Tuesday 30 December 2014

Giacomo Puccini, Tosca - Linzer Musiktheater

Performance 26th December

As second part of my opera marathon I saw Puccini's Tosca, also in Linz. The production of Rainer Mennicken (director), Stefan Brandtmayr (stage) and Cornelia Kraske (costumes) was very classy and conservative. I really liked it but I'm sure some people thought it was too conventional.
Marc Reibel conducted the work very expressive with very effective details and great dynamic contrasts. The Brucknerorchester Linz also did a good job following his instructions and found a great balance between dramatic outbursts and ravishing melodies.
The small roles of Spoletta, Sciarrone, Schliesser (doorkeeper) and Hirt (shepherd) were sung by Iurie Ciobanu, Marius Mocan, Boris Daskalov and Jakob Reiter. All of them did a fine job in their little roles.
The role of the sacristan was sung by Franz Binder. His voice seemed a little bit rough and uneven but because of that it fitted the role of the old sacristan even more. He portrayed the role quite well and convincing.
Ulf Bunde sang Angelotti with a really beautiful heroic baritone voice. He showed us a very desperate but promising rebel with great visions.
Tuomas Pursio performed the evil role of Scarpia and was a great antagonist with a very strong heroic baritone voice. He did a great job showing the obsession of Scarpia with Tosca and was vocally really convincing.
Cavaradossi was sung by Pedro Velázquez Díaz who has a quite light voice for this role even though his voice is quite powerful. Still he seemed a little bit strained from time to time, especially in the upper register and his high notes did not come really easy. Nevertheless his performance was not bad at all and he managed to capture the spirit of the role adequately.
The title role was performed by Myung Joo Lee who has a very beautiful powerful soprano with a easy but strong upper register and enough power in the lower register. Her acting as jealous singer also was very convincing and she knew how to combine acting and singing in order to obtain credibility.
I really liked the performance and I give it 7 stars.
✰- - 

Richard Wagner, Siegfried - Linzer Musiktheater

Performance 25th December

As first part of my christmas opera marathon I heard the third opera of the ring cycle of the Linzer Landestheater. I already saw Rheingold (exactly one year earlier) and Walküre (in June) and was impressed that the productions were actually really good (if you think of the size of the house). Even though Siegfried is my anti-favorite of the four operas I like this production best from the Linzer Ring. The singing was mostly really top and the staging wasn't that bad either. Uwe Eric Laufenberg (who will do the 2016 Bayreuth Parsifal instead of Jonathan Meese) did a good job as director together with Gisbert Jäkel (stage) and Antje Sternberg (costumes). The whole concept was very clear and had some impressive parts (for example the video montages).
Dennis Russell Davies obviously likes Siegfried better because this time his conducting was really good and was full of power, subtleties and great phrasing. The Brucknerorchester Linz had no problems to realise his desires and played really well with great dynamic contrasts and nice soli.
Matthäus Schmidlechner sang a very strong Mime with exemplary diction. You could hear every single syllable so clear that it seemed that he is talking normally. His whole portrayal of the role was really impressive and totally convincing.
Mime's brother, Alberich, was sung by Bjørn Waag who has a huge voice. I was really blown away by the sheer power of his voice even though he might not have the usual darkness for this role in his voice. This voice truly has no problems to be covered at all. Besides, the timbre of the voice is also very beautiful und heroic, just not really perfect for this role.
Dominik Nekel sang Fafner the giant / dragon and also did a fine job with this profound and interesting role. He had both, the low notes and the timbre to portray the huge sleeping dragon.
In the role of Wanderer / Wotan we had the pleasure to hear Gerd Grochowski again who I liked even better this time. His voice emits great elegance and nobility, but at the same time power and danger. His heroic and noble timbre fitted the role perfectly and he also acted really well and convincingly.
As Erda I heard someone I already knew from the Erl Festival: Elena Suvorova. What can I say, her voice is quite powerful and is able to sing the low notes of this profound role without any problems. Her timbre is dark and still noble and superior. The whole Erda scene gave me shivers and I really enjoyed the great singing.
Another great singer in a small role was Elisabeth Breuer as Waldvogel. She has a lovely light voice with a very beautiful timbre and great agility. She sang this role exactly as I imagine it and made the scene in the woods one of the highlights of the evening.
Lars Cleveman was the only one I was not totally satisfied with. His diction was really bad and I would not have found out which language it was if I didn't know it was German. He might have a strong voice but it was not that impressive. Sometimes his timbre reminded me of James King but that was all. I hope he will improve until Götterdämmerung.
Elena Nebera was my personal highlight of the evening. I really did not expect her to be so outstanding. She definitely improved enormously since Walküre and totally nailed it with the Siegfried-Brünnhilde. Her diction was really good this time and her phrasing also improved a lot. Her upper register sounded way stronger, more controlled and did not have a strong vibrato at all. Her high b's and high c's were great, powerful and not as short as the ones of many other Brünnhildes.
Finally I am really happy that I took the chance to see this performance because it was really great and I liked every minute of it. The performance gets totally earned 8 stars.

Monday 29 December 2014

Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos - Oper Stuttgart

Performance 18th December

Some days ago I went to Stuttgart to see the production of Strauss' and Hofmannsthal's second collaboration: Ariadne auf Naxos. The production itself was just total nonsense, but the singing was really great. Directors Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito decided to reverse the order of the opera and play the opera (2nd act) first and afterwards the Vorspiel (1st act). Their  reason was Hofmannsthal's attribute of the work: Oper in einem Aufzuge nebst einem Vorspiel. They thought that NEBST would not indicate that the Vorspiel has to be performed first. Even though the plot DEFINITELY displays the preperations of the second act!!! I never heard such nonsense! What a pity, because the staging and the costumes (Anna Viebrock) were not that bad and locked quite lovely from time to time.
At least the musical part was quite good . Georg Fritzsch conducted the work very clear with a great dynamic bandwidth from very intimate to dramatic outbursts (even with the small chamber orchestra). He pointed out many lovely details from the score and the orchestra (Staatsorchester Stuttgart) did a good job following his instructions.
And now the singers of the Vorspiel: the music teacher was sung by Michael Ebbecke, who had a powerful voice with a very profound depth. Only his diction could have been a little bit better for making his performance perfect.
The speaking role of the Haushofmeister was performed by André Jung. In my opinion he acted a little bit boring and it seemed as he would just read down his words. I would have expected more acting.
Sophie Marilley sang the composer and did a great job in that role. Her timbre reminded me several times of Tatiana Troyanos, even though Marilley's voice might not be as big as Troyanos'. Still she acted thrillingly and played the young impulsive boy very convincingly.
As Tanzmeister we heard Daniel Kluge who has a lovely strong tenor voice with a very heroic but still quite youthful timbre. I really enjoyed his singing and think he could do greatly in bigger roles.
The smaller roles (Lakai, Offizier, Perückenmacher) were performed by members of the opera studio. Eric Ander, Thomas Elwin and Dominic Große did a good job and proved their qualities.
Now the singers of the opera: As men's quartet Harlekin, Scaramuccio, Truffaldin and Brighella we heard André Morsch, Heinz Göhring, Roland Bracht and Torsten Hofmann. All four of them did a good job and sounded fine together.
The nymphs also sounded quite good together. Najade was sung by Lauryna Bendziunaite who has a very powerful voice that is able to sing in the high register without any problems. Unfortunately she sounded a little bit to powerful from time to time for this has to be sung more delicate and the phrasing must be more fluid (especially in their first scene). If she had sung a little bit subtly it would have been nearly perfect. Dryade was sung by Stine Marie Fischer who has a very strong profound mezzo soprano and sang very tastefully. Her voice was very agile and gave a good foundation for the nymph scenes because vocally she seemed to be the "leader". Josephin Feiler sang the lovely role of Echo and also did a good job with it. She sang her dreamy lines really lovely and delicate without being covered.
Stefan Vinke performed the roles of Bacchus and the tenor. He has a quite strong tenor voice that sometimes seems to take some time to take off. His strength were the parts in the middle register. In the higher register he seemed quite strained sometimes and some of the higher notes did not come easily. But of course this role is a challenge for any tenor with its enormously high tessitura. Moreover he seemed more relaxed in the Vorspiel, maybe because the vocals there lie a little bit lower than in the opera.
Julia Bauer sang the breakneck role of Zerbinetta. She managed the enormous range quite well and did not have any problems with the several high notes beyond c6. Her coloraturas were exemplary and were really fluid. Her phrasing also was very nice and showed great musical taste. The only deficit was that she had some issues with being covered by the orchestra. Her soprano is very light and clear like a bell but her stamina seems to have some potential for improvement. If she manages to work on that she might be a promising singer.
The title role Ariadne and the role of the primadonna were performed by my favorite soprano, Christiane Libor. As I expected she did great in this role. She has a great lower register with a very beautiful timbre (unlike many other Ariadnes) and no problems at all with the high register up to the c6 in "Es gibt ein Reich". The enormous beauty of her voice and the sheer power of her stamina always manage to impress me anew. She will debut at the Salzburg Festival next year and hopefully will come more often afterwards.
The vocal performance of this evening's singers was great but because of the crappy production I only award 8 stars.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Max Bruch, Die Loreley - Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Prinzregententheater

Performance 23rd November

For the second Sonntagskonzert of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester I once again made my way to Munich for another rarity of the opera repertory: Max Bruch's Loreley.
The opera, which premiered in 1863 is very traditional and was already outdated when it premiered. The music sounds like from 40 years earlier most of the time. Nevertheless there are some great melodies and lovely ensembles.
Stefan Blunier conducted the orchestra very clear and showed many interesting details of the score. He found the perfect balance between the intimate parts and the great choral scenes. The orchestra once again showed that they are able to perform an opera with great virtuosity and great musical taste. The Prager Philharmonischer Chor also gave the audience chills during the many choir scenes. They were able to display many kinds of atmospheres, from the myserious scenes on the banks of the Rhine to the great scenes at the wedding. But also the cast was very well chosen and gave a magnificent performance.
Sebastian Campione as Hubert (Lenore's father) was singing very beautifully with great power and a very expressive but also noble bass voice. He handled his part with fine musicality and pointed out the beautiful vocal lines of the score.
The archbishop was sung by Thomas Hamberger who has a very powerful authoritarian voice with a very profound gravity. His voice matched the role of the high priest really well and he knew how to radiate his power.
Reinald the minstrel was performed by Jan-Hendrik Rootering who is a quite well known singer for German repertory. He did a good job although his voice sometimes sounded very nasal and his diction could have been better as well.
Benedikt Eder sang the small role of Leupold (Otto's servant). He seemed to be very young but his voice already sounded quite mature with a very noble timbre and a very gentle tone.
Another small role with a great singer was the role of the Winzerin, which was sung by greek soprano Danae Kontora. What a lovely voice and what a beautiful woman! Her light soprano has an incredibly delicate sound and is pure like the voice of an angel. She managed within her short song to thrill the audience from the first note she sang. Bravo!
Magdalena Hinterdobler performed the role of Bertha (Otto's wife) and also did a great job. Her lyric soprano has enough power to surpass the orchestra but also sounds very beautifully and delicate at the same time. Her great cavatine in the second act was one of the big highlights and was rewarded by immense applause.
Pfalzgraf Otto was sung by Thomas Mohr has a definitely Wagner-proven tenor voice. His stamina is exemplary although he sometimes sounded quite strained in the higher register. Nevertheless he found a good balance between dramatic and lyric singing and holded out the whole evening.
Lenore, later Loreley, was sung by soprano Michaela Kaune who has a very beautiful voice with quite clean transitions between the registers and a lovely timbre. She managed to show the different shades of the characters vocally (first very lyric singing, towards the end getting very dramatic). Sometimes I had the feeling she did not feel totally comfortable in the higher register but she did not fail at any moment. Her final Loreley-song was very beautifully performed and had something magic.
All in all I would give the performance 7 stars.
✰- - 

Sunday 30 November 2014

W. A. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte - Salzburger Landestheater

Performance 21st November

About one week ago I saw a performance of Mozart's Zauberflöte from the Salzburger Landestheater and since then I struggled what to write about it because I have never ever seen a worse performance before. What a pity! If you bring you bring Mozart's great work on stage in his hometown you definitely should get it right!
First of all problems was the production of the theatre's director Carl Phillip von Maldeghem which seemed like they just put everything on stage they had. And the idea of bringing the main protagonists on stage together with a puppet of themselves is just annoying. Especially because they always tried very hard to justify the use of those marionettes. The whole production was boring and lacked of ideas and imagination.
Another deficit was the musical interpretation (if you can call it like that) of conductor Stefan Müller and the Mozarteum Orchester. I don't know what the problem was but it sounded like they just played the notes like they would mean nothing at all. If I didn't know better I would have thought this was a rehearsal!! Again, what a pity that the Mozarteum Orchester itself obviously cannot perform Mozart properly.
Nevertheless, at least some of the singers did an acceptable job. The three ladies (Meredith Hoffmann-Thomson, Julia Stein & Tamara Güra) stood out quite positively and sang those lovely roles really well. The only problem with the ladies was that their dresses did a lot of noise, so here once again: thank you Mr. Maldeghem for not caring about that!!
Franz Supper as Monostatos was one of the few positive performances and did a really great job, both musically and theatrically. He did not have any problems to play well AND sing his difficult quick parts. Also his part as Erster Geharnischter was fine and satisfied my expectations.
Ugur Okay also performed two roles: Erster Priester and Zweiter Geharnischter. His voice seemed very strong but unfortunately his phrasing was really bad and made a cut-off impression many times. Also his diction which is very important in this opera was rather poor.
Rudolf Pscheidl, although I did not really hear him sing a lot, was one of the few highlights. He performed his role with a lovely bavarian accent and saved the evening with some funny moments.
The role of the speaker (Clemens Ansorg) also did a fine job but sometimes it also seemed a bit like he just spoke the words instead of performing a role.
When it comes to the three boys I guess noone would ever say something bad because you can't expect them to perform those role perfectly like adults (except they are professional child singers). One of those boys seemed to have gotten into this production not because of his singing but because of his name. I won't say more about that, but I think it was obvious that this was not a musical decision but a personal one!! Nevertheless, the other boys did a fine job and gave their best.
But now to the real disasters. The main antipodes, the queen of the night and Sarastro, were the main examples of bad casting this evening. The queen of the night, sung by Christina Rümann, is a very difficult role, everybody knows that, but what Ms. Rümann sang showed that she is definitely no queen of the night. Everything higher than a'' was surprisingly quite fine but everything below was a disaster. Her enormous vibrato and wobble are really annoying and totally inappropriate for this role. This is a classic example for singing in a wrong Fach and now I really question the responsible persons for the casting.
Alexey Birkus, who sang Sarastro, was not that bad, but still not appropriate for his role. He does not have enough power in the lower register which is maybe the most important one for Sarastro. The really deep notes were almost not hearable and you needed a lot of imagination. Also his diction was not satisfying at all.
Simon Schnorr sang Papageno and vocally did not have any bigger issues. Nevertheless I was a little bit disappointed of his acting. Papageno is a role where acting is way more important than the vocal quality. Schnorr however, seemed to be too focused on good singing than on acting out the role.
Ayse Senogul as Papagena was quite good and did a lovely job in her speaking parts as old lady. Although you could hear her accent she did quite a good job with her German. Both her singing and acting fitted perfectly to this lovely small role.
Tamino was sung by the swedish tenor (and new member of the ensemble) Kristofer Lundin. He has a nice tenor voice which did not have any serious issues with this part but nevertheless Tamino is not really his role. He seems to have a strong lyric dramatic tenor (jugendlicher Heldentenor) which is already a little too heavy for Tamino. But as I said, he did not have any big issues, just his diction was also a little bit shaky.
Finally the role of Pamina was sung by Laura Nicorescu and she did a good job. Although also her German had a big accent she convinced with her thouching musical interpretation and a lovely lyric soprano voice. Interetingly her diction during the singing was fine, just the spoken parts were a difficulty for her obviously. I really loved her timbre and the phrasing which really suited the role perfectly.
So in the end I can say that I was enormously disappointed of this evening, even though there were some good parts. I think it is a shame to perform with such a quality for the prices of the Landestheater. Some of the Mozarteum students could have done a better job than some of the singers at this evening.
The whole performance gets only 4 stars.

- -

Sunday 16 November 2014

W. A. Mozart, Requiem - St. Peters Kirche

Performance 9th November

Once again I had the chance to hear Mozart's Requiem (quite by chance) in a concert of St. Peter. The choir and the orchestra of the Stiftsmusik St. Peter (many instrumentalists from the Mozarteum orchestra, as far as I saw it) played very well and gave a delightful and exact performance. The sound was very appropriate for Mozart and really suited the whole work perfectly. Armin Kircher conducted very tasteful and was able to show every single detail of the beautiful score. The ensmble played very accentuated and exciting.
The soloist also were quite good and gave a great performance. Simon Schnorr, who performed the bass part, could have had a little bit more power in the lower register but generally did a fine job. Maybe he will achieve more profundity when he gets older, because for now the bass part seems to have parts that are too deep for his voice.
Gerhard Erlebach has a nice voice but unfortunately his tenor tends to make an uncontrolled impression from time to time. His phrasing is quite disastrous sometimes and some notes burst out like volcanos in the middle of a phrase!! If he had sung more controlled it would have been really great (for a tenor).
Magdalena Rüker was singing the alto part once again and was able to give a performance as steady as the last time (this time with a better ensemble). She sounded lovely and very tastefully once again.
Simone Vierlinger sang the soprano part and mastered it really well. Her voice suited the part perfectly with its beautiful phrases and the angel-like vocal lines. Vierlinger's voice has exactly that timbre and knew how to use it appropriately.
All in all it was a way better performance than the one I heard at Halloween although this time it was a free performance! I give the performance 8 stars.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto - Salzburger Landestheater

Performance 4th November

Quite spontaniously I had the chance to see the new production of Verdi's Rigoletto at the Salzburger Landestheater and I definitely have to say that it is a very good one. Amélie Niermeyer's production (stage: Alexander Müller-Elmau, costumes: Kirsten Dephoff) is not very creative and tries to shock with some quite pedophil scenes. Anyway the musical quality is way better and I would even say it is totally satisfying (which is quite a surprise from the Landestheater). Adrian Kelly conducted the Mozarteumorchester fine although the orchestra was too loud at some parts. Also some hearable mistakes (especially during the sinfonia) were a little bit annoying if you think of the Mozarteumorchester as a "professional" ensemble. Anyway the total impression was ok and the singers made it more than that.
Due to the fact that there are so many small roles that sometimes only have some sentences to say I will not talk about smaller roles than Monterone. Sorry to all roles like Marullo, Matteo or all other small roles, but I can't really say anything about such small appearances.
So Monterone, who also has a small but very important role, was sung by Einar Th. Gudmundsson. He might have a good voice but I missed the dark timbre which Monterone definitely should have. I would have casted someone whose voice is more profound and has a darker timbre.
Giovanna, a quite small role as well, was performed by Frances Pappas and did a fine job although her acting was more impressive (if you can call it impressive) than her vocal abilities.
Tamara Gura as Maddalena was more impressive with a very dark mezzosoprano, Her voice sounds quite strong and has a very beautiful tone. She also made a good impression in her sexy outfit and was able to deliver this sexiness also through her vocal performance.
Her brother Sparafucile was sung by Alexey Birkus who has a very dark and aggressive voice. It matched perfectly with his role and he also played very convincingly evil.
And now to the stars of the evening: Ivan Inverardi sang the title role and gave a great performance. His voice is dark and sounded very convincingly for this role. He portrayed the paranoid father very well and always had a fine balance between delicate singing and forte singing.
Rame Lahaj, who portrayed the role of Il Duca, also has a great voice with a very beautiful tone and a nice upper register (that is really important for this role). He sang with great ease and never showed a sign of exhaustion. Also his acting and his physique matched perfectly with his role and so his performance gave a very good overall impression.
The highlight of the performance was Eri Nakamura as Gilda. I already heard her in smaller roles in Munich but now she sang the main female role and blew me away. She has a very beautiful easygoing soprano voice with enough power and agility to perform the role of Gilda which sometimes has a very loud orchestra for a light soprano like hers. Nevertheless she never had any issues with being heard and also her upper register was powerful enough (without loosing her beautiful tone) to delight us.
So finally I can say that the three main protagonists were enormously good and I was able to enjoy the whole performance (which is not usual with the productions of the Landestheater). I award SalzburgS Rigoletto 7 stars.
✰- - 

Monday 3 November 2014

Richard Strauss, Eine Alpensinfonie & Der Rosenkavalier - Gesprächskonzerte Stefan Mickisch, Prinzregententheater

Performances 1st & 2nd November

Last weekend I have been in Munich once again for the two concerts of Stefan Mickisch. The first one was about Strauss' Eine Alpensinfonie and the other one about Der Rosenkavalier. Both were very interesting and even I got many new things to know. Stefan Mickisch is just a genious, not just musically but in general. He creates links between subjects you would never think of when it comes to music but still they are there! His piano playing is incredible as well but the main thing about Mr. Mickisch is that he has this incomparable ability to explain connections and background information like noone else. Additional to that he also has a great sense of humor which makes the whole atmosphere more relaxed and comfortable. I totally enjoyed both performances and I can just suggest everyone to take th chance and visit one of his concerts. It is both, fun and educational!
Due to the fact that it was not real concerts I am not sure if I should rate them but I guess if I rated them I would give them 9 stars.

Saturday 1 November 2014

W. A. Mozart, Requiem - Kollegienkirche Salzburg, Kulturvereinigung Salzburg

Performance 31st Ocotber

For Halloween evening I decided to visit a concert of Mozart's Requiem organised by the Kulturvereinigung Salzburg. The orchestra and the choir were the amateur version of the Kulturvereinigung itself (Orchester der Salzburger Kulturvereinigung and the Mozartchor Salzburg) so my expectations were not as high as they would be normally. After two contemporary works with lyrics of Georg Trakl they finally started the Requiem. Due to the fact that they played in a church the sound was unclear many times but that's the place it was written for. Both, orchestra and choir were totally obviously amateurs. Little mistakes from time to time, unevenness and metric problems happened constantly. Actually it would have been even more important to play totally correctly and exactly because of the acustic setting in the church, but I guess the effect for an "amateur audience" would be same. Conductor Helmut Zeilner tried his best to keep everyone together and if you think of the fact that it is an amateur performance it worked out ok.
The solo soprano was sung by Gerhild Zeilner who obviously is teached by legend Gundula Janowitz. You yould clearly tell the influence after hearing her clean angel-like tone with a vibratoless timbre. Unfortunately her agility suffered from her focus on the beauty of the tone. Sometimes she seemed a bit stressed to keep up with the orchestra and the other singers with her lines.
The alto part was performed by Magdalena Ruecker who, as far as I heard it, had a very beautiful strong voice. I was always able to hear her, even in the ensemble scenes . The only thing that she could work on is a stronger focus on phrasing and quality of tone.
Virgil Hartinger sang the tenor part and was quite a disappointment. I have never been a fan of tenors but this was just too much. His voice sounded weak, uneven and uncontrolled. The beautiful tenor part of the requiem seemed to be a big issue for him and I was not able to enjoy those parts.
Rafael Fingerlos' bass (I guess he's more a baritone) did his job fine even though it was not something really impressive. He did not have big issues with the part but also did not surprise with excellency. Nevertheless I can imagine that he could get quite good if he's working on his performing style.
The whole performance gets 5 stars although I have to say that it was ok for an amateur performance. Of course it can not be compared with a performance of professionals, so I guess 5 stars is quite ok.
- -

Franz Schubert, Winterreise - Simon Keenlyside, Emanuel Ax

Performance 30th October

This thursday Schubert's Winterreise cycle was performed at the great hall of the Mozarteum. Simon Keenlyside sang together with Emanuel Ax on the piano. The Winterreise is a very dark and serious song cycle with many very touching songs. Keenlyside's interpretation was very interesting and showed many extraordinary details. His baritone voice has a very strong lower register and a surprisingly bright upper register. Very often he sang with his most upper register wich sometimes sounded a little bit unsecure and unsteady. He obviously was focused more on expression and persuasion than on the perfect tone. This might be risky, but totally worked out in his case. Moreover he was moving a lot and walking quite much. This gave a very restless and wandering impression which fits perfectly to the songs. I have not heard or seen the cycle being performed so vividly. The dynamic spectrum was huge. From the most delicate pianissimi to dramatic outbursts in songs like Muth or Der stürmische Morgen. I really enjoyed this evening although I am not really a big fan of Schubert songs. However, this performance was quite diverting and it could have gone on in my opinion. Keenlyside's Winterreise gets 7 stars.
✰- - 

Monday 27 October 2014

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Die Vier Grobiane (I quattro rusteghi) - Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Prinzregententheater

Performance 26th October

On sunday I had the last encounter of "rarity week" in the beautiful Prinzregententheater in Munich: Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's Die vier Grobiane. Wolf-Ferrari is a name that is not really known by many people except some opera lovers with eyes for rarities. Unfortunately his works - which where quite successful at their premieres - are rarely performed and mostly only in concert versions. That really is a great mistake because yesterday I was blown away by this very insteresting and rousing music. Wolf-Ferrari is best known for reviving the opera buffa into a great renaissance and this opera is a wonderful example for this. His musical language is a mix of lovely parlando parts and italian melodic ability. Sometimes it seems like a very Italian Strauss opera.
A part that I really want to point out is the impressive finale of the second act. During the climax the singers have to sing their notes (for Marina and Felice high c's) for 17 measures (new breaths are allowed, but still!!) !!!!! However I really hope that Wolf-Ferrari will be seen in our theaters more often, because it would be a pity to leave those great works to the rarity section.
The man who we can thank for this great evening is the great conductor Ulf Schirmer, who is the musical director of the Münchner Rundfunkorchester. He conducted very tasteful with lots of interesting details and courage for dynamic outbreaks. Schirmer always gives me the impression that nothing could baffle him. The orchestra played also very well and translated everything Schirmer wanted to great music and thrilling rhythms.
Another specialty of Schirmer is a great sense for good voices, which he showed by the casting.
Uwe Eikötter sang Conte Riccardo (the admirer of Felice) with a strong tenor voice that immediately gave me the impression of a wagner voice (which was true). He has the typical tenor voice for roles like Mime, Froh or Loge. It totally fitted the noble role of the Conte with his heroic sound.
Felice's husband, Cancian, was performed by Friedemann Röhlig, who has a profound bass voice with a very warm timbre. He does not really have much to sing but the few lines he sang were fine and he showed great comedic talent.
Felice herself was sung by Christine Buffle, who has a quite interesting voice. It is strong and powerful throughout the registers but has a thin timbre in the upper register which gives the impression that she sings very "narrow". Nevertheless she sang very nicely although this little deficit was a bit annoying from time to time.
Peter Schöne sang the role of Simon with a beautiful baritone voice which could be a little bit more powerful. The interesting thing was, that his appearance was very noble and really seemed very aristocratic and superior.
His wife, Marina, was sung by Susanne Bernhard. Her soprano voice is very strong and has a warm velvet-like timbre which would fit perfectly with lyric dramatic roles of the german repertory. She played this character really lovely with great acting and charming personage.
Annette Mühlhans only had a short appearance as Marina's maid. She seemed to have a lovely voice, but unfortunately she did not really have much to sing.
Lunardo was sung by Jürgen Linn, who was one of this evening's favorites. His baritone voice is very agile and he definitely knows how to create a character through the voice. Weather he plays the grim husband or the desperate father he always found the right tone.
His wife, Margarita, was performed by mezzosoprano Zoryana Kushpler. She also has a very powerful voice with a warm timbre and a strong lower register. When she sang her first lines I was thinking that she could be a great Fricka, Amneris or Venus.
Victor van Halem gave Maurizio, the groom's father, his voice. His bass might not be the most powerful but it delivers superiority, nobility and solemnity. I'm sure he would be a wonderful Baron Ochs with his very wooden timbre.
His son, Filipeto, was portrayed by tenor Markus Francke. He displayed the youthful enthusiasm appropriately and also used his voice very expertly to deliver the right aspects of his character.
His future wife, Lucieta (Lunardo's daughter), was sung by Christina Landshamer who has a very beautiful light lyric soprano voice. Her silver-like timbre meets great agility and very convincing acting which gives a wonderful total impression. Her parlando singing is really great and shows that they are way more interesting than "normal" recitatives.
In the end I can say that it was an enormous pleasure to hear this wonderful work and I hope I will have the possibility to see something from Wolf-Ferrari soon again. The performance gets 8 stars.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Franz Schubert, Lazarus - Wiener Philharmoniker, Festspielhaus St. Pölten

Performance 24th October

Another rarity I was able to hear now is Schubert's fragmental oratory Lazarus. Conductor Ingo Metzmacher decided to perform this interesting work in a concert series with the Wiener Philharmoniker (they are performing it inter alia in Rome, Vienna and in St. Pölten). The music sounds very modern for Schubert and reminds of Weber and even shows perspectives of early Wagner. The dramatic action happens through the recitatives which really show Schubert's dramatic skills. Unfortunately the whole piece stops after a ravishing dramatic outbreak of Lazarus' sister Martha.
Metzmacher and the Orchestra showed a very clear and accurate interpretation with intimate quiet moments as well as dramatic outbursts that remind of the wolf's glen scene (Wolfsschluchtszene) from Weber's Freischütz. Also the choir (Wiener Singverein) was very good and sang very reverent and pious.
The baritone Daniel Schmutzhard sang the role of Simon who only has a big monologue in the beginning of the fragmental second part. This extraordinary monologue can easily be compared to the Florestan scene of Fidelio or other big dramatic scenes like that. The mood always changes within a few beats and the dramatic singing really shows directions to Wagner. Schmutzhard did a great job here with his strong and dramatic baritone which also convinces with fine diction.
Jemina was sung by Sophie Karthäuser who has a lovely light lyric soprano with a very beautiful tone and good stamina. She would be a very good Freischütz Ännchen in my opinion. Her "songs" had something very dance-like even though the matter was very serious.
Werner Güra performed the role of Lazarus' friend Nathanael and also did a fine job. His lyric tenor has some dramatic aspects which help him giving a very heroic impression. He has a great Mozart voice with ease and finesse.
Maria, one of Lazarus' sisters, was sung by soprano Rachel Harnisch who has a beautiful soprano which might be an early state of a lyric dramatic soprano. Her voice is strong with great stamina and still very beautiful with very tasteful long phrasing.
Lazarus' other sister, Martha, was performed by Christiane Libor who did a great job once again. I just can't get enough of her great voice. The perfect symbiosis of beauty and power. During the great outbreaks she showed her Wagner proven power while she convinced with delicate pianissimi during the calm moments.
Steve Davislim performed Lazarus and had the difficult task to find a middle between heroic singing and a continuous morendo until he dies. In my opinion he totally delivered that with his strong heroic voice which is able to totally take itself back. I actually was also very surprised that his diction (he is Australian) was totally flawless and showed no signs of any error. All in all I really liked his singing and his interpretation.
Finally I am very happy that I saw this interesting work which would change the minds about Schubert a lot if it was performed more regularly. Lazarus earns 8 stars.

Friday 24 October 2014

Astor Piazzolla, María de Buenos Aires - Salzburger Kulturvereinigung, Universitätsaula

Performance 23rd October

Yesterday I was able to see a rarity which I only knew before de to the fact that I wrote a paper about it once: Astor Piazzolla's María de Buenos Aires. As a so called Tango Operita it features a lot of typical Piazzolla tango music and great rousing rhythms. The production is a cooperation between the Kulturvereinigung Salzburg and the dance organisation Tango Salzburg. Elisabeth Fuchs conducted her Philharmonie Salzburg and the dancers were members of Tango Salzburg. Unfortunately they were not able to catch the work's ravishing aura. The orchestra lacked of clarity and richness of tone. The great rhythmic power of Piazzolla's music was not noticable and Fuchs interpreted it like a bad school ensemble arrangement of a Mozart or Vivaldi. Already the opening bars were a big disaster due to the fact that the bandoneon (whose player was a disaster himself), which has such an important role throughout the piece, had serious issues to fit in. Fuchs obviously did not get the importance of this instrument and covered it constantly instead of pointing it out.
Another unintelligibility was the casting of the speaker. Robert Pienz might have had spanish in school or anywhere else and his diction is surely better than average, but even I could tell that this is not his mother tongue. He was so busy pronouncing everything correctly that there was no interpretation of the text at all (it seemed more like a reading). I really don't understand why they did not cast a native spanish speaker or at least someone who can recite the text appropriately.
Oscar Ovejero, who is a born south american, performed the role of the male singer. His voice might not be perfect, but he gave a satisfying performance although his microphone was adjusted way to loud.
The main protagonist, María, was sung by Mya Fracassini who gave a good performance all in all. Her voice might not be very strong but she delivered the character very well and had no major vocal issues. In the beginning she seemed a little restrained but opened up herself more throughout the performance
The additional characters (Theater(Off)ensive Sprechchor and members of Tango Salzburg) made the performance more bearable and supported the protagonists. The staging (Elisabeth Fuchs) and the costumes (Sven Jungclaus) were fine and helped the complicated plot quite well.
So finally I was happy to have seen it even though the whole performance lacked of professionality and quality. The performance gets 5 stars (which, in my opinion, is already quite kind and merciful).
- -

Sunday 19 October 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio - Semperoper Dresden

Performance 16th October

This season I went to Dresden for the first time. For a long time I was wishing to go there and now I took the chance for a performance of Beethoven's Fidelio. The very old production (premiere 1989) of Christine Mielitz (staging and costumes: Peter Heilein) treats subjects of the cold war and transfers the plot into a prison during this time. Although you could tell that it is a very old production it looked fine and worked out really well.
The orchestra (Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden) was really tremendous under the Rainer Mühlbach as conductor. Every single note and phrase was so clear and delicate that I heard details like never before. The orchestra never covered the singers but always supported them very appropriately.
Don Fernando, sung by Alexander Hajek, did a good job during his short appearance. His voice sounded very noble and warm. Don Pizarro was sung by Matthias Henneberg, who I just saw in Strauss' Die Schweigsame Frau in Munich. I liked him better in Munich, but still he gave a good performance with great dramatic sense and a lot of evilness. Simeon Esper sang Jaquino with a nice and very youthful tenor voice. Unfortunately Jaquino is quite unlikeable in this production which was a pity because Esper's singing was really lovely and way better than his character.
Carolina Ullrich from Chile portrayed the role of Marzelline. She sounded quite strong for this role but did not have any problems to perform it appropriately. She sang very delicate during the soft passages and strong during the ensemble scenes.
Georg Zeppenfeld was singing her father Rocco. His voice is quite strong and profound although I would have casted a singer with a stronger and more profound voice. Sometimes his phrasing seemed a little bit stressed in order to sing every single note. In the end his performance was good but mabye not totally perfect for this certain role.
Stephen Gould must have had a very bad evening. While I was very impressed by the dark and strong timbre of his tenor voice he was very disappointing in respect of phrasing and the higher register which is very important for the role of Florestan. He had great issues with the higher notes and was out of tune several times during his opening monologue during act 2. I was quite disappointed because I was really looking forward to see him.
However Christiane Libor as Leonore once again totally blew my mind. Her really strong and still beautiful lyrical soprano suits this role perfectly. Her dramatic outbursts were impressive and her delicate singing very touching. Although I had the feeling that sometimes she had some minor inaccuriacies it did not affect the overall impression. She definitely is one of the leading singers in terms of German repertory and I am looking forward to see her again soon.
The whole production gave me a very pleasent evening and therefore gets 8 stars of me.

Richard Strauss, Die Schweigsame Frau - Bayerische Staatsoper München

Performance 11th October

My first opera of the new season was Strauss' and Stefan Zweig's first collaboration: Die Schweigsame Frau. An actually quite rarely performed piece which has lovely parts and very high requirements for both, singers and instrumentalists. The production of Barry Kosky (staging and costumes: Esther Bialas) does not feature a lot of stuff on stage except of the very important things. You never had the feeling that there are too many things on the stage and the whole production really supported the plot in a way you would wish to see more often.
The orchestra of the opera house was leaded by Pedro Halffter who conducted a very clear and clean score with many different details.
As the three men of Henry's company, Farfallo, Vanuzzi and Morbio: Tareq Nazmi, Christoph Stephinger and Matthias Henneberg. All three had very fine voices with great power and clear diction. Especially Henneberg was a very pleasing character due to the fact that he jumped in for another singer although his schedule in Dresden (where he is rehearsing for two productions at the moment) is very tight. I think for this reason he had a big bonus compared to the other singers. As the two ladies from the company, Isotta and Carlotta, we heard Elsa Benoit and Tara Erraught who was the subject of this year's Glyndebourne scandal. Benoit has a fine coloratura soprano which sometimes sound quite shrill in the higher register. Nevertheless her performance in that little role was good anyway. However Erraught really impressed me a lot. Her voice has a really beautiful timbre and great power. She filled the auditorium with her voice so easily that it was very delightful to listen to her. And to say something about her physique: she really looked lovely in her victorian dress and the curly hair. Of course the costume was totally overdone, but that was intented like that. One can just hope that she will stay a long time in the ensemble so that we can hear more of her lovely voice.
Another nice singer was Okka von der Damerau as the house maid. Damerau, who is everybody's darling here in Munich, has a nice alto voice with a very velvet-like dark timbre. She also convinced with a great sense of humor and comedic playing.
Sir Morosus was sung by Franz Hawlata who also gave a good performance. Although his voice does not have the same power as other great basses of our time he gave a very convincing and nice portrayal of the poor old guy. His impersonation of the old sensitive and stubborn captain is really great and the role fits him quite well.
Now to the young pair. Daniel Behle sang the role of Henry Morosus and also did a fine job. I already heard him at the easter festival Salzburg as Arabella's Matteo where I really liked him a lot. This time I didn't like him that much. He was singing good but some higher passages sounded a little bit strained and uncomfortable. He surely did a fine job, but could have done better. Nevertheless I am sure that Behle is maybe the best tenor of the younger generation at the moment. Let's see how he'll do in the future.
The real star of the evening was Brenda Rae as Aminta alias the silent woman a.k.a. Timidia. The very difficult coloratura role is very demanding and contains very dramatic and very lyrical requirements. The finale of the second act calls for beautiful singing with long phrases in very high registers and still the main part of the act is very dramatic with singing like a fury. Nevertheless she performed a great Aminta and did not disappoint in any way. Her high notes were very clear, delicate and still powerful. Also her acting was very nice and helped her to stand up to the original Aminta of the production, Diana Damrau.
Finally it was a lovely evening with many laughter, nice moments and great singing. I give the performane 7 stars.
✰- - 

Sonntagsmatinee 1, Mozarteum Orchester - Großes Festspielhaus Salzburg

Performance 5th October

After my well-deserved holiday in september I attended the first sunday's matinee of the Mozarteum Orchester. On the programme: Mozart's symphony no. 39 in e-flat major, Strauss' four last songs and Don Quixotte. During the Mozart symphony the conductor, Ivor Bolton, managed to show many different aspects of the score with great finesse and taste. Same can be said for the Strauss tone poem. The different themes were played very clearly and the dynamics were really impressing. Unfortunately the songs were a little bit disappointing due to the loud orchestra. Soprano Genia Kühmeier sang very beautifully and started with maybe the best rendition of Frühling I ever heard LIVE. Her warm timbre and her flawless phrases matched perfectly with the vocal line and gave a really tremendous impression. From the louder parts to the delicate pianissimi in the score Kühmeier sang everything very sublimely and with great atmosphere. Unfortunately Bolton was not able to keep the orchestra under control and so Kühmeier was covered several times during soft passages (which was definitely not because she couldn't sing louder, but because of the loud orchestra). It was really a pity because she genuinely sang marvellous. Nevertheless I liked the performance a lot because of the sheer beauty of Kühmeier's rendition. Her Beim Schlafengehen was melancholic and mature, her Im Abendrot touching and noble. I can clearly say that I liked Kühmeier's interpretation more than the other renditions I heard LIVE (Mattila, Harteros, Tilling).
The whole performance obtains 7 stars.
✰- - 

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Franz Schubert, Fierrabras - Salzburger Festspiele

Performance 27th August

My last visit of this year's festival was the rarely performed Schubert opera Fierrabras. Schubert, who might be the king of Lieder, was not really lucky with his operatic works. The bad librettos and the sometimes complicated plots are reasons why Schubert's operas are not really known nowadays. That is really a pity because his music is really great and has dramatic outbursts that I would never have expected by Schubert. His music reminds me of a mixture of Mozart and Weber.
The festival did a great job performing a rarity like that and showed that Schubert's operas are worth being rediscovered. The big problems with the production was the production itself. Peter Stein directed a Production that reminded me of an old bad knight saga for children. The costumes (Annamarie Heinreich) and the staging (Ferdinand Wögerbauer), although beautifully designed, just gave a very cheesy impression and together with Stein's directing some hilarious moments were created where hilarity should not happen.
At least the musical execution was great and showed the charms of the opera composer Schubert. Ingo Metzmacher conducted the Wiener Philharmoniker with great finesse, delicate taste and enough dramatic power. Also the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor convinced me once again with very tasteful singing.
The singers gave a great performance and sang on a very high level. Manuel Walser, a protegé of Brigitte Fassbaender and contestant of the YSP, sang the role of Brutamonte. His baritone is very good and it is incredible how well he conducts it if you think of his young age. He should have had a bigger role than that to show off his talent appropriately. Marie-Claude Chappuis sang the role of Maragond which was also very little for this beautiful voice. She sang a very beautiful duet with Florinda, but had no chance to let us hear her beautiful mezzo more afterwards. The also quite small role of Boland was performed by Peter Kálmán. He also did a good job. Unfortunately at bigger ensemble scenes he had some issues to be heard over the other musicians.
Georg Zeppenfeld also gave a great performance as a very noble and graceful King Karl. His profound bass sounds very elegant and his diction is very exemplary. His portrayal was very convincing and showed a great sense of acting.
Roland (not to change with Boland) was sung by Markus Werba, who has a light voice that seems to be more appropriate for more comedic roles like Papageno or Beckmesser. He surely did a good job but seemed a little bit wrong for a heroic role like that. Nevertheless his voice was able to perform this role without big problems.
Dorothea Röschmann sang Roland's big love and sister of Fierrabras, Florinda. Her voice has grown even bigger and more dramatic since her triumph as Countess Almaviva in 2006. She convinces with a strong lower and middle register which sounds very characteristic and velvet-like. Her dramatic outbursts were really impressive and her phrasing very tasteful. Also her acting is very good and shows a great dramatic feeling.
Eginhard was sung by Benjamin Bernheim, who I never heard of before. His tenor sounds very youthful but already quite heroic which fits this role perfectly. He understood to hold the balance between heroic and light lyric singing. Also the duets with Emma were highlights of the whole performance.
His counterpart was Emma, daughter of King Karl, and was sung by German soprano Julia Kleiter. She has a lovely lyric soprano voice with beautiful phrasing and a great sense of musical form. She did quite well in this role with all its lovely songs, duets and ensemble scenes. The smooth transitions and the clear sound of her voice were really great. She was definitely one of the highlights for me.
Finally the main protagonist, Fierrabras, was performed by Michael Schade, who is known mainly for his Mozart singing. His performance is probably summarized best by one word: vanity. He is quite famous and although his voice has nothing special he seems to think he is the king of all tenors. The moment he comes on stage you can clearly tell that he thinks of himself as the great star of the production which was quite annoying. Anyway his singing was ok and I really mean ok. His sound is, as I said, not really special and has a very nasal timbre. Sometimes he tries to sound more heroic which ends in a very strained sound that does not really help his nasal timbre.
Anyway the whole production gets 8 stars (just because of the musical part) due the bad production and the even worse libretto.

Friday 12 September 2014

Giuseppe Verdi, Il Trovatore - Salzburger Festspiele

Performance 24th August

Lucky as I am, I finally managed to see this years main production of our festival for its last performance: Il Trovatore. Verdi's opera with the crazy and confusing story / libretto, but also with the many famous hits is a huge opus with enormously demanding roles and various difficulties for the producers.
The production of Alvis Hermanis transfers the plot into a museum where the museum guide dream themselves into the plot of the pictures on the walls. What sounds like a cheap copy of a Ben Stiller movie looked very beautiful on stage, but did not really help the complicated story. After a while it was just boring and annoying when the walls with the pictures moved around and showed new perspectives all the time. The costumes of Eva Dessecker were nice but sometimes not really flattering.
Daniele Gatti was conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor acceptable (at least not a disaster like last year's Meistersinger) but not really delicate and thrilling as a Trovatore should be. The orchestra was better than in Rosenkavalier and probably would have been even better with a better conductor. The choir was a highlight of the evening and showed that the Wiener Staatsopernchor can easily compete with other big choirs.
Another big highlight was Diana Haller - a contestant of the Young Singer's Project - as Leonora's confidant Ines. Her mezzo soprano has a very nice timbre and her stamina is on a good way. I had the pleasure to see her in a masterclass with Christa Ludwig at the beginning of the festival where she performed a Hugo Wolf song and showed great musical and dramatic talent.
Riccardo Zanellato as Ferrando had a very big profound voice which allowed him to give a very grim and fierce portrayal of this role. He transmitted great seriousness throughout the whole performance.
Artur Rucinski replaced Placido Domingo as Luna and gave a great performance. He has a very powerful and also very beautiful baritone voice which he conducts very secure and sophisticated. He is way better in this role than Domingo could ever be, because an old tenor is an old tenor and not a baritone. I hope that Domingo retires soon, for his own sake. Taking up new roles is totally immature and does not serve anyone but his ego.
Marie-Nicole Lemieux was a very powerful Azucena and totally fulfilled my expectations. Her lower register is very dark and has a very characteristic sound. Her higher register also shows a good stamina and a nice balance of dramatic and delicate sound. The only criticism I could do is that her final line (Sei vendicata, o Madre) ran a little short during the highnote, but as another critic wrote: noone falls down like Ms: Lemieux.
The role of the Trovatore Manrico was sung by Francesco Meli who I already saw last year in Giovanna d'Arco where I really liked him a lot. Unfortunately he could not do the same in this role. Throughout the whole performance he seemed to be enormously strained. Especially in the high parts of this role he was quite pitchy sometimes. The famous cabaletta during the 3rd act " Di quella pira" was a little disaster. The high notes were totally bad (if he reached the right notes) and you could tell that he feels really insecure and uncomfortable. Maybe this role is too dramatic for him and he should stick to lighter roles.
Anyway the star of the evening, of course, was Anna Netrebko as Leonora. She once again showed that her fame is totally comprehensible. Throughout the last years her voice gained power, depth and dramatic sound. Her stamina and her velvet-like sound make her one of the most beautiful soprano voices of our time. Even during the big orchestral passages her voice was able to be heard without any problems. Even her enormously delicate pianissimi are powerful enough not to be covered by the orchestra. The dynamic range of her voice is really impressive and allows her to show various emotional facets. Her coloraturas are also very impressive if you think of the size of her voice. Of course her coloraturas might not be the best ones but they are better than most I've ever heard. The role of Leonora fits her voice like a glove and she fills the role with great dramatic competence. Her acting is just phenomenal and is more authentic than most other singers. She totally knows how to deliver a role psyche and emotional life. The only thing that I missed was the final high d flat in the final terzet of the first act. I was quite sure that she would give us the pleasure of that note, but obviously she did sing it during this run.
Anyway, the performance was great with small deficits. I give Salzburg's Trovatore 9 stars.