Monday, 8 August 2016

Richard Strauss, Die Liebe der Danae - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Performance 5th August

As one of the big highlights of this year's season in Salzburg the Festival made a production of an opera that has a very close bond to Salzburg and the Festival. Strauss' Danae premiered at the Festival in 1952 after the cancelled performances in 1944 (only a public dress rehearsal took place due to the cancellation of all performance because of the failed assassination on Hitler) and is one of the rarest operas of the composer. Since the world premiere there have only been about 20 staged productions and the score is so difficult, that appropriate performances are extremely infrequent. That the Festival is doing a production now is not only a great opportunity to see the opera, but also a very smart move of the Festival because who else would be able to do a staged production on such a high quality level? The production led by Alvis Hermanis is both, plain and opulent at once and is able to tell the plot in a very touching and unexaggerated way. The interaction between the characters was very natural and despite some ironic moments in the opera it was a very serious evening with wonderful beautiful pictures. The stage (also created by Hermanis) was quite plain and unspectacular, but became quite an exciting experience thanks to the video design (Ineta Sipunova) and the many colourful props. Also the colourful detailed costumes by Juozas Statkevicius with the elegant oriental looks supported the plot very well and helped to create a wonderful fairytale-like atmosphere. They did not dread any costs to make a very spectacular production including a real donkey and a gigantic white elephant on wheels.
The musical part was a least as luxurious as the production itself with Strauss expert Franz Welser-Möst conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker. Welser-Möst himself said that the piece it extremely difficult to play for all participants, singers and instrumentalists. He led a performance that convinced with great clarity, very sensitive support for the singers and it showed that Welser-Möst has a very deep understanding for Strauss' rather complicated and difficult music. The orchestra did a very good job following his lead and convinced with a brilliant sound and very virtuosic playing throughout the whole evening.
The cast showed that the Festival chose the best of the best for this opera. The four kings (Pavel Kolgatin, Andi Früh, Ryan Speedo Green & Jongmin Park) and their wifes (Mária Celeng, Olga Bezsmertna, Michaela Selinger & Jennifer Johnston) sang with great balance and especially the ladies were magnificent. They portrayed the four former lovers of Jupiter so thrillingly and with so much fun that it was a joy to watch and listen. Especially Celeng convinced with a gorgeous voice and a beguiling physique.
Regine Hangler only had a very short but tough appearance as Xanthe. She did a great job with a very strong and beautiful voice that makes me believe that she is going to be a voice to keep in mind. Her voice sounds like it could handle the great heroines of Wagner and Strauss with ease if she just stays careful with that voice.
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke's Pollux had some difficult time with the volume of orchestra and choir during his scenes, but despite that he gave a good performance with a very clear and bright tenor voice. The voice has a very distinct timbre which suited the difficult role very well.
Norbert Ernst convinced as Merkur with a very bright but sustainable tenor voice. He knew how to bring out the comic details of his part and sang his role very beautifully.
Midas was sung by Gerhard Siegel who proved that he is more than simply a good Mime. His bright but heroic powerful voice suited the character very well and he managed the incredibly hard role without any big issues. Interestingly his voice gains more darkness in its timbre the lower it gets while the very top sounds bright and clear.
The secret male lead, Jupiter, was sung by Tomasz Konieczny who did a very good job in this strange role which is both, extremely high and extremely low at times. Konieczny managed the difficulties of the role very well and was able to not only perform it properly, but also convince in the role of the parting god. His powerful bass baritone seemed to be perfect for the role and he gave a very refined performance from the beginning to the very end.
However the highlight of the evening was Krassimira Stoyanova in her third German role with another marvelous role debut. Her Danae is simply compelling with a truly Straussian voice that has that certain silvery timbre and the bright upper register that is probably the most important thing for this role which famous for its beautiful phrases at the top of the upper register. Alltogether her performance was an event that one should not miss. Especially the touching third act was really heavenly beautiful.
Alltogether it was an incredibly beautiful production and probably also one of the best ones of the last few years here in Salzburg. That is why I can only give 9 points and hope that this run helps to rehabilitate this incredible piece of music.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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