Monday, 21 March 2016


Richard Strauss, Die ägyptische Helena - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Performance 19th March

The second part of my Strauss-weekend focused on another rarity: Die ägyptische Helena. An opera that premiered between Die Frau ohne Schatten and Arabella and therefor features a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The text is great and shows Hofmannsthal's incredible talent, but also the music is magnificent. Being the third of the so-called marriage operas it Centers around the question of faithfulness and truth.
The production led by Marco Arturo Marelli (also responsible for the stage) is very beautiful with an elegant hall as scenery including high-class furnishings. Optically it was very colorful but also very elegant and exotic. Also the costumes by Dagmar Niefind looked stunningly and supported the plot really well. The stage was divided in three halls by using the revolving stage which was a great idea. With a lot of doors, panels and movement in the production it never got boring throughout the whole performance
Musically Andrew Litton pointed out the incredibly colourful spectre of Strauss' music. He led the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin which played in such an elegant manner that the whole evening was just a celebration of orchestral fireworks. The orchestra sounded brilliantly and showed the whole range of colours and Timbres.
The three elves (Elbenita Kajtazi, Alexandra Ionis and Rebecca Raffell) as well as the two servants (Alexandra Hutton & Stephanie Weiss) gave very solid performances. Andrew Dickinson gave a very youthful and bright Da-Ud with a beautiful clear Timbre.
Derek Walton sang the role of Altair very enthusiastically with a strong and dark voice. He did not have a lot of scenes but totally convinced in the few ones he had.
One of my highlights was Ronnita Miller as Die alles-wissende Muschel. Her voice is just incredible. The Timbre of her voice is dark and mellow sounding really low which was really perfect for this role. It was a pity that she did not have more to sing.
Laura Aikin sang the role of Aithra and was simply stunning in it. Her voice seemed to be perfect for the role having a light focused timbre with great musicality and comedic talent. Her Performance was definitely a highligh of the evening and I loved her singing a lot. Her acting was also really convincing and sometimes marvelously funny.
Stefan Vinke, who I already heard as Bacchus and Siegfried, is a real power house. His tenor voice has a very dark timbre and one might not think that he manages the incredibly high tessitura of the role of Menelas. Strauss must have really hated tenors to write such difficult roles for them. Vinke however, seemed to have no Problem with it. He sings so powerful throughout his whole range that I was afraid he would lose his voice, but he just went on and on and on. Some of the top notes seemed not totally comfortable but it would be a miracle if they did. Vinke really gave a marvelous Performance.
As did Riccarda Merbeth as Helena. I really do not know why but her voice always confuses me. I never liked her Wagner-roles but her Strauss performances are really exceptional. She sings these soaring phrases in the top register with such ease and her diction is really always exemplary throughout the performance. No matter if she has to sing loud or soft she always finds the right tone. her voice has a very warm and clear tmbre that allows her to sing the famous Strauss phrases with such bauty of tone that one believes she was brn to sing Strauss. Great Performance!
Finally I was really happy to have heard this prformance and I hope pople start to appreciate this opera more. It was a delightful evening with astonishing music and therefor I give 9 stars.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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