When the line up for a recital is a soprano, pianist and clarinetist one would assume that at a certain point all three would perform together. Not at La Scala when Barbara Frittoli gave her scheduled recital. Her luxury accompanist was to have been Daniel Barenboim, but he was forced to withdraw due to an injury. La Scala's excellent Fabrizio Meloni was there with his clarinet, and a glamorous Mzia Bakhtouridze substituted the Maestro.
Frittoli sang two groups of Verdi songs, and Meloni played a fantasy by Luigi Bassi on themes from Rigoletto. The second part kicked off with Meloni playing Donato Lovreglio's fantasy on La Traviata, then Frittoli followed with some early Wagner songs in French, and finished with the Wesendonck Lieder. And that was that. An encore apiece. The end. Apart from the 200th anniversary theme, the only thread tying the evening together was Bakhtouridze, stroking her black fringe and striding on and off stage in her black, sparkly, Liza Minnelli number.
Although the mix was bizarre, the music was not. Frittoli needed a little time to warm up her voice, but she's a classy singer and her technique got her around the danger spots. Her account of the Wesendonck Lieder was convincing throughout, enabling her to show off her lower register too. Meloni was marvellous and extraordinarily impressive in his use of dynamic contrast. Bakhtouridze was the heroine of the evening, being that the two soloists gave her no time for a breather in what was a very exacting evening for the pianist.
Frittoli paid tribute in her bis to Sergei Rachmaninoff who was born 140 years ago (or because he died 70 years ago), and Meloni to Ástor Piazzolla because, well… he wrote good tunes. Thunderous applause.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.