Sunday, 26 February 2017

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Die Zauberflöte - Aalto-Musiktheater Essen

Performance 24th February

My first visit in Essen started on friday with the famous fairytale by Mozart in a production by Ezio Toffolutti. The production basically features a single room which is created by several different parts which can be used seperately. This gave me the impression of some kind of a doll's house. Together with the costumes it looked rather cheesy sometimes, but was lovely to look at most of the time. The interaction of the characters was a bit more problematic because it seemed quite artificial most of the time (on purpose I suppose) which made the opera feel like a children's version sometimes. Most of it was rather conventional which might not be bad, but also not really exciting.
Musically there was quite a contrast as well. Felix Bender seemed very passionate about the score and conducted very elegantly, but sometimes there was a lack of control. Especially during some ensemble or choir scenes there were some inaccuracies that could have been avoided. This might partly be because of the Essener Philharmoniker. The orchestra sometimes did not follow Bender's instructions immediately which caused some of these moments. I also felt that there was a lack of passion which lead to some really uninspired playing. The great choir "Es lebe Sarastro" for example did not have the necessary charisma and solemnity which makes it such an impressive scene. The Opernchor des Aalto-Theaters also gave a very unenthused impression and gave a rather boring performance. I also think that the choir for Zauberflöte definitely needs a bigger lineup than it was during this performance.
Most of the smaller roles were cast more or less appropriately with some solid performances. The two trios (Jessica Muirhead, Marie-Helen Joël & Marion Thienel as the three ladies as well as three young ladies from the Aalto Kinderchor as the three boys) did not blend together as well as they should, even though everyone of them did a solid job own their own. This shows the difficulty of such tight ensemble roles.
Albrecht Kludszuweit was a rather heavy Monostatos with a strong tenor voice which is almost too elegant for that role which calls for a true Charaktertenor. However, he did a good job with it and gave a solid performance.
Tijl Faveyts also might not be the perfect voice to sing the role of Sarastro, even though he managed the role without any problem. Only the solemnity and reverend timbre that you would expect for this role seemed to be missing a bit.
In the famous role of the Queen of the night we heard young soprano Danae Kontora who has a lovely lyric soprano voice which has no problems with the many high notes or the coloratura of the role. I personally think that her performance seemed a bit too innocent and could have been more fierce. I do believe that her beautiful voice would fit better to more lyrical repertoire where she could delight the audience with her clear light soprano.
The rather short role of Papagena was sung by Christina Clark who gave a solid performance during her short scene. A bit more balance when it comes to timbre and volume and she would be on a good way for bigger roles.
One of the highlights of the evening was Martijn Cornet as Papageno. His light flexible baritone voice seems perfect for the role, but not only musically he was able to convince. His whole portrayal was full of life and energy which is crucial for this part which wins the audience by its acting and not necessarily by its music. Cornet simply did a wonderful job and did not leave anything to wish for at all.
The other highlight was Elbenita Kajtazi as Pamina. A voice that combines a dark and full-bodied colour with a clear soft timbre and good power. With her vocal control, the wide range of colours and the simply beautiful timbre she has everything this role calls for. She gave a thrilling performance with excellent diction and simply marvelous singing. Brava!
Finally, the role of Tamino was sung by Dmitry Ivanchey who has the perfect vocal material for this role. However he did not fully convince me due to his sometimes a bit emotionless performance. His bright and clear tenor voice would fit the role perfectly, but too often he failed to convey the dramatic content of his role. I am sure that he could be a magnificent performer in this role if he worked through some of the inaccuracies and dealt with the character a bit more.
Alltogether it was a solid performance with some good and some less good moments. Still it was definitely worth coming to Essen for and I did have a lovely evening. Therefor I give 8 stars to the Essener Zauberflöte.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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