Friday, 19 August 2016

Jules Massenet, Thaïs, Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Concert Performance 16th August

For one night and one night only the Festival showed a concert performance of a real Massenet rarity that unfortunately is played too rarely. Thaïs is full of exotic rhythm and melodies that are simply ravishing. The beauty of the music is compelling and I could have watched the whole thing again after it was done (even thought it was already midnight when it ended). The opera would also have been a great chance to stage a rare opera because they could have done a lot with the opulent metier of the opera.
The performance was led by conductor Patrick Fournillier who worked out the different colours of the score very well, but sometimes seemed to hurry through the performance a bit. Especially during the famous Meditation (violin solo: wonderfully played by Felix Froschhammer) Fournillier chose quite a fast tempo. However, the Münchner Rundfunkorchester played vividly with great passion and a wonderful sense for the exotic elements of the score. The Philharmonia Chor also gave a lovely performance with a balanced sound and appropriate singing.
More than any other opera this one was supported by the young talents of the Young Singer's project and they showed that there is a lot of talent in the new generation. Especially Simon Shibambu as Palémon gave a very convincing performance with his strong bassbaritone voice which has a very dark and sonorous timbre. Also Elbenita Kajtazi and Valentina Stadler knew how to capture the attention of the audience with their looks and their singing. Their beguiling terzet together with Marielle Murphy (what a great coloratura voice) was one of my highlights this evening because of the sheer beauty of their voices blending together. Szilvia Vörös as Albine and Andrzej Filończyk as a Servant also showed the high quality of the YSP singers and proved that the project is one of the most meaningful projects of its kind in Europe.
Tenor Benjamin Bernheim showed as Nicias that he is not an insiders' tip anymore, but one of the leading tenors of the younger generation. His bright youthful voice has a very clear and beautiful timbre. He sang his part with such ease and passion that is was a pleasure to hear him and hopefully he will come back more often in the future.
Former startenor Placido Domingo added another baritone role to his repertoire with the role of Athanaël. Of course it is impressive that he still has the power and the vocal balance to sing such a role, but I will never understand why he does not leave the stage to the younger generation. Alltogether his performance was not bad, but surely not as good as a proper baritone would do it. However the Domingo fan club was cheering enthusiastically and were happy to see their idol once again.
The real star of the evening was Marina Rebeka who was jumping in for Sonya Yoncheva and gave a brilliant performance that was more than appropriate for the festival. Her creamy voice convinces with a very beautiful timbre, impressive vocal balance and an extremely passionate performance. Also her french diction was clear and really exemplary so that one could understand every single word. While her lower register has a very sensual creamy timbre, her top is shiny and powerful with a very bright sound. She sang the high d in the famous mirror aria wonderfully and her performance was rewarded with standing ovations after the performance. I loved that she seemed really overwhelmed by the reaction of the audience and was truly touched by it.
The best thing was that they repeated the final duet after the intensive applause at the end of the performance even though it was already midnight and they just sang a tiring performance. The audience went crazy afterwards and it was truly a night that will go down in the festival's history. It was a really impressive performance and definitely a highlight of the festival. Therefor I give 9 stars to the unique Thaïs in Salzburg.
Reviewed by Daniel Url


  1. That cover photo of yours: Awesome! :-)

    1. Thanks, it was taken at the Press terrace of the Salzburg Festival. Love the view over the city from there :)