Friday, March 13, 2015

"I Puritani" on Ankara State Opera House

Opera by Vincenzo Bellini (1835), A personal Opinion

Dear Readers,

In this incomprehensible chaotic local environment, opera and classical music, are probably the best engagement for us. It is better to be somewhat "indifferent" to daily events, local politics, to be a bit distant, to detox yourself, to watch opera to listen classical music more than listen to polemics bickering. President Obama is doing it, you see how "indifferent" he is, when faced with events that are beyond his control.

On 7 February 2015 Saturday evening at the Ankara State Opera House, a young college student sat next to me with a timid face expression. He asked me in a whisper, "Do you know the subject of this opera? I just left the nearby theater. I was passing by the opera house. I entered the lobby, asked the ticket box for any available seat, I found the ticket. I will watch the opera for the first time in my life." I told him briefly the subject of the opera. It is Italian "belcanto" (beautiful singing) from start to finish, full of wonderful songs and melodies. It is difficult for the singers to perform but a great pleasure for the audience. I added that the choir, and orchestra both performed very well.

Opera had Premier (first day on stage) night on 21 -February 2015 Saturday. This opera is a love story with dramatic events which took place in 1640 Cromwell period during the Battle of England, with good ending. Vincenzo Bellini wrote the opera in 1835. It was performed for the first time in 1846 in Istanbul during Ottoman period by an Italian group. It is the first staging now. Why Is That?

Because "I Puritani" opera is very difficult to perform in terms of artists. Especially long tiring lyrical Elvira and Arturo characters are difficult to play, and it is difficult to find singers to train them. The number of artists who have taken those characters into their repertoire are very few in the world. "I Puritani" characters we have in our opera repertoire of our artists, is a great gain.

Turkish Diva Leyla Gencer was one of best sopranos who sang the Elvira character. Leyla Gencer LaScala 1961, and Maria Callas 1950 NewYork Metropolitan CD soundtracks are advised to listen prior to opera night.

I watched the first five performances in order to understand the differences of the singers in Cast, as well as the minor details. Lead woman character Elvira is rehearsed by four Turkish sopranos. On Premier night, young beautiful soprano "Görkem Ezgi Yıldırım" played the Elvira character perfectly with her powerful lyric young clear voice. 

The same role played by "Eylem Demirhan" (twice), and "Esra Abacıoğlu Akcan" in the following nights.

Other soloists were our experiences cast of Ankara Opera house, Tuncay Kurtoğlu, Cetin Kıranbay, Savaş Gençtürk, and Serkan Kocadere.

Experienced director "Gürçil Çelikbaş" has remained faithful to the classical staging. The decor was reasonable enough, economically designed, and decor change was fast and easy. The 17th century England costumes were very nice and seemed close to the truth. However, costume designer should have to make special design for tenor "Deniz Leone" for his lead "Arturo" character

German conductor "Florian Frannek" had perfect harmony withe orchestra on five performances. Opera choir was strong, beautiful and exceptional. Carefully crafted costumes, decor were so nice with appropriate staging equipment compatible with lighting system. A feature of Ankara opera house, if you stay behind the curtain line, you get little choking sounds, singing over the stairs is very risky, your voice becomes not heard by the audience properly.

Izmir born, Milan resident tenor "Deniz Leone" played "Arturo" character in all five nights. He had some misfortunate inexperience in the Premier night. In the second and third nights, his voice was lost from time to time, he had to cope with health problems. On fourth and fifth nights, he was extraordinary with his clear powerful lyrical voice with his perfect Italian. "Deniz Leone" was certainly the real hero of this opera. It is not easy to take the stage for five nights in a row. He fought with himself to give us the best performance. He could not leave his place, because there was no one to replace. I congratulate him wholeheartedly.

I suppose that the student sitting next to me, liked the opera. He did not leave in the intermission, stayed until the end, and gave a long applause. For the love of opera, surely it is not necessary to finish the conservatory. Your author likes to attend opera, he has an open ear training with an average viewer-listener capability. He writes his impressions, whatever he sees, hears, feels, in order to present to his readers whether you like it, or not, all up to you.

In year 2014, "I Puritani" took place in Florence opera house in Italy. RAI5 television 3-hour broadcast is uploaded to "" available for all. Florence opera performance had a quite pessimistic staging, ours in Ankara is more optimistic, full of life and I believe that is better. The NewYork Metropolitan Opera staged "I Puritani" in 2007, with famous soprano Anna Netrebko. This year, "i Puritani" will be on stage at Wien, Catania, Madrid, Torino, Melbourne, and NewYork Metropolitan operas. Soprano "Olga Peretyatko" is getting good critics. One should watch the trailers in youtube.

After comparing the various performances in other opera houses, one will appreciate once again that our performance, singers, choir, orchestra are at least as good as the other opera houses. This opera creates a sort of addiction.

I believe that classical music and opera will make your life more beautiful. Do not worry about all unpleasant events which take place beyond your control. That will all goes by in time, this country witnessed many in the past.

"I Puritani" Opera will take the stage again on 30/03 and 06/04 in Ankara. Tickets are available through internet, released 15 days to the performance night. Please do write to me at all time if you have any comments. Greetings and best regards

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Prinkipo, March-15, 2015


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