Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ludwig von Beethoven, Fidelio - Wiener Festwochen, Theater an der Wien

Performance 20th June

I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of Fidelio at the Wiener Festwochen on my way back from Berlin. It is the last season of the festival's director Markus Hinterhäuser before he leaves to take over the Salzburg Festival. Unfortunately the Fidelio production was not really a nice one to celebrate his farewell from Vienna. The production led by Achim Freyer (also being responsible for the costumes with Amanda Freyer and the stage with Petra Weikert) was nothing more than a strange freakshow. It was annoying, boring and simply a totally witless production that did not really serve the plot at all. The strange surrealistic costumes and the static stage already bored me after the first 10 minutes. The dialogues have been cut distinctly and did not make any sense anymore most of the time. Also the fact that all the singers remained onstage throughout the whole performance was a very strange idea and surely an additional exposure for the cast.
Musically Mark Minkowski led a very interesting performance with the Les Musiciens du Louvre. He focused on the many different details of the score and the orchestra played very thrillingly with a very direct but still cultivated sound. At certain moments the orchestra was just a bit too loud for the small theatre and could have been a bit calmer. Also sometimes the original sound idea gave a bit of a harsh impression but most of the time it was very interesting to not have a full romantic sound for this opera. The Arnold Schönberg Chor also did a good job having a great dynamic range and a very balanced sound during the prisoner's choir and the finale.
In the short role of the Don Ferrando we heard Georg Nigl who sounded very light, almost like a low tenor, but did a good job overall. The performance could have been a bit more authorious. Julien Behr sang Jaquino and did a very job with that role. His tenor was light, clear and strong enough to be heard over orchestra.
Ileana Tonca on the other hand had some issues with the volume of the orchestra. While having a very lovely beautiful light soprano voice she has covered by the orchestra very easily and had to really fight against it during the lower parts of her role. Franz Hawlata was definitely one of the more pleasing singers of this cast with his profound bass voice. It could have been a little bit more focused and balanced but overall he did a very good job.
Jewgeni Nikitin seemed very unlucky in the role of Don Pizzaro having serious issues with the high tessitura of the role and surprisingly also with the volume of the orchestra. His stamina was just not enough for this role and he seemed very uncomfortable in it most of the time.
Michael König also was not the ideal voice for Florestan. His tenor voice is too lyric and his upper register seemed quite strained. He probably should stick to lighter roles like Max (which he does very well) in order not to damage his voice.
In the title role we heard Christiane Libor who was the only one who really did a very good job. Her voice might already be a bit heavy for Leonore, but she still has the ability to take back her voice to a very delicate piano and still have enough power and stamina to sing the dramatic outbursts appropriately. She maintains a very beautiful timbre throughout her whole range and it was wonderful to hear her.
Alltogether it was a very ambivalent evening that did not really have the quality that you would expect from the Wiener Festwochen. I would still give 7 out of 10 stars (just because of the musical part).
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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