Saturday, 24 January 2015

Richard Strauss, Die Frau ohne Schatten - Bayerische Staatsoper

Performance 27th December

It was my pleasure to hear the great rendition of Strauss' and Hofmannsthal's Opus Magnum once again in Munich as part of my intensive christmas marathon. It took me a while now to write this review because I was busy with a lot of different things those last weeks.
The production of Krzysztof Warlikowski (staging and costumes: Małgorzata Szczęśniak) is quite dumb and is maybe the only reason to stay away of the production. I am really sick of those totally pseudo intellectual productions that have nothing in common with the piece. Especially a complex work as this is should be performed adequately.
Anyway, what an evening, Kirill Petrenko and the Bayerisches Staatsorchester as well as the choir and children's choir of the bavarian state opera (Chor und Kinderchor der bayerischen Staatsoper) gave a great performance with magnificent contrasts and everything one could wish for. Petrenko is one of the conductors who could become a new Herbert von Karajan. His conducting shows every single little detail and he is definitely not afraid of going to the limits. From the most delicate chamber music moments to the great bombastic outbursts of the orchestra he was able to display everything of it.
Also the singers gave their best to perform this enormously difficult piece as well as they could and I have to say, they did a great job. As the voices of the unborn, the servants and the children's voices we heard Hanna Elisabeth Müller, Eri Nakamura, Golda Schultz, Elsa Benoit, Rachael Wilson and Heike Grötzinger. Singing from the off they all sounded still very strong and very beautifully. They formed a great vocal ensemble together and their voices matched really well in the several "ensemble" scenes.
Rachael Wilson also sang the role of the voice from above and showed her powerful dark voice. Eri Nakamura sang the role of the falcon as well and showed once again that she has a very powerful beautiful voice with a very lovely delicate timbre. As Hüter der Schwelle des Tempels we had the pleasure to hear more from Hanna Elisabeth Müller who had no difficulties with the very agile part and performed it adequately.
Another little ensemble was formed for the guardians of the city who were performed by Andrea Borghini, Evgenij Kachurovsky and John Carpenter. They also did a wonderful job with their almost spiritual appearance in the final of act 1. The whole scene was very intimate and profound.
As the three brothers of Barak we heard Tim Kuypers, Christian Rieger and Dean Power. They sounded fine and also acted really well. Dean Power also sang the role of the Jüngling and gave us the pleasure of his youthful tenor voice with a beautiful strong timbre.
Samuel Youn sang the spirit messenger and was acceptable in this role. In my opinion the role should be sung by a more profound voice than Youn's but anyway he was ok in the role.
Now to the great protagonist ensemble which is always enormously difficult to cast appropriately. Deborah Polaski sang a demonic and very classy Amme even though her vocal abilities might not be the best for this very difficult role. Still, I actually liked her performance more this time because it seemed to be more secure and maybe she felt a little bit more comfortable this time.
Wolfgang Koch as Barak showed once more that he is one of the best performers of this role at the moment. His voice is capable of displaying the benevolence and defenselessness of the character. He found a great balance between the dramatic and the delicate parts and gave a great overall performance.
Robert Dean Smith jumped in for the role of the Emperor and also did a fine job in this role. I actually liked his interpretation more that the one of Johan Botha because it felt way more authentic. He even dared to sing the high b flat in his scene in the second act (if my ears did not fool me) and it sounded fine.
Riccarda Merbeth took over the role of the Empress from Adrianne Pieczonka. I liked Pieczonka more but I have to admit that Merbeth did a really great job during most of the final act. Still during the first two acts she seemed to be quite stressed by her role and her upper register is quite weak compared to the lower registers. Nevertheless her performance was fine and she did not disappoint the audience.
My personal highlight was Elena Pankratova in the role of the Dyer's wife. Her huge dramatic soprano voice just blew my mind once again. She totally nailed her performance and showed that you can sing this role without having a wobbly voice. The sheer power of her voice comes together with a quite nice timbre and her phrasing shows that she understood what this role is about.
All in all I would give the performance 9 stars because musically it is one of the best productions of the last years.

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