Thursday, 6 July 2017

Franz Schreker, Die Gezeichneten - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 4th July

Marking my last summer as reviewer and my last reviews in Munich I started this year's Munich Opera Festival with a marvelous rarity, a work so captivating that I do not understand why it is not part of the normal repertoire. Franz Schreker's Die Gezeichneten is an opera that clearly marks some competition for Strauss and in fact Schreker was more often performed than Strauss during his lifetime. Unfortunately the horrors of the Nazi regime ended his success and his works were forgotten.
The Bayerische Staatsoper now revives this great opera in a production by Krysztof Warlikowski who is know for his collage style and his highly psychological productions. As usual it ended up as a diarrhoea of connotations, odd film scenes and a lot of stuff that keeps the audience from actually thinking about the philosophical questions of the piece. The opera, being quite complicated already, ended up being even less understandable and many people probably had no clue what was going on. The stage was designed by Małgorzata Szczęśniak who is usually working with Warlikowski. The staging reminded me of any other production they made (Die Frau ohne Schatten in Munich, Parsifal in Paris...) and stroke me as nothing new at all. The costumes also could have been from any other of their productions. Knowing the great production of Nikolaus Lehnhoff (Salzburg 2005) the one in Munich was rather disappointing.
Musically it was not as striking as one would expect at the Bayerische Staatsoper as well. Ingo Metzmacher, making his house debut, seems like a smart choice, but I expected more. His tempi sometimes seemed rather odd and unfortunately he was not able to make the music flow appropriately. Most of the time he and the Bayerisches Staatsorchester seemed so busy to simply perform the score that the soul of the music was lost. The lack of elegance and the sheer fluidity of Schreker's themes led to raw brutality and almost chaotic moments. The oddest moment of the evening was the finale when the opera simply ended on a random chord instead of the actual climatic flare of the final bars. These final few bars were simply cut away which is a thing that I seriously do not understand at all.
Most small roles (and there are many of those in this opera) were cast appropriately and were performed nicely. Of the smaller roles I definitely want to mention three people: Alastair Miles as Lodovico Nardi, Dean Power as Pietro and Heike Grötzinger as Martuccia. Miles has a great bass voice that sometimes reminded me of the great Kurt Moll. Dean Power, as usual, gave a lovely performance with his youthful beautiful tenor voice and Heike Grötzinger, another treasure of the ensemble, sang a very dramatic and thrilling maid.
Tomasz Konieczny sang the role of the Count Adorno and was definitely one of the leading performers of the evening. His baritone combines a virile sonorous timbre with great flexibility and intensive power.
Christopher Maltman's baritone voice was a lovely contrast to the rather bright tone of Konieczny with his warm and elegant timbre. Maltman did not only sing his part really wonderfully, he also acted in a nice convincing way and simply gave a wonderful performance.
As Carlotta we heard Catherine Naglestad who gave a solid performance with her meanwhile rather dramatic voice. She sang the role very passionately, but she is definitely not the right choice for this role. While her lower register has a really odd and weak timbre she lacks the bright tone and the crucial lightness which is really important for this role.
The creator of the mysterious island "Elysium", Alviano Salvago, was sung by John Daszak who clearly reached his limits with this role. However I thought that this suits the role very well and I really liked his performance very much. His tenor voice still has a very pleasing timbre and his interpretation was not as caricatural as in many other performances. I especially liked the intensity of his reading scene before act 3.
Alltogether it was absolutely magnificent to hear this wonderful piece of music even though the performance was not really on the level I originally expected it to be. At least many other theatres are staging their productions of the opera now as well and finally people have the chance to see this great opera. The performance in Munich gets 7 stars.
✰- - -
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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