Sunday, 20 September 2015

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro - Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Performance 18th September

Due to the fact that I am spending the next few months in the United Kingdom I decided to have a week off in London before I move on into the north. Having a full week here I definitely had to go to the ROH and see something. Lovely enough they just started performances of Mozart's Figaro and so I went to see the second performance last friday.
The production was directed by David McVicar who brought a very conservative version onstage which included a lot of lovely funny details. The way he let the roles just enfold their characters was really marvelous and enabled the plot to feel very understandable and close to everyday's life. The stage and costume designs (designer: Tanya McCallin) were utterly beautiful and made a wonderfull impression. Especially the second act and the final dress of the Countess looked marvelously!
Musically the evening started a little bit rough for during the first scenes the singers and the orchestra were not always matching together perfectly. In general Ivor Bolton seemed not to have everything under control all the time. I regularly had the feeling that they entered dangerous situations but they always managed to keep the danger away.
The orchestra of the Royal Opera House played lovely even though there were a few small details that troubled the performance from time to time. Nevertheless the overall impression was good and the British definitely know how to bring Mozart to life. Also the choir scenes (members of the Royal Opera chorus) sounded lovely and were very pleasant.
Heather Engebretson sang a very strong light Barbarina and showed some acting talent as well. Her voice sounds so smoothly and beautifully that it was a pity she did not sing more.
Alasdair Elliott sang a very know-it-all Don Curzio but made quite an impression during his short appearance. As did Jeremy White as Antonio who totally catched the audience with his wonderful acting during the finale of the second act. Don Basilio was funnily performed by Krystian Adam who also made a fine impression.
Carlo Lepore sang a very strong Bartolo with a very powerfull voice that sounded wonderfull, especially during his Vendetta aria during the first act. He upgraded his role vocally (if you can say that).
Once more I saw Dame Ann Murray as Marcellina and like one month ago at the Salzburg festival she did not fail to convince me. It is magnificent that her voice still has such quality and power. She did not seem weak or tired at all. Once again she proves that female singers are definitely able to be singing on a high level in their sixties.
A wonderful highlight for me was Kate Lindsey who I just saw exactly one month ago as Dido at the Salzburg festival. Now she sang the role of Cherubino and sounded marvelously once more. Her voice has such a warm and smooth timbre that everything she sings sounds like coming from heaven. But not just her singing was great, also her acting. She totally filled the character with life and was responsible for some of the evening's best jokes.
Stéphane Degout sang a very appropriate Count Almaviva with his very noble baritone voice. I would say that the timbre of his voice is just perfect for this role. He sounds noble, strict and passionate at the same time and his acting (especially his mimic) was wonderful as well. He sang his role really elegantly and did not fail to impress the audience at all.
His wife, the Countess, was performed by American soprano Ellie Dehn who gave her debut at ROH. The role of the Countess is very difficult because the role calls for a soprano with enough volume and maturity while having a very light and clear upper register. Dehn definitely has those abilities and sang a remarkable Countess. Her phrasing was so clear and beautiful that I was wishing to hear her arias once more again after she finished them.
Also a pleasure to hear was Anita Hartig as Susanna. She has a very strong light voice and a very beautiful crystal clear timbre. Her whole interpretation was nearly perfect with wonderful phrasing and very exact singing. Her performance was really exemplary and displayed many lovely details of her character. Like most other soloists she also showed some acting talent.
Her husband Figaro was performed by Erwin Schrott who I finally heard live now! He is such a stage animal with his marvelous acting and the phenomenal singing. Schrott definitely is one of the persons that can catch an audience with every little move they do and in addition he is able to fullfill the musical requirements in a thrilling way as well. His voice is very strong and everything seems to be very easy when he sings and still his voice seems to be very flexible. He is able to display a wide range of colors with his voice and his performance is best discribed by calling it excellent.
The vocal quality of the performance was even better than the one of the Salzburg festival this summer and impressed me a lot. But not just the singing was great, also the acting of the main protagonists was so convincing that one did not have the feeling that one is sitting in a theatre but being right there in the Count's palace!
I genuinely enjoyed the evening (even though I had to stand the whole performance) and so I would give the performance 9 stars!

Giuseppe Verdi, Ernani - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Performance 29th August

As final performance of this year's festival I attended the concert performance of Verdi's Ernani. The performance was led by Riccardo Muti, who is probably the best choice for Verdi. His performances of Verdi operas at the Salzburg festival of those last few years were all really exceptional and so was Ernani. He has a natural sense for the melodies and the musical form of those operas. His young orchestra, the orchestra giovanile Luigi Cherubini, is a great highligh as well for those young musicians play so thrillingly that every small theme in the orchestra becomes a small victory. Everything was played exactly as it should and so a big part of the evening was already bound to be successfull. Also the short backstage appearance of the Mozarteumorchester was fine and lovely played.
The Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor did a fine job as well even though they definitely had better performances this year. They sometimes did not seem totally together and I had the feeling that they did not have enough time to fully inhale the score.
In the smaller roles we heard Gianfranco Montresor, Antonello Ceron and Simge Büyükedes as Jago, Don Riccardo and Giovanna. Especially Büyükedes impressed me a lot for she had a very beautiful dark voice with a warm timbre and actually looked more noble than Donna Elvira.
Don Carlo was sung by Luca Salsi with a profound and very aggressive baritone voice. The timbre of the voice suited the future Emperor quite well and his portrayal was really ravishing and full of emotion.
My personal highlight of the evening was Ildar Abdrazakov as Silva. His huge bass voice has a very dark and profound timbre. He was able to put all the evilness of his character into his singing and gave a genuinely brilliant performance. His phrasing and his interpretation show great musical intellect and I enjoyed every minute of his singing. Bravo!
Vittoria Yeo sang Donna Elvira and did a good job. She managed to sing it appropriately but I also do have to say that she definitely does not really have the perfect voice for it. The problem of Donna Elvira is that it actually is a very low role that also calls for a light and easy higher register. A dramatic coloratura with lyric qualities would be the perfect cast. Yeo managed the coloraturas without any problems but in the lower parts she seemed not to be totally comfortable. Anyway her performance was still really good.
Italian tenor Francesco Meli sang the title part and was great as well. He found the perfect balance between the contrasting lyric and dramatic parts of this role. His phrasing was great and he definitely understands what it means to bring life to a role. His stamina is huge (I do have to say that I sat in the front, but you could tell that his voice filled the auditorium) and actually I sometimes had the feeling that he sang too loud. He seemed to switch between two levels: loud and extremely loud. If he did work a little bit on dynamics he would definitely be able to do a perfect performance.
I really enjoyed the whole performance and liked the opera very much even though the plot is complete nonsense (like most Verdi plots). The quality of the singers and the orchestra was marvelous and so I would give Ernani 8 stars.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Performance 26th August

As a little update of last year's performance of this production I will just write a few words about new singers and some highlights (for the whole review of last year look at "August 2014").
Franz Welser-Möst and the Wiener Philharmoniker sounded magnificently this year (I really do not know what is different this year) and improved a lot compared to last year. I enjoyed the whole performance a lot this year.
New in the production (besides many small roles) was Andeka Gorrotxategi as the Italian singer. I liked his performance way better than last year's singer because his voice was strong and sounded elegantly and very youthfully.
Also new in the cast was Golda Schultz as Sophie. She replaced Mojca Erdmann who was not able to convince last year. Schultz on the other hand sang marvelously and had a great success in this role. Her gleaming clear light soprano is strong enough to fill the house and she sounded deligthfully. Her acting sometimes seemed exaggerated but the overall impression was lovely. She definitely made the whole casting stellar. BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!
Krassimira Stoyanova was also able to convince again and seemed even more secure this year. Her performance seemed more natural and her voice sounded clearly and beautifully.
Sophie Koch also did a fine job even though I had the feeling that she was not totally fit this evening. Nevertheless she showed that she still is one of the best Octavians out there.
My personal highlight was Günther Groissböck who this time did not fight a cold. Last year he sang totally impressively even with a cold. This year it was just not from this world. He sang the optional low c in the first act and everything just sounded powerfully, classy and kind of dangerously as well. His interpretation improved over the last year and made his performance perfect. He definitely is the Ochs of our days and will be first choice for the next decade in this role.
After giving the production 9 stars last year I now feel like I have to give it 10 this year for they worked out every deficit and managed to bring a perfect performance on stage.

Jules Massenet, Werther - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Performance 22nd August

Another concert performance was Massenet's opera with a mezzo as female lead based on a novel by Goethe. Due to personal reasons Elina Garanca (who was originally planned to sing Charlotte) had to cancel her involvement but the festival managed to find another Diva to jump in.
The Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg was led by Alejo Pérez who might not have been the perfect choice for french opera. It was ok but sometimes I missed the diversity of colors which is so typical for french opera. Nevertheless the orchestra gave a fine performance with a nice balance between dramatic outbursts and delicate melodies.
In the smaller roles we heard Ruben Drole (Johan) with a very gentle warm baritone voice, Martin Zysset (Schmidt) with a light clear tenor and Giorgio Surian as Charlotte's father (Le Bailli) with a profound dark bass voice.
Daniel Schmutzhard sang a very elegant and noble Albert with his lovely baritone voice. It has a youthful and heroic color with a warm smooth timbre. His phrasing was very tastefull and showed great musical intelligence.
A personal highlight for me was Elena Tsallagova as Sophie. Not just does she look enormously elegantly, she also sings most delicately with a lovely light soprano which has quite some power. Every phrase she sings sounds extraordinarily gently and her whole performance was just marvelously.
The diva replacement for the role of Charlotte was Angela Gheorghiu who is quite the personification of a diva. Already during her first appearance one had the feeling that she thought the opera was called Charlotte and not Werther. Nevertheless she gave a brilliant performance even though this role definitely calls for a mezzo soprano. During the lower parts of the role she sometimes had issues with the volume. Her performance was lovely and the audience was very thankfull for such a wonderful replacement.
The main attraction of the evening was the protagonist, who was sung by Piotr Beczala. His strong and gentle tenor voice is on the top of its possibilities. The timbre of his voice is probably best described as warm, youthfull and noble. He sang his role so elegantly and intensively that the whole performance was just ravishing. His high notes seemed quite effortless and sounded so purely.
The whole evening lasted quite long (it started at 9pm and finished at midnight) but was quite a success with delightful singing and a great cast. So I give Werther in Salzburg 9 stars.