Monday, 1 February 2016

Francois Poulenc, Dialogues des carmélites - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 30th January

The quarrel about the Munich production of Poulenc's most successful opera probably made it even more anticipated than it would have been anyway. The families of Poulenc and the librettist tried to stop the performance because director Dmitri Tcherniakov gave the finale a new twist that obviously was not approved by the descendents of the creators. All together I have to say that this quarrel was probably the most exciting thing about the production. Tcherniakov is neither progressive nor very creative and treated the work very unkindly. Already having some problematic lengths it would have needed some work of the director to keep the dramatic flow. Instead Tcherniakov shows amateur theatre with artificial emotions and horrible lead of the roles. Even the nice and atmospheric staging (also designed by Tcherniakov) and the elegant costumes by Elena Zaytseva were not able to keep up the dramatic flow of the opera throughtout the evening. Except of a few moments of dramatic action there was not much to look at (and not little enough to see it as concept.
Nevertheless musically the performance was better but also not as well as other evenings in the Nationaltheater. Bertrand de Billy led the Bayerisches Staatsorchester with elegance and a very sensitive technique. Only a few times he made use of the power of the big orchestra and kept the dynamics low for most of the evening. The Chor der bayerischen Staatsoper also stayed soberly and plainly during the whole evening and supported the plot well.
The many small roles of the opera were casted very well. Ulrich Reß (1er commissaire), Tim Kuypers (2ème commissaire), Igor Tsarkov (L'Officier), Andrea Borghini (Le geôlier), Johannes Kammler (Thierry) and Oscar Quezada (Monsieur Javelinot) all did a good job in their supporting roles.
Alexander Kaimbacher gave a very dignified and sympathetic L'aumônier with a strong voice with a warm and friendly timbre. He definitely seemed like someone who Blanche could rely on. Mère Jeanne and Soeur Mathilde were performed by Munich's universal weapon Heike Grötzinger and Rachael Wilson, both with powerful and controlled voices. Soeur Constance was nicely sung by Anna Christy who has a very slim and light voice which suited her character perfectly.
Blanche's father, Marquis de la force, was sung by Laurent Naouri and even with just a short appearance he was able to make a lasting impression with his dark and strict voice. Stanislas de Barbeyrac on the other hand convinced more by the beauty and ease of his voice. He did not seem to have problems with the high tessitura of the role and sang his part really beautifully.
One of the most exciting performances of the evening was Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo as Madame de Croissy. With her imperative strong alto voice she radiated superiority and her death scene was truly frightening!
Also a highlight was Susanne Resmark as Mère Marie. She impersonated her role so well that one would forget that one sits in a theatre. Also her powerful instrument was genuinely impressive and did not fail to convince.
Anne Schwanewilms on the other hand, who I was looking forward to see, seemed to have a bad day. Her voice sounded uncontrolled and just not totally in form. She managed to sing her part without any issues but it just did not feel appropriately. Hopefully she will be better during the other performances.
Christiane Karg however was the voice of the evening. Her portrayal was truly inspiring and showed not only a very beautiful gleaming voice but also very fine acting skills. Her light soprano convinces with sheer beauty and a very elegant silvery timbre. I would love to see her more often in Munich in some other main roles.
Finally I did enjoy the evening with Poulenc's beautiful music even though the production was not really that impressive. Nevertheless it was a solid performance with some small deficits that did not do too much harm. The performance gets 8 stars.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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