Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Franz Schubert, Fierrabras - Salzburger Festspiele

Performance 27th August

My last visit of this year's festival was the rarely performed Schubert opera Fierrabras. Schubert, who might be the king of Lieder, was not really lucky with his operatic works. The bad librettos and the sometimes complicated plots are reasons why Schubert's operas are not really known nowadays. That is really a pity because his music is really great and has dramatic outbursts that I would never have expected by Schubert. His music reminds me of a mixture of Mozart and Weber.
The festival did a great job performing a rarity like that and showed that Schubert's operas are worth being rediscovered. The big problems with the production was the production itself. Peter Stein directed a Production that reminded me of an old bad knight saga for children. The costumes (Annamarie Heinreich) and the staging (Ferdinand Wögerbauer), although beautifully designed, just gave a very cheesy impression and together with Stein's directing some hilarious moments were created where hilarity should not happen.
At least the musical execution was great and showed the charms of the opera composer Schubert. Ingo Metzmacher conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker with great finesse, delicate taste and enough dramatic power. Also the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor convinced me once again with very tasteful singing.
The singers gave a great performance and sang on a very high level. Manuel Walser, a protegé of Brigitte Fassbaender and contestant of the YSP, sang the role of Brutamonte. His baritone is very good and it is incredible how well he conducts it if you think of his young age. He should have had a bigger role than that to show off his talent appropriately. Marie-Claude Chappuis sang the role of Maragond which was also very little for this beautiful voice. She sang a very beautiful duet with Florinda, but had no chance to let us hear her beautiful mezzo more afterwards. The also quite small role of Boland was performed by Peter Kálmán. He also did a good job. Unfortunately at bigger ensemble scenes he had some issues to be heard over the other musicians.
Georg Zeppenfeld also gave a great performance as a very noble and graceful King Karl. His profound bass sounds very elegant and his diction is very exemplary. His portrayal was very convincing and showed a great sense of acting.
Roland (not to change with Boland) was sung by Markus Werba, who has a light voice that seems to be more appropriate for more comedic roles like Papageno or Beckmesser. He surely did a good job but seemed a little bit wrong for a heroic role like that. Nevertheless his voice was able to perform this role without big problems.
Dorothea Röschmann sang Roland's big love and sister of Fierrabras, Florinda. Her voice has grown even bigger and more dramatic since her triumph as Countess Almaviva in 2006. She convinces with a strong lower and middle register which sounds very characteristic and velvet-like. Her dramatic outbursts were really impressive and her phrasing very tasteful. Also her acting is very good and shows a great dramatic feeling.
Eginhard was sung by Benjamin Bernheim, who I never heard of before. His tenor sounds very youthful but already quite heroic which fits this role perfectly. He understood to hold the balance between heroic and light lyric singing. Also the duets with Emma were highlights of the whole performance.
His counterpart was Emma, daughter of King Karl, and was sung by German soprano Julia Kleiter. She has a lovely lyric soprano voice with beautiful phrasing and a great sense of musical form. She did quite well in this role with all its lovely songs, duets and ensemble scenes. The smooth transitions and the clear sound of her voice were really great. She was definitely one of the highlights for me.
Finally the main protagonist, Fierrabras, was performed by Michael Schade, who is known mainly for his Mozart singing. His performance is probably summarized best by one word: vanity. He is quite famous and although his voice has nothing special he seems to think he is the king of all tenors. The moment he comes on stage you can clearly tell that he thinks of himself as the great star of the production which was quite annoying. Anyway his singing was ok and I really mean ok. His sound is, as I said, not really special and has a very nasal timbre. Sometimes he tries to sound more heroic which ends in a very strained sound that does not really help his nasal timbre.
Anyway the whole production gets 8 stars (just because of the musical part) due the bad production and the even worse libretto.

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