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'Il Postino' debuts in Europe, receives mixed reviews

December 17, 2010 | 12:18 pm

Postino "Il Postino," the opera by Daniel Catán based on the Oscar-winning 1994 movie of the same title, recently had its European debut at Vienna's Theater an der Wien. The opera received its world premiere in September at Los Angeles Opera, starring Plácido Domingo in the lead role as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Domingo is reprising his role in Vienna and is expected to travel with the production to Paris in 2011. In L.A., audiences and most critics reacted favorably to the production, which chronicles the friendship between Neruda, exiled in Italy, and a local postal worker. (The mailman was played by Charles Castronovo in L.A. and by Israel Lozano in Vienna.)

But in Europe, reaction has been mixed, with some critics complaining that the opera is kitschy. The New York Times didn't review the L.A. world premiere, and instead sent a critic to the Vienna debut. "I am pragmatic enough to appreciate an opera that gives pleasure, and 'Il Postino' clearly does that. But its ersatz aspect prevents it from really getting under one’s skin," wrote a reviewer for the paper. "Still, it works without a hitch in the theater."

A critic for Austria's Kurier described Domingo as "brilliant" but found the opera overall to be soap opera-ish and the music to be "a dull, tasteless mush." In Die Presse, a reviewer compared Catan's music to that of Puccini and found that the score and libretto were generally light and undemanding.

The reviewer for Der Standard wrote that the music often amounts to kitsch and is dramatically uninvolving, but added that "it was nice to see Domingo, once again."

"Il Postino" is a co-production between the L.A., Vienna and Paris opera companies. The opera was filmed for DVD during its L.A. engagement, but a release date has not yet been announced.

-- David Ng

Photo: A scene from "Il Postino" in Vienna, with Plácido Domingo. Credit: Hans Klaus Techt / EPA

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