Friday, 29 July 2016

Giuseppe Verdi, Un Ballo in Maschera - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 27th July

As final visit to the Bayerische Staatsoper for this season I went to see Verdi's masked ball in the new production of this season. The production of Johannes Erath was very interesting and worked with very strong images that created a spooky atmosphere and some real goosebump moments. The mirrored stage (Heike Scheele) with the elegant circular staircase looked stunning and was used very smartly. Especially the scenes with Ulrica were extremely impressive with incredible effect. The costumes by Gesine Völlm were clearly inspired by American fashion of the early 20th century and they also were very elegant with flowing robes.
Daniele Callegari was conducting the performance with explosive power and spirited phrasing, but also kept down the volume during the more intimate parts. He supported the singers very well and was able to work out the contrasts between the serious and buoyant parts of the score very well. The Bayerisches Staatsorchester played thrillingly and very organically with great accuracy. From the powerful chords to the soft tremoli in the string section they were able to create an exciting musical basis for the plot. Also in very good shape: the Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper who sounded fresh and very balanced that evening.
The supporting roles were very well casted with appropriate singers. Joshua Owen Mills (Servant of Amelia), Ulrich Reß (Judge) and Andrea Borghini (Silvano) did a good job in their small roles. Also Anatoli Sivko and Scott Connor as Samuel and Tom were very entertaining with their dark voices and wonderful acting. They're laughing song (together with the choir) during the second act was simply hilarious.
Sofia Fomina as Oscar was quite an interesting case with a very light agile voice that also had quite some power in the upper register. It was quite impressive that she drowned Beczala's high notes during the great scenes in the first act when they sang together.
My absolute highlight of the evening was Okka von der Damerau as Ulrica. Her performance was simply glorious because even before she sang one note she captured the audience with her incredible presence in that stunning black dress standing on the staircase and looking down on the stage with her eyes glowing. Her entrance was probably the most thrilling part of the whole opera and her incredible warm and dark voice convinces with a very beautiful and beguiling timbre. Brava, simply Brava!
Franco Vasallo as Renato convinced with extreme power and a very easy top register which he utilised very well. He sang many impressive high notes and knew how to convey the emotions of his character through his singing. The good mixture of lyric and dramatic singing combined with the convincing performance was marvelous and suited the role very well.
Anja Harteros as Amelia also convinced with a very beautiful voice and a very emotional performance. Her aria at the beginning of the second act and her pleading to see her son once more was incredibly touching and her soft powerful voice sounded marvelously. Harteros accomplishes the perfect balance of dramatic outbursts and soft intimate parts. Her performances are always full of emotion and very convincing.
The protagonist Riccardo was sung by Piotr Beczala whose voice gained some weight and his timbre became a bit darker lately. He filled the auditorium with ease and his flexible voice had no problems with the quite tricky parts of the role. Only the very top of the upper register could still be a bit stronger and need a bit more of the heroic timbre but his performance was really good anyway.
Alltogether it was a lovely finale of my season in Munich and so I give 9 stars to the Ballo production of the Bayerische Staatsoper.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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