Sunday, 30 April 2017

Richard Strauss, Die Frau ohne Schatten - Hamburgische Staatsoper

Performance 29th April

For a long time I have planned this weekend in Hamburg full of epic music and a visit to the new and long awaited Elbphilharmonie, but the first evening was reservated for my all time favorite opera and the subject of my master thesis (I might have mentioned it before). So I simply had to pass and have a look at it and I certainly did not regret it. For the production in Hamburg they decided to do the usual cut version introduced by Böhm. I am not really a fan of cuts, but if there have to be cuts, this is the version to do.
The production was led by Andreas Kriegenburg who created a very atmospheric surrounding for the opera with a mix of intense reality and fairytale-like fiction. He did not put the Empress, but the Dyer's Wife into the center of the story and told her story in a dreamlike fantasy that includes her and her alter ego (the Empress) and their difficulties. Both, the stage (Harald B. Thor) and especially the costumes (Andrea Schraad) were really impressively supportive to the plot and helped to elaborate the highly complex relations of the opera. I think in terms of the production it is certainly one of the best ones I have seen so far with its plain simplicity and highly emotional direction.
After the cancellation of Kent Nagano who should have conducted the evenin originally the operahouse was able to find an appropriate replacement with Axel Kober who showed that he knows the piece very well. Sometimes I felt that his tempi were quite swift, but alltogether it was a ver pleasing performance. The Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg played very well with great intensity and a wonderful range of colours. The marvelous instrumentation of Strauss was so captivating that it was a pleasure to just sit and listen.
The many small roles were sung solidly and did not give any reason for critique. Especially Alex Kim as the Youngling and Gabriele Rossmanith as Red Falcon & Keeper of the Treshold were done really wonderfully. Both with beautiful light voices and passionate legato singing. Bogdan Baciu also did a great job as Spirit Messenger with his powerful and dramatic baritone voice. I am quite sure that he might tackle the role of Barak someday in the future.
In the role of the Emperor we heard Roberto Saccà who was a rather lyrical choice for the role. He convinced with his easygoing top and a beautiful youthful timbre while his lower parts tended to sound a bit weak and simply not powerful enough. However he managed to do a good job with that really cruel tenor part (Strauss really must have hated tenors to write such difficult roles).
Andrzej Dobber probably gave this evening's best performance as Barak with a strong and flexible baritone voice that combines a warm and tender timbre with power and a highly convincing interpretation. He did not just sing his part really well, he also acted wonderfully and really made the audience believe that he IS Barak.
Changing her repertoire from being a former Färberin to singing the role of the Nurse now, Linda Watson showed that she is one of the great dramatic sopranos of our times. She managed the low parts of the role without any problems and also the high notes were as intensive as I expected. I personally thought that there is still potential when it comes to diction, but alltogether it definitely was a luxurious choice for that role.
Making her debut in that role, Lise Lindstrom sang the role of the Dyer's Wife and did a wonderful job with it. Compared to other singers of that role Lindstrom has a very bright and slender voice, but convinces with powerful and laser-like high notes that do not seem to bother her at all. Her performance was really touching and showed great understanding of the role. She definitely studied the role very well and did a great job.
Finally, the title role, the role of the Empress, was sung by Emily Magee who already sang the role several times. Her middle and upper register is incredibly clear and soft (perfect for the role) and she did not fear any of the high notes (including several high c's and also a d). Her lower register sometimes sounded a bit rough and rather expressive, but alltogether she gave fine performance and showed that she knowes to ration her power in that role.
Alltogether it was a magnificent and really touching performance that did not fail to convince me. The combination of good singing and a smart production really worked very well and so I can give 8 stars to Frau ohne Schatten in Hamburg.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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