Thursday, 1 December 2016

Giacomo Meyerbeer, Les Huguenots - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Performance 29th November

At the moment we experience a new renaissance of the great French Grand Opéra and the Deutsche Oper Berlin is regularly bringing up new productions of that genre. After Dinorah and Vasco da Gama they now put Meyerbeer's most famous opera on the stage. Widely known, rarely performed. That is the fate of Les Huguenots which is a huge epic piece of Wagnerian dimensions. It really deserves the name of a Grand Opéra with all its big choir scenes, lush scenery and highly demanding roles. Even though the incredible amount of repetitions and coloratura passages is sometimes a bit tiring, the incredible drive of the ensemble scenes and the elaborated melodies is simply impressive and it was a genuinely exciting evening.
The production led by David Alden is really magnificent. He knew how to create an utterly exiciting performance from the very first note to the very last one. The way he conducts the characters around the stage and delivers their emotions and the drama of the plot was so well done that it was just thrilling to watch. His intensive understanding of the roles and their relations in combination with the marvelous stage (Giles Cadle) and the beautiful costumes (Constance Hoffman) worked out incredibly well. The sceneries were smartly put together and created a very convincing and touching atmosphere. As did the costumes that really looked amazing with great sense for the characterisation of the different roles.
But not only optically the production was able to convince, also the musical part was mindblowing. Michele Mariotti conducted the ravishing score with great passion, precise accuracy and highly rousing drive. I did not see much of him from my place, but what I saw was really refined conducting technique. His cues and his whole conducting looked very clear and controlled. The Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin followed his lead almost perfectly and gave a ravishing performance full of passion and wonderful contrasts. No matter if the music was dramatic, soft or sweeping, the orchestra always hit the right tone and simply played marvelously. In a great French opera the choir has a big part as well of course. The Chor (und Extrachor) der Deutschen Oper Berlin were in perfect shape and performed the demanding choir part without any problems. I have not heard this choir so balanced for quite some time.
The sheer amount of different roles is quite a challenge for every house, but the Deutsche Oper easily found appropriate singers for all of them. Due to the fact that there are so many of them I will only point out the most important ones (which is already quite a lot anyway). However even the smallest roles were performed on a very very high level.
I definitely have to mention Irene Roberts who sang the role of the page Urbain. I do not know why but pages always seem to have very interesting roles even thought their characters are not crucial for the plot. Roberts sang this highly demanding role with ease and lovely joy of playing. Her warm and soft mezzo showed great power and flexibility. She definitely did a wonderful job with that cheeky role.
Marc Barrard sang the role of the Count Nevers. His baritone suited this style of French opera very well. The voice is strong and focused, but also has a very slender and clear timbre. He sang and played the role really convincingly and was a good casting choice without doubt.
As Count Saint-Bris we had the pleasure to hear Seth Carico who gave a wonderful performance. His virile imposing baritone voice was very impressive. His noble heroic timbre conveyed the details of his character marvelously and his whole performance was more than solid.
The role of Marcel was sung by Ante Jerkunica. His dark and profound bass voice also was quite impressive. The power of his voice together with the threatening timbre suited his character very well. In combination with the solemnity of his choral-like songs it created a great and intensive effect.
Patrizio Ciofi was singing the role of the Queen, Marguerite de Valois. She managed the many coloratura passages and the great range of the role well, even though everything seemed very risky to me. Her voice tends to sound rather thin and she seems to need a lot of body movement to accomplish the demands of the role. Her singing always seems dangerously close to screaming and to her losing her voice. However she managed to get through the whole thing with dignity. She did not really convince me, but it genuinely was no bad performance.
However Olesya Golovneva did not fail to convince me in the role of Valentine. Her voice has a very dark and soft timbre and a wonderful balance between the registers. She managed all the low and high parts of the role without problems and sounded lovely throughout the evening. Her performance was very convincing and definitely is showing great talent. I never heard her name before, but I will definitely remember it now after this really glorious performance.
Finally the male protagonists, Raoul de Nangis, was sung by famous tenor Juan Diego Flórez. What can I say, his bright tenor has a very light and clear timbre, but also the power and the easy top that is required for this role. He through around with his famous high notes, but also did not fail to really touch with his performance. His voice seemed to have grown over the last few years and possesses a very heroic quality in his timbre now. I genuinely could not imagine this role to be sung better by anyone at the moment and I am sure he will go on being highly successful with it in the near future whereever he will perform it.
I think it is clear that this was a spectacular evening with great music, impressive staging and a simply heartbreaking story. The success shows that the Deutsche Oper is doing the right thing with reviving the Grand Opéra and they already announced that they will have a production of Meyerbeer's Le Prophet next season. I can only say that this seems to be the right choice after this wonderful production of Les Huguenots. Therefor I give 9 stars to this epic performance with all its glory.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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