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The world of Thaïs according to Stefano Poda
and Gianandrea Noseda
Barbara Frittoli chooses the Regio for her debut in the role
Teatro Regio, Wednesday 10 December 2008 at 8 pm
Thaïs will open on Wednesday 10th december at Teatro Regio; a mature work by the composer Jules Massenet on the libretto by Louis Gallet, it is based on the novel of the same name by Anatole France. The new production of this rarely performed work is the result of more than a year of close collaboration between the forces of the Theatre and Stefano Poda, responsible, for the first time in Italy, for the direction, choreography, sets, lighting and costumes. On the podium, Gianandrea Noseda, who, seduced by the dramatic force and modernity of the orchestral writing, will conduct Thaïs for the first time; a debut also for the protagonist Barbara Frittoli, who has chosen the Regio to make her debut in this difficult role. The chorus of the Teatro Regio will be directed by Maestro Roberto Gabbiani.
Thaïs, realized thanks to the support of the Fondazione CRT, one of the most important Founding Members of the Teatro Regio, will be broadcast live by Rai Radio3 on 10 December, while Rai Trade, with whom a profitable collaboration continues, will realise a DVD.
Purified of the anticlerical excesses of Anatole France’s original novel, the libretto by Louis Gallet retains the sensual charge, and above all, the irony which, though remaining underplayed, contributes to keeping alive a subject that has possible references to the contemporary world. The taste for the orient that characterised French culture during the nineteenth century had become, by the end on the century, a truly dominant theme in literature, painting and theatre. In Thaïs, which had its debut in 1894, exoticism becomes the vehicle of a trend which is explicitly decadent, containing themes typical of fin-de-siècle art, i.e. the contrast between sacred and profane, transgression and the figure of the femme fatale.
The story, which stands out against the background of Alessandria in Egypt in all its opulence and refinement, culture and indolence, presents us with the crossed destinies of Athanaël, a Cenobite monk whose missionary zeal borders on fanaticism, and Thaïs, a famous courtesan who, worried about the transience of her beauty, lets herself be convinced to search immortality in the love of God. After withdrawing in hermitage, Thaïs dies from the difficulties and her penitence just when the monk, having understood that it wasn’t his evangelical spirit that drew him towards her, reaches her to declare his passion for her, recanting in the end his own faith.
«Stefano Poda: the prodigious wizard» – so read the headline in La Vanguardia of Barcellona after his Don Giovanni – is a talented Italian whom the Regio brings to Italy for the first time. He has to his credit more than sixty shows, and his productions – often broadcast on television – bring to the world a particular style: visionary, spectacular and strongly anchored in the present. Poda will accompany the audience in the world of Thaïs «tracing the mystic metaphor back to the profound needs of the subconscious, the story is that of a spiritual journey, a journey of formation… which belongs to all of us and works in such a way that the audience members observe themselves and their own history».
Barbara Frittoli, a soprano who has by now reached the height of her splendid career, treads in the footsteps of great singers of the recent past, from Beverly Sills to Leontyne Price, from Carol Neblett to Renée Fleming, and, most important, Sybil Sanderson, Massenet’s favourite singer, whom Thaïs was first destined for. The role, subordinate to the availability of a singer having exceptional vocal and interpretive resources, will be undoubtedly a real test for the soprano from Milan. The Georgian singer Lado Ataneli will debut in the role of Athanaël – one of the most difficult roles for baritone of nineteenth century French repertoire, both for the type of singing and for the commitment required. Thanks to a voice of great range and strong expressive quality, he will be able to convey the different facets of the character. The thirty-year-old tenor Alessandro Liberatore will contribute his limpid and clean vocal quality to the character of the philosopher Nicias. In the principal roles, Nathalie Manfrino (Thaïs), Simone Alberghini (Athanaël) and Dmytro Popov (Nicias) will alternate.
Thaïs, on stage for nine performances through 21 December, will be presented to the public by Aldo Nicastro in Incontro con l’Opera, which will take place at the Piccolo Regio Puccini Wednesday 3 December at 5 pm.
Torino, 6 November 2008
Head of the Press Office