Go big or go home.
That’s one theme of Verdi’s “Falstaff,” and it is certainly the big idea behind the Ópera de Colombia’s co-production this week with the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo.
Directed by Alejandro Chacón, celebrating his 25th anniversary since making his directorial debut at the Teatro Colón, and conducted by Chilean maestro Rodolfo Fischer, the production of Verdi’s final masterpiece features a Latin American cast of all-stars including Colombian baritone Valeriano Lanchas.
Lanchas, Colombia’s operatic hero, is currently a mainstay at the Metropolitan Opera where he has become the go-to Don Bartolo in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” This season he takes on the same character in a different opera with the company, “Le Nozze di Figaro.”
But in the meantime, he makes a major role debut as the rotund knight who has an insatiable appetite for everything, his latest desire to feast on two married women causing him more trouble than its worth.
“Valeriano’s role debut was the excuse for all of this,” noted director Alejandro Chacón during a press junket for the production. “He had told me for a long time that he wanted to sing this role. And now he felt it was right, given his age and his artistic growth. He’s having a lot of fun and I think that he’s going to be a Falstaff we talk about for the next 10 years.”
Also representing from Colombia is tenor Pablo Martínez, who was pushed onto the forefront of the opera world by none other than Lanchas.
“He has been a tremendous support for me,” said the tenor.
He will be making not only his role debut as Fenton, but will also be singing his first performances with Ópera de Colombia and Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo after tremendous success abroad. And he could not have picked a more difficult opera with which to make such a major debut.
“The music is so complex and difficult,” said Martinez. “I think that first scene where there are five men and four women singing at the same time with different texts and rhythms is so incredibly difficult. Same for the fugue at the end. It is the one thing that took me longest to learn.”
The other Colombian in the cast is tenor Humberto Ayerbe Pino, who will take on the role of Bardolfo.
“We got him from Switzerland last year for Jaquino in ‘Fidelio.’ And he is incredible,” added Chacón.
Moving along, the director assembled a number of Brazilians, including mezzo Kismara Pessatti as Mrs. Quickly, Luisa Francesconi as Meg Page, and bass Savio Sperandio as Pistola.
“This is Kismara’s operatic debut with us and she is going to be an incredible Quickly all around Europe,” Chacón noted. “Savio is an incredible buffo bass and he’s sung with Valeriano before. They have a great rapport, which is really important for me.”
The cast also includes two Argentine singers, soprano Oiana Favaro as Nannetta and Raúl Giménez as Dr. Caijus. Giménez was a long-time friend of Chacón’s and he recently came to Colombia to do some masterclasses. Chacón took the opportunity to convince him to perform with the company.
“Raúl is the cherry on top. It is so incredible that we were able to get him over here,” Chacón added.
Rounding out the cast is Uruguayan Darío Solari as Ford and Venezuelan soprano Mariana Ortiz as his wife Alice Ford.
“Dario is one of the best in the world. And it was so hard to convince him to come because he is so busy in Europe,” Chacón explained. “And I am excited for Mariana because it is the first time she is doing opera with us.
The final piece of the puzzle is conductor Rodolfo Fischer, who is leading the Orquesta Filarmónica Juvenil de la OFB y el Coro de la Ópera de Colombia in the performances.
“He’s managed to draw some incredible sounds from this youth orchestra,” Chacón enthused noted. “I think the concertmaster is only 22 or 23 years old.”
“I love this team.”
“Falstaff” kicks off on Sept. 26, with subsequent performances on the 28th and 30th at the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo.