Friday, 28 July 2017

Gaetano Donizetti, La Favorite - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 26th July

Time flies and suddenly the day for my final review in Munich came. After three years of ravishing performances here I chose an opera that I have not seen live yet for my final review. Donizetti's La Favorite is one of those rare operas that features a mezzo as main protagonist. Most people only know the great scene "O mon Fernand", but the mezzo part also features high b-flats and an optional (but usually done) high c in the first duet.
The production by Amelie Niermeyer is dark and cold as usual. If it had been a concert version there would not have been much of a difference. Despite the moving panels of the stage (Alexander Müller-Elmau) there was not much going on at any moment. Even the highly dramatic finali of act 2 and 3 were utterly boring and it seemed that Niermeyer had no idea what to make out of it. The costumes (Kirsten Dephoff) looked pretty, but did not really convey any meaning or support the plot in any way.
At least the musical part of the evening was on a very high level. Karel Mark Chichon conducted the Bayerisches Staatsorchester with a great sense for Donizetti's melodies and with marvelous dramatic drive in the ensemble scenes. He brought the very french sound of the score to life and did not fail to deliver the drama that the production could not create. The orchestra played very well with brilliant elegance and fierce excitement. The Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper seemed a bit unbalanced that evening and especially during their entrance scene they seemed to have some timing issues.
Elsa Benoit was a wonderful Inès with a magnificent bright soprano voice that showed great flexibility and a lovely clear upper register. Joshua Owen Mills also has a very clear bright voice with a piercing timbre. He gave a solid performance as slimy Don Gaspard.
Mika Kares showed his strong profound bass voice in the role of Balthazar and sang the role passionately and with raw venerability. His interpretation could have been a bit more differentiated, but alltogether he gave a fine performance.
As Alphonse XI we heard Mariusz Kwiecień who did a great job in that role. His imperious flexible baritone voice suited the character very well and also acting-wise he showed great enthusiasm for the role.
Matthew Polenzani sang the role of Fernand with great passion with his rather light, but sustainable tenor voice. He gave us some beautiful high notes and a wonderful balance of soft intimate moments and dramatic outbursts. I thought that he could have been a bit more elegant, but anyway he did a good job.
Last but not least, the role of Léonor was sung by star mezzo Elīna Garanča who definitely was the star of the evening. Her lush dark voice combines beauty of tone, power and a marvelous sense for phrasing.Without any problems she tackled the many high parts of the role and convinced with a very emotional passionate portrayal.
Alltogether it was a solid performance with some very nice moments (at least musically) and therefor I give 8 stars to Munich's La Favorite.
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Reviewed by Daniel Url

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