Monday, 20 April 2015

Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio - Salzburger Landestheater

Premiere performance 18th April

As a herald for the new production of Fidelio this summer during the Salzburg Festival the Salzburger Landestheater brings this liberty opera in a new production which premiered last saturday. Director Andreas Gergen shows a dark hommage for the victims of Guantanamo in his production which surely polarizes with some really violent moments. One might not be sure to like it but it clearly is a very impressive production full of interesting ideas. The staging (Heinz Hauser) is very dark and minimalistic with a series of cables as pictorialization of the prison. Especially during the dungeon Scene at the beginning of the second act the "choreography" of those cables was really impressive and intense. The costumes (Susanne Hubrich) were also fine and fitted perfectly into the scenery. The whole production showed that they Team really worked hard with this difficult piece and brought in some really interesting ideas. The dialogue Scenes for example came from a record which was probably better than the broken "singer-German". Also the ending has a special unusual Twist which might surprise People who know the work very well.
The Mozarteum orchestra did a fine job even though the harsh instrumentation and the dry acoustics of the auditorium were quite merciless. Sometimes it seemed that they had difficulties to create a harmonic sound together. Adrian Kelly's interpretation of the score was clear and quite considerate to the singers. Only some moments of dissension happened during the second act, but nothing really terrible. The choir (Chor und Extrachor des Salzburger Landestheaters) did a really good job and sang with great taste and power. Both the prisoner's choir and the finale were really great and impressive.
In the role of Don Fernando we heard Simon Schnorr who sang it appropriately even though I thought that the role should have been casted with a more heroic voice. Schnorr seemed a little bit to lyric and young for it. Nevertheless he gave a fine performance during his short appearance.
Totally different was Stephen Bronk's Rocco. Bronk has a very strong and profound voice with a rough Timbre. His voice fitted his character perfectly and he sang his part very tastefully and showed that his voice is also very agile.
Another strong voice was Adrian Gans as Don Pizzaro. Definitely one of the highlights of the performance! His stamina is really impressive and his whole portrayal of the role (musically and acting) was really astonishing and scary at once. He did not just play Pizzaro, he WAS Pizzaro! His vengeance song in the first act was really forcefully and alarming.
Kristofer Lundin as Jaquino also gave a wonderful performance with his strong youthful tenor voice. He showed that he has quite some stamina and his whole interpretation of the role was very thrilling and exciting. He probably will be a fine Florestan himself once in a few years.
Also really lovely was Laura Nicorescu as Marzelline. She has a very delicate light soprano voice with a very beautiful timbre but also enough power to be heard over the orchestra. Her German sounded way better than in Die Zauberflöte last autumn and her whole performance was really lovely.
Salzburg's darling, Franz Supper, sang Florestan and did a very good job. Even though you could hear that he reaches his limits with this role he performed it really well and gave a very exciting performance overall, especially during his big entry scene in the beginning of the second act. I sometimes had the feeling that he did not feel totally secure yet, but he sang well anyway.
As title hero Sinead Mulhern sang the role of Fidelio / Leonore. She seemed to have quite a lyric approach and had a nice warm voice. Unfortunately she sounds quite shrill in her upper register and during the lower passages she was covered by the orchestra from time to time. Nevertheless she was fine and interpreted the role appropriately with some small issues which were not that disturbing.
Generally I had the feeling that everyone still felt a little insecure and there were some moments during the second act when I thought everything would collapse, but they managed to maintain the performance appropriately and therefore they have my honest respect.
The whole production gets 7 stars.
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Richard Strauss, Elektra - Wiener Staatsoper

Performance 11th April

At another visit in the capital Vienna I saw the new production of Elektra which premiered some weeks ago. Elektra might be one of the most difficult operas to perform because of the incredibly demanding roles. Especially the three female roles of the family of the Atreides are quite a challenge for every singer.
But first about the production itself: Uwe Eric Laufenberg transferred the plot into a cellar filled with coal, a shower and an elevator (stage: Rolf Glittenberg). The whole staging might not have been the most creative one but was acceptable in the end. I liked the costumes (Marianne Glittenberg) way more. Obviously they set everything into the beginning of the 20th century with very elegant Dresses (Klytämnestra, Chrysothemis) and interesting uniforms (Elektra, Orest, the maids). I actually have to say that staging and costumes were probably the most positive thing about the whole production because Laufenberg did not really have very creative ideas. His interpretation of the work was very one dimensional and trivial. This production does not even come close to his wonderful Ring-production in Linz. I thought it was quite a disappointment.
Not a disappointment were Mikko Franck and the orchestra (Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper) who both did a pretty good job showing the big contrasts of this marvelous piece. Here and there it could have been a little bit clearer and more detailed but overall the impression was positive in my opinion. I really liked that they were not afraid to savor the huge contrasts between orgiastic outbreaks and delicate moments.
Also the maids and servants (Simina Ivan, Aura Twarowska, Thomas Ebenstein, Marcus Pelz, Donna Ellen, Monika Bohinec, Ilseyar Khayrullova, Ulrike Helzel, Caroline Wenborne, Ildikó Raimondi, Younghee Ko, Jung Won Han, Kaya Maria Last, Cornelia Sonnleithner, Karen Schubert, Sabine Kogler) performed very well and distinctively. You could understand almost every single word and all of them gave a thrilling performance during their short appearances.
Wolfgang Bankl as Orest's guardian also performed really well and knew how to impress with his quite brief appearance. It was quite a pity that he did not have more to sing.
Norbert Ernst as Aegisth also gave a fine performance with this quite unsympathetic role which shows once more that Strauss loved to torture tenors with his roles. Nevertheless he sang it without any issues and died appropriately.
Orest himself was sung by Falk Struckmann who gave a very rough and intensive portrayal of this role. His heroic baritone voice suits this character really well with his harsh timbre and his very accentuated phrasing. I really liked his interpretation because of its uniqueness and thrillingness as well as his strong acting skills.
Not that satisfying was Gun-Brit Barkmin's Chrysothemis as replacement of Anne Schwanewilms who fell ill. Barkmin has some power in her voice but her upper register always sounds weather too high or to low. She obviously seems to have some issues with intonation which is really annoying. Also the timbre of her voice sounds shrill and thin in the upper register. What a pity, especially in this wonderful role which should be sung with a big and warm voice with a beautiful silky voice.
Better but also non really convincing was Anna Larsson as Klytämnestra. She definitely had the voice to sing this role but her portrayal (both vocally and acting) were quite one dimensional and not really thrilling. The difficulty of Klytämnestra is not the range or the stamina but the enormous demands in terms of accentuation and interpretation. Maybe her portrayal will grow with time passing by, because vocally she is a really fine singer.
Nevertheless, the Highlight of the whole production was of course Nina Stemme's debut as Elektra. Clearly, a new Elektra was born with this debut. Even though her acting skills are not as good as her vocal skills she was able to capture the audience from the first moment she started to sing. Her vocal power is enormous and from the bottom to the top of her range she has a strong and even tone. Only sometimes her vibrato tends to get too strong. Her high c's are like explosions and even in the low notes of the lower register she was able to sing over the orchestra without any problems.
Just hearing Stemme's Elektra would have been worth to see this performance and I enjoyed it from the first note to the very last in a spectacular finale. Even though the production in General was not really exciting I did not regret to have been there.
Vienna's new Elektra gets 8 stars (earned mostly by the orchestra and Nina Stemme).

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Giuseppe Verdi, Requiem - Salzburger Osterfestspiele

Performance 31st March

As final performance of the first cycle the great Verdi Requiem marked a wonderful highlight. Christian Thielemann conducted a very interesting rendition of this incredibly ravishing opus. The Staatskapelle Dresden showed marvelous contrasts between parts where you were barely able to hear them (moments that kept you from breathing) and parts that literally almost blew you from your seats. Thielemann and his orchestra phrased so clearly and interestingly that I heard parts that I have never been aware of before. Especially during the slower melodic passages Thielemann showed his talent for expressing the emotions of a piece while conducting it quite economically.
The choir (Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks) did a great job singing the very important choir part with all its beauty and epic force. Especially the "Tuba mirum" and the fugue of the final "Libera me" were magnificent experiences.
Liudmyla Monastyrska sang the great soprano part and showed once again that her voice is a huge instrument that can cope with a big orchestra and a choir without any problems. There is probably no orchestra on this planet that is able to cover her powerful soprano which still has the ability to sing the most delicate passages quite appropriately. Throughout her whole range she convinces with great power and a quite even pleasent timbre.
As well did Anita Rachvelishvili with her alto part. She also has great stamina and a incredibly even transition between her registers. Her voice has a quite erotic and emotional timbre but still she could switch to tremendous outrbreaks. I really liked her dramatic performance as well as her dramatic outfit which made a great overall impression too.
In the Ttenor part I had the pleasure to hear Jonas Kaufmann again and he also did a wonderful job here. His strong tenor voice with its incredibly virile baritonal timbre was a pleasure to hear and also his ability to show any shade of vocal color depending on the phrase. Especially in his upper register his voice has this unmistakable steely timbre of pure masculinity.
The least interesting of the four soloists (but still on a very high Level) was Ildar Abdrazakov as the quartet's bass. He had no issues with his strong profound voice of dark timbre and showed that also a dark bass voice can phrase very delicately and beautifully. Still his interpretation seemed a little bit onedimensional from time to time.
Anyway I enjoyed the whole performance tremedously and also the audience was really thrilled. The soloist quartet and Thielemann had to get onstage again even after the orchestra and the choir was gone already.
The performance gets 9 stars.