Sunday, 28 February 2016

Richard Wagner, Rienzi - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Performance 26th February

Another weekend in Berlin, another Wagner opera at the DOB. This time his early work Rienzi, which is a very special piece combining strong Italian and French influences, but also already showing Wagner's personal composing style. Having written the opera at a quite early age the demands of the protagonists are extreme and require exceptional singers to master them appropriately.
But not only the vocal requirements make this piece difficult, also the plot is not an easy one to produce. The production of the DOB however did a great job with choosing Philipp Stölzl as director of the production (co-direction: Mara Kurotschka). Using videos and live broadcasts on stage as a medium of intensification the production shows clear parallels to the Nazi dictatorship. The staging (Ulrike Siegrist & Philipp Stölzl) and the costumes (Kathi Maurer & Ursula Kudma) had an impressive impact together with the many video projections (video: fettfilm, Momme Hinrichs & Torge Møller). The similarity to documents from the second world war was just horrifyingly realistic and had a strong effect. Especially Rienzi's speeches reached a higher dramatic intensity thanks to the projections. But of course there was also space for some comedy. That is why I just have to mention the really funny opening scene during the ouverture when Rienzi-double Gernot Frischling danced around like a crazy dictator. It somehow reminded me of the earthball-scene in Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" (and I think that is definitely a compliment).
But not just the production, also the musical performance was really intensive and very enjoyable. Evan Rogister was able to bring out the Italian and French influences without loosing the Wagnerian sound out of sight. He carved out the beautiful catchy melodies and was able to capture the spirit of the monumental parts of the score. The Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin followed his lead wonderfully and sounded brilliantly. Especially during the ouverture the string and brass sections sounded so focused and accurately that this was already a first great highlight of the evening.
The Chor ( and the Extra-Chor) der Deutschen Oper Berlin performed the very important choir parts of the opera really well. This whole opera would not be the same without the famous big choir scenes which sounded lovely this evening. Especially the finali of the first two acts were real highlights for me!
But now to the soloists of the evening: Stephen Bronk and Clemens Bieber sang the ambivalent roles of Cecco and Baroncelli. I already heard Bronk as a wonderful Rocco in Salzburg and he did not fail to convince me this time as well. Also Bieber gave a good performance with a very clear tenor voice. Noel Bouley's cardinal Orvieto was solid but could have been a little more intense and dignified. Dong-Hwan Lee also gave a solid performance as Paolo Orsini, but was unlucky to have Tobias Kehrer as partner / opponent during his scenes. Kehrer (as Steffano Colonna) is a force of nature with a powerful dark bass voice that really suited his malicious evil character. His performance was intense, exciting and dramatic.
The first of the three main protagonists, Rienzi's sister Irene, was performed by German soprano Martina Welschenbach who looked stunningly and made it understandable to fall in love with her character. Her soprano has a very beautiful timbre and definitely will be a good Wagner voice in the future but for the moment it just seems a bit early. She does not have the power that is neccessary to float over the huge orchestra. I think her voice is just not ready for this role yet but definitely on the way there. A few more years and the power will come naturally and then I would be happy to see her again.
My personal highlight of the evening was Daniela Sindram as Adriano. Sindram's vocie is strong and flexible with a very expressive timbre that can deliver dramatic content marvelously. Her scenes showed great acting talent combined with great musicality and a wonderful voice. Her dramatic outbursts gave me goosebumps. Especially her final desperate appearance finding Irene before the last climax was magnificent.
The title hero Rienzi was sung by tenor Torsten Kerl who has a very interesting voice. While having a clear and bright upper register his lower register sounds almost like a baritone with its very dark timbre. He held some of the high notes (and there are many of them) really long and showed that he does not have a problem with the high tessitura of this role. During the famous prayer he seemed a bit tired but during the great finale he gave everyhing he got. The audience forgave the signs of tiredness during the prayer and rewarded him great applause and appreciation in the end.
The whole performance was very enjoyable with a good cast. The only thing that I did not like was that they used really many cuts and gave us only a very shortened version of this wonderful opera. Anyway I would still give 8 stars to the great production of Rienzi at the DOB.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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