Thursday, 2 March 2017

Werner Egk, Peer Gynt - Theater an der Wien

Performance 27th February

The Theater an der Wien rediscovered a rare piece of music from the last century and staged a production of Peer Gynt by composer Werner Egk. The piece was premiered in 1938 and admired be Hitler and Goebbels which did not really help Egk after the war when he had serious issues to explain his role in Nazi Germany. However the opera itself is a real treat and shows some really interesting influences. Traces of jazz, late-romanticism and musical modernism can be found in the work which features some great musical ideas. Of course it might not have the same quality level as Richard Strauss for example, but it is definitely worth a rediscovery.
The production by Peter Konwitschny helps to bring out the drama of the plot very well and achieves a really exciting and thrilling evening. He does not fail to display the inner strife of the main character and also the interpersonal relations of the different roles. This is exactly why I love his production because they usually show great understanding of the dramatic flow of a work. The stage and costumes (Helmut Brade) also supported this impression with a versatile concept full of interesting details. This shows how thrilling a production can be and how it is able to carry the audience into the plot.
Not only the scenery, also the musical part of the evening was exceptional. Leo Hussain conducted the mixture of styles with great understanding and a balanced controlled drive throughout the evening. He seemed to have studied the score very well and definitely was responsible for the musical success of the evening. The ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien played the interesting score very passionately with a wide range of different timbres and a very luscious sound. Also the Arnold Schönberg Chor did a great job with the choir part. They sounded balanced with a focussed sonority.
Basically all of the soloists sang on a very high level and their voices suited their roles really well. Of the smaller roles I want to mention Andrew Owens (Mads, Servant) and Nazazin Ezazi (Ingrid, waitress & first black bird). Both convinced with bright clear voices. Owens light tenor has a very focused timbre, while Ezazi's soprano has a very beautiful soft, but also flexible sound.
Rainer Trost sang the roles of The Old One and the king of the trolls. He also was able to convince with a highly musical performance and with a flexible powerful voice that was able to convey the his characters very well.
As Aase we heard Natascha Petrinksy with a great dramatic mezzo voice that has the full-bodied lower register as well as the dramatic top notes which are important for that role. She gave a wonderful performance with passion and devotion.
The double role of Solveig / the redhead was sung by Maria Bengtsson with hear beautiful soprano voice. Her voice combines the power of a lyric-dramatic soprano with the clear timbre and flexibility of a light lyric soprano. This combination worked perfectly for those roles and she gave a magnificent performance. Also her acting was very convincing and her beautiful final song was the perfect ending for the opera.
The title role was performed by Bo Skovhus with his elegant and noble baritone. His voice has this disting noble timbre and also convinces with great flexibility and a passionate interpretation. He was able to capture the attention of the audience from the first minute to the very last and it was great to see and hear him in this role.
I have to say that I was positively surprised by this opera and I really hope that this production might help to bring it back from oblivion. It was definitely a great evening both musically and scenically and therefor I give full 10 stars to Peer Gynt at the Theater an der Wien.

Reviewed by Daniel Url

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