Sunday, 18 December 2016

Giuseppe Verdi, La forza del destino - Theater Basel

Performance 16th December

The final part of my swiss opera tour was a performance in Basel with one of Verdi's strangest operas. La forza is one of these operas that have such a dreadful ridiculous plot that it needs some really good music to get through it. I am not really sure if that is the case with La forza. While some parts are really exceptional and great music, much of it seems like Verdi did not really have a big interest in the piece. The many chorals and the absurd happenings really try one's nerves, but altogether it was still worth going there. The production by Sebastian Baumgarten also did not really impress me. Most of it seemed quite ordinary and dull. He did not manage to bring real people and their problems on the stage, but created a really artificial meaningless atmosphere. The also quite ordinary (but complex) stage (Barbara Ehnes) and costumes (Marysol del Castillo) did not really help to change that. And the many projections and videos seemed to simply try to distract from the fact that no proper direction was shown.
At least musically the evening was worth the visit. Ainars Rubikis showed a very refined and thrilling interpretation of the score with great support for the singers. Only during the ouverture he seemed to be in a rush and conducted with a really swift tempo. The Sinfonieorchester Basel played with great passion and intensity. No matter if the music was dramatic or soft, they always played everything very appropriately. The Chor und Extrachor des Theater Basel also gave a solid performance but could have been more balanced everynow and then.
The few smaller roles were mostly sung by singers from the house and they all gave solid performances with not serious issues. Pavel Kudinov as Marchese di Calatrava also did a fine job with his role. His voice could have been a bit more dignified and venerable instead of simply angry and furious.
Anaïk Morel as Preziosilla gave a very lovely performance with a beautiful and also very sensual mezzo voice. The jumpy lines of that role were no problem for her and she mastered them without any problems. I especially liked the timbre of her lower register with its wonderul colour.
As Fra Melitone Andrew Murphy convinced with nice acting skills and a real comic talent. This role focusses very much on the comic facettes and not on beautiful vocal lines or something like that. Murphy really convinced me with his playful performance and also musically fulfilled everything that was expected.
Padre Guardiano (Evgeny Stavinsky) was a big contrast to Melitone with a very dignified solemn dark voice and very serious and calm acting. Stavinsky did a good job with that role and filled it with life. The contrast between him and Melitone (especially during the final fourth act) was really nice to watch.
Vladislav Sulimsky sang the antagonist part, the evil brother of Leonora, Don Carlo di Vargas. Sulimsky's powerful noble baritone voice is perfect for the role. The dark intimidating timbre of his voice and his highly musical phrasing seem to be perfect for this kind of Verdi roles and he definitely gave one of the performances of the evening.
Aquiles Machado as Don Alvaro, the male lead, did not totally win me over. His bright tenor is very focused, but his timbre in the upper register sounds a bit weird. While his lower registers sounded normal his upper register tended to get a very unnatural sometimes edgy tone. He also seemed to reach the limits of his stamina in the end, but alltogether he gave a solid performance.
The female protagonist, Leonora di Vargas, was sung by Elena Stikhina who has a wonderful strong soprano voice with a full-bodied dark timbre. Though being quite young she still managed to fulfill the demands of this heavy role and convinced with a voice that has a dark lower register and a shining bright top register. Her top notes were beautifully clear and seemed very easy for her. She definitely was the highlight of the whole performance and I really hope to see and hear her again someday.
Alltogether a solid performance with some weak factors which did not cloud the overall impression in the end. Therefor I can give 8 stars without any doubts.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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