Sunday, 10 August 2014

Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen - Rheingold - Tiroler Festspiele Erl

Performance 1st August (Part of the 24h-Ring)

For the first time ever I visited the famous Festival in the tiny little village of Erl which is know for their exceptional Wagner performances. This year they played two Ring-cycles and one of them as the so called 24h-Ring. This means all four operas at one weekend and except of Rheingold all within 24 hours. So we had Rheingold on the 1st of August 19:00, Walküre on the 2nd at 17:00, Siegfried at 23:00 (until 4 in the morning) and finally on the 3rd of August Götterdämmerung at 11:00. This amazing opera marathon was a breathtaking once in a lifetime experience and worth every circumstance.
Gustav Kuhn leaded the festival's orchestra throughout all performances with great conducting and a very sophisticated interpretation. The incredible achievment of both, orchestra and conductor, made those performances to one of the best ones I ever saw. Kuhn, who was also responsible for the production, showed the ring cycle in a very puristic but understandable and coherent way. The simple set designs were enought to support the plot in an appropriate way. Due to the fact that the operas were performed so consecutive the big roles like Brünnhilde, Wotan, Alberich etc. were casted differently in every opera. So we heard many different singers of which most very enormously good.
The rhinemaidens (Yukiko Aragaki, Michiko Watanabe and Misaki Ono) gave a good performance and were lovely to watch and listen to. Only the top notes of Woglinde were a little flat sometimes, but it didn't really bother that much.
The main antagonist, Alberich, was performed by Thomas Gazhelli who brought a lot of darkness and evilness into the character. His Alberich was really good, both musically and dramatic, especially because of his rousing interpretation of the grumpy little evil nibelung.
His brother Mime was sung by Giorgio Valenta who also did a good job. Unfortunately there is not much to do for Mime in Rheingold, so there is not much more say about him. The giants Fasolt and Fafner were performed by Franz Hawlata and Andrea Silvestrelli. Both have a very profound bass voice although Silvestrelli's voice sounds way deeper and has a incredible dark timbre (which fits this role perfectly). Hawlata, who is known for his Baron Ochs also did a very good job and delivered the unilateral love to Freia very touchingly.
Frederik Baldus and Ferdinand von Bothmer played the gods Donner and Froh. Baldus gives Donner a very appropriate Portrait with a very lyric but still very strong baritone voice. Von Bothmer also sings a really convincing Froh and especially during the final scene he knows how to impress with his warm strong tenor voice. Joo-Anne Bitter as Freia sang this role with great finesse and a very elegant lyric dramatic soprano. Also optically she gives a quite convincing performance as the love godess. The role of Loge was performed by Johannes Chum, who gave a very cheaky portrait of this bold character.
One of the best performances of the evening was done by contralto Elena Suvorova as Erda. Her beautifully sounding deep voice made the mystical Erdascene to one of highlights of the performance. She has no problems with the deep notes of this profound part and also has a very delicate upper register.
The best female performer was the singer of Fricka: Hermine Haselböck. Her strong mezzosoprano voice (packed into a beautiful physique) characterizes the strict godess very well. She definitely knows how to deliver the dramatic content of her role and clearly knows how to fill the role with life. The contrast between the lyric and the dramatic parts of Wotan's wife was amazing and showed how many different layers can be showed by this role.
Maybe the best performance of the evening was given by the German baritone Michael Kupfer as god of the gods, Wotan. His elegant and noble singing fitted perfectly to the young Wotan who is not yet depressed by the happenings around the ring. His diction was exemplary and supported his noble appearance as well as his enormously convincing acting skills. Especially for the Rheingold-Wotan his voice seems to be predestined and one can only hope that he will sing this role in many productions in future.
For the first part of the Ring I give 8 stars.

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