Massenet's Werther will be presented at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus on 7 and 10 June, in what was meant to be a star-studded performance including Ludovic Tézier, Elina Garanca and Rolando Villazón, all very much at home in Baden-Baden. Unfortunately, the Mexican tenor had to cancel this engagement due to his operation for the removal of a cyst on his vocal chords.
It seems that some highly competent and experienced singers, just on this side of stardom, are destined to be available to replace ailing stars. Stefano Secco is one of this species. At barely 36 he appeared in virtually the entire bel canto tenor repertoire throughout not only his native Italy where, from the conventional small beginnings, he scaled virtually all major stages, including La Scala under Riccardo Muti. He also appeared in major roles in the leading houses of three continents.
The choice for replacing Villazón was a natural one as he already sang the role in the Frankfurt Opera, where he is soon to sing Hoffmann.
As for his other roles, in 2007 he sang Nemorino at Covent Garden. Nervousness and perhaps a lack of characterisation in his somewhat wooden acting, coupled with lacking that irresistible clarion tenor voice of a Villazón or Juan Diego Flórez, deprived him of an overwhelmingly successful critical response, that in somewhat similar circumstances catapulted Jonas Kaufmann's replacement Alfredo on a truly spectacular career. His competence, reliability and musicality, coupled with his wast experience, assures for him constant and appreciated employment, albeit on this side of true stardom.
The rest of the cast of this Baden-Baden Werther is, as we have seen, outstanding. Ludovic Tézier is now much in demand not only as a reliable, but as a most winning and likeable baritone, with a powerful voice, attractive stage presence and skilful characterisation over the full range of the repertoire. One of his parade roles is a most credible Escamillo.
Elina Garanca is at the height of her career and she conquered most of the major roles within her extraordinarily wide range of voice. Often to appear at the side of Anna Netrebko, one is torn which of the two stars one would like to applaud with more enthusiasm.
The Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon shaped and trained so long by Kent Nagano is certain to shine in Massenet's masterpiece. At the first orchestral rehearsal, Massenet himself was quite overwhelmed. 'But this is beautiful!' - he exclaimed - 'Is this possible? And am I to have written this?'.
For further information visit http://www.festspielhaus.de/en/celebrate/.
Photo: Stefano Secco. Credits: IMG Artists.
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