparant, with all groups of the orchestra balanced and present. The orchestra itself was on great form, the strings loving every verismo drop of vibrato, and brass secure and self confident when needed. On hand was also the Swedish Radio Choir, who was its usual magnificent self. How glorious to hear the choral parts sung like this, ie as written in the score and not wobbling and shouting all over the place.
Vocally the find of the evening was the brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam. And not only vocally, mind you. Tall, slim and with South American good looks he must be every casting director's wet tenor dream, thus the heading. Add a healthy, well produced voice with a quite beautiful darkish timbre and a sure sense of musicality, he should be bound for tenor stardom. Given that his voice keeps up with the heavy repertoire his already well into, that is. While not small, this voice is not in the Botha or Domingo class, yet. His middle is still of medium size, and the top is certainly able to thrill decibel wise, but the thrills might have a price tag on them. But with care, Mr Arancam is well positioned for a big career and is certainly the real thing.
Next to him, Nuccia Focile (a replacement for Oksana Dyka) sounded a bit old, unfortunately. Her voice is certainly showing some wear and tear. Although never beautiful in the classical sense, Focile today sounds somewhat matronly at the top of her range. She compensates with good dramatic instincts, though. Tonio was sung by Alberto Mastromarino , a good and robust italian baritone. Apart from some frogs in the throat - a cold maybe? - and the low option in his prologue aria, he was a good villain in true verismo style. Christopher Maltman as Silvio, was good, but next to Mr Mastromarino sounded distinctly un italian. His timbre is not to our liking in this role either, a bit unfocused and lacking in velvet.
On the whole it was quite a successful evening with massive applause for everyone and Mr Arancam, Harding and the orchestra in particular.