Sunday 29 March 2015

Pietro Mascagni & Ruggero Leoncavallo, Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci - Salzburger Osterfestspiele

Premiere Performance 28th March

With great pleasure I experienced the premiere performance of this year’s Salzburg Easter Festival with the Verismo twin operas Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci. The production of Philipp Stölzl (also responsible for the staging) was extraordinary and was probably the best production I saw for a while. The whole staging and the costumes (Ursula Kudrna) matched perfectly and gave a magnificent overall impression. Also the contrast between the two operas (Cavalleria in black and white, Pagliacci in many different colors) was really impressive and had a great impact. Some close up projections also showed the singers closely and made their emotional impressions even stronger.
But not just the production, also the musical part was extraorindinary! Christian Thielemann showed that he is able to achieve amazing performances not just in the German repertory. He showed every single shade of expressivity and the whole contrast between intimate moments and orchestral outbursts was really intense. The Staatskapelle Dresden did not have any problems to follow his instructions and showed with their incredible performance once more that they are one of the best orchestras right now. The choirs (Sächsicher Staatsopernchor Dresden, Bachchor Salzburg and Salzburger Festspiele und Theater Kinderchor) made a great impact as well. The choral scenes in both operas were really great and intense!
The cast of singer’s also gave an impression of what high level of quality is provided by the Festival. Every single role, small or big, was casted really well which also helped to make the whole performance so wonderful. First the cast of Cavalleria:
Stefania Toczyska gave a very strict and vocally powerful Lucia. She might not have that much to sing in Cavalleria but she still left a fine impression with her performance and sang the role very appropriately.
As Lola Annalisa Stroppa made Turiddu’s decision to have an affair understandable with her beautiful physique and her strong voice which has a very warm and erotic timbre. She definitely knew how to use her voice to state that she is the one Turiddu is in love with.
The wonderful Ambrogio Maestri portrayed Lola’s actual husband Alfio and showed that he is not just good for comedy. His very powerful voice was never covered by the orchestra and sounded fine in every part of his range.
One of my personal highlights was the incredibly powerful voice of Liudmyla Monastyrska who sang Santuzza. Her stamina is genuinely marvelous and throughout her full range she delivers the vocal power of a full choir. Still she is able to perform the delicate moments of her part tastefully and with great ease. One can just look forward to her „Libera me“ in the concert of next tuesday!!
And now tot he roles of Pagliacci:
In the role of Beppe we heard young tenor Tansel Akzeybek who I am looking forward to see in Bayreuth’s new Tristan this summer (as young sailsman and shepherd). He has a very gentle lyric voice and sings with great ease, especially in his upper register. His song during the theatre performance in the opera was really lovely to listen to.
As the opera’s antagonist, Tonio, Dimitri Platanias gave a fine performance with a really powerfull baritone voice of quite heroic and threatening timbre. He played the unpleasent wretch genuinely marvelously and totally earned the admiration of the audience after his performance.
Alessio Arduini sang the young lover Silvio and portrayed it really appropriately, both vocally and physically. His young and strong baritone has a very beautiful timbre and he sings his lines really tastefully and very lyrically. After his performance in last summer’s Don Giovanni he showed again that he is a name to remember fort he future.
The role of Nedda was sung by Italian soprano Maria Agresta with her beautiful voice which has both power and beauty of tone. Her voice combines nice stamina with a lovely lyric timbre and the ability to sing the most delicate pianissimi! Also her acting was very impressive and helped her to shine in this role.
But clearly, the highlight of the evening was the male lead of both operas: Jonas Kaufmann. His powerful tenor voice with ist unique dark timbre fits perfectly into this kind of repertory. He sang both roles very expressively and showed enormous acting potential. He was able to deliver a wide contrast of vocal colors and dominated the whole evening. He totally made clear that he definitely is one of the greatest male voices right now.
My overall impression was totally positive and I have to say that I have not been that excited about a production for a long time so I would give the performance 9 stars.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Richard Wagner, Götterdämmerung - Linzer Landestheater

Performance 22nd March

As final part of the Linz Ring I was able to see Götterdämmerung yesterday. After more than a year and three lovely opera evenings before the great apocalytic finale was quite interesting. Again the production of Uwe Eric Laufenberg had some really interesting ideas and especially the costumes (Antje Sternberg) where wonderful and very elegant. I actually have to say that optically I liked Götterdämmerung best because of its really clear and elegant staging (Gisbert Jäkel).
Musically I was expecting a little bit more after the great success with Siegfried (see my review from last december). Ingo Ingensand's interpretation seemed a little bit boring and did not really show the many details appropriately and the Bruckner Orchester Linz performed very guardedly and cautiously. I sometimes missed the great orchestral outbursts that clearly make an important part of Götterdämmerung. The choir (Chor und Extrachor des Linzer Landestheaters) did a fine job with the great choir scenes in the second act.
Nevertheless the whole performance was still steady and fine if you think of the possibilities of the Landestheater. At this point I have to say that the whole Ring there was a marvelous experience and one can just hope that they will do some more Wagner in the future!
The vocal performances also were quite well. Many singers that performed in the other three operas returned for another role like the three norns. Bernadette Fodor (Erda, Schwertleite, Fricka) sang both the first norn and Waltraute and even though she was announced a little indisposed she did a great job. I would never have guessed that she was not totally fine. Her powerful and profound mezzo had no problems to fill the auditorium throughout her full range.
Karen Robertson (Fricka) sang the second norn also with a powerful voice even though she sounded a little bit shrill in the upper register and had quite some vibrato. Still her performance was very dramatic and fine overall.
As third norn Brit-Tone Müllertz (Freia, Sieglinde) gave a wonderful performance with her bright strong soprano which has a lovely but dramatic timbre. I would have loved to her more from her!
Also the three rhinemaidens did a fine Job (Claudia Braun-Tietje, Gotho Griesmeier, Valentina Kutzarova). All three of them had strong and seductive voices and sang their melismata with great ease.
Once again we heard Bjørn Waag as Alberich and once again he impressed me with his incredible clarity. We were able to understand every single syllable he sang without any problems and also his stamina is exemplary even though his timbre is not as profound as one would expect for this role.
Another strong voice was Seho Chang as Gunther. He portrayed the unsteady king with great depth and a wonderful heroic timbre. Also his sister Gutrune, portrayed by Sonja Gornik, was a delightful voice to listen to. You could clearly hear that there is a big voice behind this lovely exterior and she showed it several times this evening.
As a guest Zelotes Edmund Toliver performed the operas main antagonist Hagen with a really profound voice with dark timbre. Especially during the second act he managed to impress the audience with his rough part. Also his huge physique fitted the part perfectly.
Lars Cleveman, who also sang the Siegfried-Siegfried, seemed to like the Götterdämmerung part way better. He sang more clearly and seemed to be more comfortable in general. He showed his vocal power with a strong upper register and nice phrasing throughout the whole performance. Especially in the final act he seemed to accumulate his vocal power towards the climax.
Also Elena Nebera as Brünnhilde gave a fine performance again although her role in Siegfried fitted her voice better. Again her upper register showed her strenghts and her stamina while her lower register sometimes seemed a little bit weak. Maybe she and her voice will grow with the role and she will improve her lower register. Nevertheless she gave a wonderful rendition of her role and her acting was really great. I especially liked her final of the third act where she seemed to unleash all her powers.
In the end I have to say that the Linz Ring is really recommendable and I hope they will do a revival soon. The whole Ring was well done both musically and optically and I think it also was a great success for the Linzer Landestheater.
I give the last part of the Ring in Linz 8 stars.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Richard Wagner, Die Walküre - Bayerische Staatsoper München

Performance 14th March

Last weekend I had the pleasure to see the second part of Wagner's Ring in Munich with a quite incredible cast. Kirill Petrenko conducted the orchestra of the Bavarian state opera and achieved spellbounding performance of this wonderful work. He and the orchestra were able to show the many different details in the ravishing score really appropriately and capture one's attention from the first note to the very last one. The whole orchestral performance was almost perfect and incredibly differenciated, simply delightful!
The production of Andreas Kriegenburg (stage: Harald B. Thor, costumes: Andrea Schraad) was quite interesting in general, but also had some weak moments (especially the genuinely annoying ballet scene right before the third act!!!). I thought there were some really nice ideas and was satisfied overall, even with the weaker scenes. I really liked the second act with its minimalistic staging (a lovely contrast to stages where you can't see the floor anymore, because there is so much stuff on it).
Another highlight were the Valkyries: Susan Foster, Karen Foster, Golda Schultz, Heike Grötzinger, Okka von der Damerau, Roswitha C. Müller, Alexandra Petersamer & Nadine Weissmann. I never heard such a great bunch of them. All of them had really wonderful big voices with a spotless range from the bottom for the mezzos (and contraltos) to the high c's at the very top of the sopranos. I was really excited by the wonderful singing during the Valkyrie scene in the third act.
Also Günther Groissböck as Hunding was really great to listen to and watch. He gave a wonderful portrayal with a lot of aggression and danger in his performance. His profound voice and his huge physical appearance fit the role of Hunding exceptionally and his overall performance was genuinely impressive.
Thomas J. Mayer sang the role of Wotan and showed that he is one of the greatest performers of this role at the moment. He was able to give his role every single shade of fear, anger and authority that it calls for. He managed his part really classy and did not seem to be tired at any moment at all.
Not so with the main protagonist, Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde. Herlitzius teached me this evening that there very well is a difference between pitched screaming and singing. She seemed strained and not comfortable throughout the whole performance. Even though she might have a powerful instrument, it seems to be past its zenith...and that for quite some time! Also her phrasing is really a thing to get used to! I really have to say, that her performance is an unmatched dissappointment overall.
Way better I liked Christopher Ventris and Anja Kampe as the twin pair Siegmund and Sieglinde. Ventris is the ideal Siegmund with a strong heroic tenor voice which is capable of portraying this very unlucky character with all his ecstasy and misfortune. If only he held his higher notes for a little bit longer it would have been a performance not from this world! Also Kampe is quite an event in this role. She has a powerful but yet very lyric voice with a really distinctive lower register and exceptional stamina in all registers. Sometimes she seems a little bit uncomfortable in the higher passages but overall her performance was really outstanding.
But the true highlight of the whole evening was Elisabeth Kulman's Fricka. What a extraordinary voice!! I have never seen someone sing so intensively and dramatically without seeming strained. She filled the whole auditorium to the very last row with such ease that everyone was just blown away by her incredibly dramatic performance. Her singing and acting were just not from this planet. It seems like Kulman was born to sing Wagner and she is probably one of the best singers of her Fach since Christa Ludwig!!
Overall the performance was really breathtaking and I wish I could have just pressed the replay button!
Therefore I give the performance 9 stars.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Vincenzo Bellini, I Puritani - Wiener Staatsoper

Performance 6th March

After some time I finally visited the Vienna state opera again to see and hear Bellini's final opera I Puritani. Another wonderful Bellini opera full of beautiful tunes and singing.
The production of John Dew (stage: Heinz Balthes, costumes: José Manuel Vasquez) was incredibly boring and really bad in my opinion. Even though the costumes (at least the ones of Elvira and the queen) were fine. All the other singers (including the choir) had this strange asian-puritan mix of clothes which just seemed totally out of place. And besides that, I always thought we were past those times when singers would just stand at the front stage and sing their stuff!
Marco Armiliato conducted the orchestra of the Vienna state opera very gently with great balance between delicate melodies and ravishing rhythms. He had full control over every single rubato and other tricky parts and still made it sound like it was the easiest thing. How very delightful to hear Bellini conducted and played so well. Also the choir of the Vienna state opera did very well and contributed their part very professionally.
The role of Sir Bruno Roberton was sung by Carlos Osuna who has a strong tenor voice with a very unique timbre. I don't know what exactly it was but he did a good job anyway. Sorin Coliban sang Elvira's father, Lord Gualtiero Valton, and gave a wonderful portrayal with a very authoritarian and noble voice. His profound voice radiated great superiority and wisdom.
Jongmin Park as Sir Giorgi also had a very profound voice with great power but his timbre is way smoother and his voice sounds more gently. Nevertheless he sang very beautifully and gave a great example of Belcanto for deep voices.
As the queen Enriquetta di Francia we heard young mezzo Ilseyar Khayrullova who has a really strong and deep voice. Such a warm timbre and an exemplary profundity! It was a pleasure to listen to her deep lines being sung so wonderfully.
Carlos Álvarez sang Sir Riccardo Forth, the opera's "villain", and gave a solid performance. He has a very strong voice with great power in any register. The timbre is heroic but also delicate in sound. He managed the part very well and delighted us with great Belcanto singing.
John Tessier performed the really demanding role of Lord Arturo Talbot. This very high tenor role calls for a high f (f5) in the final Aria "Credeasi misera" and is composed very high in general. Tessier managed this part very bravely and it seemed that he did not have any problems with the role at all. He sang it very delicate and with great ease. The only thing that did not please me totally was the timbre of his voice. I missed the virility of his timbre sometimes because his voice sounds quite sterile from time to time. Nevertheless he did a fine job facing this incredibly difficult part.
My personal highlight was russian soprano Olga Peretyatko as Elvira. What a singer! She is the absolute epitome of grace, both, vocally and physically. Her light coloratura soprano voice sounds clearly like an angel's voice and her coloraturas are so easygoing that one could think that the part was written for her. And even though her voice is a very light one she still has great stamina in all registers (even in her lower register she has quite some power). Just some of the high notes could have been a little bit stronger, but her performance was breathtaking anyway. I was genuinely impressed by her amazing singing and I would love to see her again soon.
The performance was really great and I enjoyed it very much. So I would give 8 stars for Vienna's Puritani.