Decameron Review

A review from an italian newspaper, following the performance of Decameron in Città di Saluzzo

Corriere di Saluzzo

August 25, 2011

Griselda was not a disappointment
The seal of a prestigious project

A spiteful and chilly wind, unexpected on an august evening, welcomed in Saluzzo the large audience who came to assist the “Tales of the Decameron”. Particularly, some elegant toilettes brought along some scarves that even if they had little to do with the mise surely allowed the nearly-three-hours staying outdoors in the Honorary Courtyard of the Bertoni Foundation where the event took place. And it was all worth it, first and foremost to experience and share “the coming to life of our first truly international project”, as the president of the Foundation for High Musical Perfection, Danilo Rinaudo, pointed out. A project that lets Saluzzo “…beautiful city and with many records to distinguish itself on an international level, to look to the future”, as synthesized, in good English, by mayor Paolo Allemano. It was a well deserved return after last year’s event: The International Opera Competition – dedicated to Magda Olivero – which definitely sealed “…the connection between Saluzzo and Philadelphia and brings Griselda back home: “a dream coming true…” as Karen Saillant, Artistic Director of International Opera Theater and stage director of the opera, explained. In the house, were also present almost all jury members of the competition, including the president, professor Alberto Basso. Three of the seven composers (T.Whitman, Y.Yang, D.Shapiro, E.Amaya, T.Solitro, M.Djupstrom, A.Silverman) were also present, among cultural ambassadors, authorities, television and press.
The opera, tonal, in its musical and rhythmical characteristics and in its phrasing and dynamics, does not have a melodic impact  as maybe some were expecting it to, but little by little it revealed itself through its refined writing and the perfection of the execution. Briefly the synopsis: an excellent Calandrino, moving from the dramatic experience of the plague of 1348 in Florence, introduces and connects the seven tales, a true gallery of human archetypes, at times comical, real, dramatic and surreal. We find the fortunes and misfortunes of Ser Ciappelletto, Federigo degli Alberighi, Calandrino himself with Bruno and Buffalmacco, Tancredi and Ghismunda, sister Isabetta, Nastagio degli Onesti…but the attention was, naturally, on Griselda (“our” heroine, object of inconceivable harassment by her husband, Gualtieri, the Marquis of Saluzzo), the last scene of both the opera and of the original book. Playing the roles of the children were the two winners of the above mentioned competition: Yasko Fujii and Son Yae Jeon. In superlative form, was M° Gianmaria Griglio, on the podium of the International Opera Theater Orchestra. The voices of the eight singers were wonderful. Particular applause goes to the sets and costumes, of pure white, luminous, imaginative, evanescent, like the enormous tulle, which from time to time lived, interpreted, expressed feelings, situations, mystery and happiness…An event to conclude and ideal musical and artistic circle, but especially to confirm the renewed and revitalized international activity of The Foundation for High Musical Perfection.

Maria Grazia Gobbi

A review from Edge Philadelphia, following the performances of Decameron in Philadelphia

Decameron
by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Contributor
Monday Nov 29, 2010

Giovanni Boccaccio’s notorious Decameron inspired everyone from Shakespeare to Pablo Pasolini. The sacred and profane stories of plague-ridden 14th century Florence Italy are full of disease, sex, murder, transfiguration, religious tyranny, moral decay and heartbreak – all the ingredients for opera. Under the direction of Karen Salliant, Philadelphia’s International Opera Theater and their counterpart company in Italy have turned Boccaccio’s text into a raucous opera of dramatic and comedic grandeur.

Since Boccaccio’s text had a different narrator for each novella, the opera has appropriately utilized the improbable assemblage of seven Philadelphia-based composers, working on a different Decameron story. Instead of musical chaos, the various musical voices works well. The composers – Efrain Amaya, Michael Djupstrom, Daniel Shapiro, Adam Silverman, Tonoy Solitro, Thomas Whitman and Ya-Jhu Yang- build the broad musical template that is cohesive. Credit the fine libretto, written by Salliant and Tommaso Sabbitini, who maintain muscled interaction to the music, alternating song cycles in Italian and English.

Whitman’s front scenes introduce Calandrino, the artist who spins fantasies that helps him escape the grim reality of the plague. Baritone Bernard Bygott is a feverishly inspired troubadour, his physical comedy full of mischief but doesn’t steal from his earnest vocal performance. As Italian folk dances and tarantella beats swirl around, he reads from his shredded garments as he sings about the horrors of the plague with gallows humor and clinical crassness. The other lead cast member plays noble and ignoble characters over the nine stories depicted.

Among the many highlights – Yasko Fuiji who is transcendent in the Ghismunda and The Heart of Guiscardo – the stunner that ends Act I. The story is about an heiress in love with a household servant who is murdered by her father. She holds his heart in her hand as Amaya’s music blooms with the most grotesque beauty. Fuiji’s sings this horrific scene with such power and truth.

Kathryn Krasovec, singing the mezzo roles, is most sumptuous as Madre Usimbalda, lamenting the loss of her children. The tenor Son Jae Yeon, can play priest, clown and villain, with equal ease and is vocally thrilling in all of them. But the baritone Christopher Grundy, stepping in just days before the premiere, in the lover roles, sometimes with lengthy soliloquy, who gives no less than a heroic performance.

Salliant, who also directed, didn’t have much to work with at the modest black box upstairs at the Prince Music Theater, but she compensates by keeping the action focused on the performances and music. Great costuming of different textures (medieval headdress; wedding gowns, viscount capes and celestial tunics) play off an ocean of tulle, which morphs into clouds, sickbeds and ethereal set pieces at any moment. Musical director Gianmaria Griglio achieved fine detailing from the International Opera Theater Chamber Orchestra, which sounded twice the size at any given moment.

Befitting its source material, Decameron, the opera, deserves a long artistic life.

Decameron premiered November 12, 13 and 14, 2010 at Prince Music Theater.