Saturday 30 May 2015

Richard Wagner, Siegfried - Oper Leipzig

Performance 30th May

Day 2 of my marathon was celebrated with day 2 of the ring cycle: Siegfried. The new production, which premiered last month, is also directed by Rosamund Gilmore with staging and costumes by Carl Friedrich Oberle and Nicola Reichert.They went on with their concept and so Siegfried had several similarities with Walküre in terms of style and directions. Very annoying: the dancers were also back again. Still it seemed to work better, especially because of the great acting skills of some soloists, but more about later...
Ulf Schirmer and the Gewandhausorchester once again did a good job although there could have been more action in the orchestra. I was missing this very special thrill that comes up when everything fits together. There were no mistakes or anything like that, but it just did not groove (if I can say that).
The lovely role of the Waldvogel, the little bird in the woods, was performed by Eun Yee You who sang it with great ease and agility. Her light voice just sounded great and really made me think of a bird.
On the other side of the voval range was Rúni Brattaberg as Fafner. This role suited him way better than Hunding and he was very convincing as huge sleepy giant. What a pity that Fafner dies so early and could not sing more.
Alberich, who was sung by Jochen Schmeckenbecher, also just had a small appearance but showed that he does not need more to show that he is a great Alberich. His diction was really fine and also his timbre just suited the role perfectly. I always think it is quite interesting how different the voices of Wotan and Alberich sound although it is the same voice type (more or less).
In the role of Mime we heard Dan Karlström who also has the right voice for his role. His light tenor voice has the necessary clarity and this very distinctive timbre that this role calls for. He did a wonderful job especially during his last scene with a lot of fun and good acting.
Swedish singer John Lundgren gave a marvelously mighty Wanderer (Wotan) with such a noble and strong timbre that it was totally understandable that this man is a god. Only the upper parts of the role seemed to bring him to his limits, although he did not have any problems with it. He just did not seem totally comfortable in this part of his range.
My personal highlight of the evening was Nicole Piccolomini as Erda. What a voice!! Such a warm timbre and then this magnificent stamina. Also her transitions were just exemplary and her whole performance was just a huge pleasure. This truely is how Erda should sound like! What a pity that she also does not have a lot to sing in this opera.
But now to the two main protagonists of the evening: Christian Franz gave a wonderful Siegfried with a very strong voice and enough stamina to get through the role. Sure some notes did not come that easily but everyone knows that Siegfried is a voice-cracking role to sing and I actually I have to say I am not the biggest fan of it. Nevertheless Franz gave a marvelous performance and helped to make Siegfried seem less like a total douchebag with his great acting skills. Just towards the end he seemed to reach a point of exhaustion but managed to maintain his level to the very end. I think it is always hard for a Siegfried to catch up with a Brünnhilde who just woke up and did not have to sing the last two hours.
This productions Brünnhilde was swedish soprano Elisabet Strid who definitely has the power to sing it. Her voice is quite ideal for this role for it still has the lyric qualities and beauty of tone, but at the same time the power and dramatic ability to perform it appropriately. The only deficit I can think about is that she tends to loose her steadiness during longer high notes (like the final high c). She held those notes quite long (compared to other, more dramatic Brünnhildes) but had some issues to keep them steady and straight. Still her portrayal was marvelous and she really is a convincing Brünnhilde throughout the whole climax.
The third opera of Leipzig's Ring is quite a success with small deficits which can not prevent a great performance. Therefore I give 8 stars.

Richard Wagner, Die Walküre - Oper Leipzig

Performance 29th May

As first part of my opera marathon during the Wagnerfesttage in Leipzig I heard the second opera of Wagner's Ring, which I already saw here in 2013. Nevertheless I had to see it again because I just thought it was magnificent last time.
This time the whole ensemble seemed some kind of stressed and very often I had the feeling that the necessary calmness for such a difficult piece was not there. It was still a very good performance but I do have to admit that I expected a little bit more yesterday.
The production of Rosamund Gilmore sometimes feels like a bad movie, although staging and costumes (Carl Friedrich Oberle & Nicola Reichert) were really great and looked very nice together.Gilmore's direction was not really that well and especially the several dancers during some of the scenes were actually quite annoying (which obviously is not just my opinion). I thought it was just totally unnecessary and did not support the plot at any moment. So why?
Musically Ulf Schirmer and the Gewandhausorchester had quite a rush throughout the evening. I always had the feeling he is stressed because the tempi always seemed to be a little bit too fast. Moreover I think the interpretation lacked a little bit of strong accentuation which I think is very important for performing Wagner. Nevertheless I still liked the performance anyway, but there would still be space for improvement.
First of all: the valkyries (Marika Schönberg, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Monica Mascus, Susanne Gritschneder, Josephine Weber, Jean Broekhuizen, Karin Lovelius & Anja Jung) were quite nice and made the beginning of the third act really enjoyable. Some of their voices were stronger than others but the overall impression was positive and appropriate.
Rúni Brattaberg as Hunding was not really the perfect casting because he seemed to have some issues with the role and I thought he was not really convincing as evil and brutal husband. His performance was okay but not really more.
Iain Paterson as Wotan was better but also not the ideal decision for this role. He sometimes had some issues with being covered by the orchestra and seemed to reach his limits everynow and then. He still managed to perform the role without problems but I think he is not really the best choice for this role.
As Fricka I heard Kathrin Göring once again, who I still remember from last tim. She has a really great strong voice and exemplary diction. She was a great highlight of the second act with her marvelous portrayal of the jealously nagging wife. Besides, she looked so marvelously in her elegant costume that one would really think twice about starting an argue with her.
Also from the cast of 2013 was Guy Mannheim as Siegmund who seemed quite strained yesterday. Even though he has an appropriate voice for the role he did not feel totally comfortable in this performance. Especially his upper register sounded a little bit chipped. Nevertheless he gave me chills during his Wälse shouts. The first one was normal, but the second one seemed to go on forever!! Incredible!
Also incredible was Christiane Libor as Sieglinde, a role that fits her voice perfectly. She also seemed quite stressed yesterday but was able to maintain a high level throughout the whole evening. Her gleaming upper register and her great ability to change from pp to ff within a single phrase are just magnificent. This really is what a wagnerian soprano should sound like!
Someone who also has a nice wagnerian soprano voice is Irene Theorin who sang the role of Brünnhilde. I just saw her two weeks ago as Elektra in Munich and I have to say: she knows how to use her instrument. She sounded very well with great stamina and a very fresh timbre which really surprised me because I just knew her Elektra which does not sound that fresh. So she is really able to change her timbre distinctly depending on the role she sings. She did a great job with a strong voice throughout her whole register and the ability to also show the lyrical aspects of the role as well as the highly dramatic ones.
This Walküre gets 8 stars, but could have had 9 with a little bit more tranquility in the performance.

Christoph Willibald Gluck, Iphigenie en Tauride - Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele, Haus für Mozart

Performance 25th May

This year's staged opera performance of the Whitsun Festival was Gluck's second opera about the Iphigenie myth. Gluck, who is one of the most influencal opera reformers of history, wrote a piece with simple lines, great dramatic moments and without the usual artificial coloratura tornados.
But first to the production of Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, which is also very simple and dark. The very reduced staging (Christian Fenouillat) and the fugitive-like costumes (Agostino Cavalca) also helped to create an atmosphere that is really depressing and unpleasant.
Diego Fasolis conducted the I Barocchisti so thrillingly and with such great dramatic feeling that it was a pleasure to listen to. There were great parts for everyone: ravishing moments of dramatic viruosity and also reduced moments of great simplicity.
Same for the choir (Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano). Especially the priestesses did a great job supporting the soloists, but also the male choir had some really lovely moments.
Talking about the soloists: Rebeca Olvera appeared once again as a godess (this time as Diane) and really looked and sang like one! Totally covered in gold she looked like statue who has come to life. She had such a short appearance at the end of the opera that it was a pity that the opera was finished already!
Michael Kraus on the other hand was an example of brutality par excellance. His dark voice catched the evil character of Thoas perfectly and he gave a wonderful performance as cruel king. He truely seemed to be a exemplary selfish tyrant.
Topi Lehtipuu sang the role of Plyade and showed that he has a very gentle and noble sounding tenor voice with a very light timbre. I sometimes wished that he would give some more power, but his performance was good anyway.
Very impressing was Christopher Maltman as Oreste, which he performed with a great noble baritone voice. Even more impressing than his singing were his thrilling acting skills, which  really had a big effect in my opinion. I personally thought that he gave maybe the best performance of the whole opera.
And finally of course the title protagonist, Cecilia Bartoli as Iphigenie. Even though she looked horrible (which of course is a way of interpretation of her life in the foreign country) she was just magnificent. Both vocally and dramatically she totally soaked up the character and did not just play Iphigenie, she WAS Iphigenie. It was really heartbreaking to see how difficult it was for her to fulfill her cruel task, not knowing that the sacrifice is her brother.
In the end I would give the performance solid 8 stars.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Georg Friedrich Händel, Semele - Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele, Haus für Mozart

Performance 23rd May

As first of my concerts at this year's Whitsun Festival I saw the concert performance of Semele last saturday. A wonderful cast played with lovely acting skills and marvelous voices.
Diego Fasolis conducted the I Barocchisti charmingly with great softness and delicate phrasing. We even had the luxury of a theorbo which made the performance even more interesting. Fasolis and the orchestra supported the singers really well and did a great job performing this piece with enough thrilligness.
Peter Kálmán sang both Cadmos and Somnus and showed off his profound and powerfull voice with a very dark timbre. I wish he would have sung more, but anyway, he was a great casting choice.
Another small role was Athamas, who was sung by countertenor Andreas Scholl. Thank god he sang another aria in the end because otherwise it would have been a pity not to hear more of him. Even though I am not a fan of the sound of countertenors I have to admit that his timbre is so incredibly clear and beautiful that it is a pleasure to hear him sing this kind of music.
Rebeca Olvera as Iris was lovely to see and hear. Besides her beautiful light soprano voice she did a marvelous job acting together with Iuno. I personally thought the the beginning of the second act was a great highlight because of those two ladies. Olvera's soprano has a really delicate and delightful timbre.
As I said, Birgit Remmert as Iuno also was a pleasure to experience. In addition to her vocal skills (what a strong lower register!) she did the most marvelous acting of the whole evening. Her portrayal of the jealous godess was just magnificent. From one moment to the other she changed between the manipulative devil and the pseudo-friendly companion. She definitely was responsible for many of the funny moments of the evening.
Liliana Nikiteanu as Semele's sister Ino convinced with a strong lower register and a simply beautiful timbre throughout the performance. Only sometimes the transition between her registers could have been a little bit cleaner but anyway, she did a fine job.
American tenor Charles Workman sang Jupiter himself and was quite a surprise. I have never heard of him but he has a lovely gentle light tenor voice with a very soft timbre and great agility. Of course noone can compete with Bartoli when it comes to coloraturas, but I was really impressed by his skills and liked his performance very much.
And now to the dive herself: Cecilia Bartoli as Semele.What can I say. One might not like her and what she does, but there is no doubt that she does it incredibly well. The ease and evenness of her coloraturas are just not from this world and especially her pianissimi are just thrilling!! Her mirror aria ("Myself I shall adore") was definitely a highlight and earned her huge applaus.
The whole evening was crownd by standing ovations which I thought was quite understandable. I would give Semele 8 stars for a really great performance.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Salzburg in Concert with me as guest

With the following link you can listen to the radio show Salzburg in Concert, in which I was guesting in April. Salzburg in Concert is a radio programme about music and is hosted by lovely Larissa Schütz. She is presenting many different acts in and around Salzburg from opera to contemporary popular music. Check it out:

About Salzburg in Concert:

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Festival talk with Sophie Koch

22nd August

Here you have an interview with Salzburg's current Octavian Sophie Koch. The interview was held during last year's Salzburg Festival where she had a great success in the new production of Rosenkavalier (see my review from August 2014). She is going to perform this role in again at this year's festival. So here it is (sorry, again in German^^):

Ihr Repertoire besteht größtenteils aus französischer und deutscher Oper und vergleichsweise wenig italienische Oper. Liegt das französische und deutsche Repertoire mehr?
Es ist vielleicht eine Frage der Sensibilität und auch dem Stimmklang der besonders zu diesem Repertoire passt. Ich denke allerdings auch, dass man gerne in gewisse Schubladen gesteckt wird. Ich würde natürlich gerne auch mehr italienische Oper singen. Ich habe früher gern Rossini gesungen und auch ab und zu eine Adalgisa in Norma, aber sie haben Recht, das hat sich so ergeben. Und ich muss auch ehrlich zugeben, dass ich eine große Leidenschaft zum deutschen Repertoire habe.
Besonders mit Strauss und Wagner sind Sie ja sehr erfolgreich, was schätzen Sie an den beiden Komponisten.
Was ich besonders an Strauss liebe, ist diese Zusammenarbeit mit Hofmannsthal, welche ihre Opern so theatral macht. Das ist nicht nur schöne Musik, sondern hat auch unheimlich interessante Bedeutungen im tiefsten Sinne und auch wunderbare leichte Komödie. Diese schnellen Wechsel von Gedanken gibt es nur bei Strauss und Hofmannsthal. Das ist etwas ganz besonderes für mich.
Und Wagner?
Wagner ist für mich eine unglaubliche Energie. Der Klang ist voll und laut mit diesen langen Bögen. Christa Ludwig hat einmal gesagt, wenn man über ein lautes Orchester singen darf, dann ist das ein unglaubliches physisches Gefühl, dass man als Nicht-Sänger nicht verstehen kann.
In Salzburg sind Sie immer wieder zu Gast. Was bedeuten die Festspiele für Sie?
Das sind für mich einfach die größten Festspiele der Welt. Hier treffen sich einfach Alle: Intendanten, Publikum, Kritiker, Künstler, einfach Alle. Es gibt hier immer große Erwartungen, was für uns natürlich einen großen Druck bedeutet. Es ist zwar schön, aber es steckt auch viel Arbeit dahinter.
Welche Vorhaben gibt es für die Zukunft?
Ja, da gibt es einiges. Ich habe noch nie eine Carmen gesungen,  die wird bald kommen. Dann Les Troyens (Berlioz), Le Roi Arthus (Ernest Chausson), L’Africaine von Meyerbeer und vielleicht auch eine Kundry.
Worauf legen Sie besonderen Wert bei der Einstudierung einer neuen Rolle?
Technik!! Ich lese natürlich erst den Text um zu sehen worum es geht, welcher Charakter es ist. Gleich danach gehe ich an die Musik und schaue, welche Schwierigkeiten es für mich geben könnte und woran ich wirklich arbeiten muss. Auch diese sportliche Leistung, eine Oper von Anfang bis zum Ende durchzustehen, will geübt sein, denn das fordert schon.
Haben Sie ein sängerisches Vorbild?
Ja, ich habe viele! Unter anderem etwa Christa Ludwig. Ich bewundere sie einfach in allem was sie tut.
Haben Sie sie schon einmal persönlich getroffen?
Ja, sie ist eine wahnsinnig interessante Person und sie hat mir am Anfang meiner Karriere sehr geholfen, als ich Zweifel hatte und nicht wusste, ob ich weitermachen sollte. Da war sie für mich da und hat mich ermutigt, als ich bei ihr vorgesungen habe, was für mich persönlich ein echter Entscheidungsmoment war.
Welche Tipps haben Sie für junge angehende Sänger?
Es gibt einen Tipp: Seine eigene Persönlichkeit zu kennen und zu entdecken, viel zu arbeiten, nicht zu sicher sein und einfach leidenschaftlich an diesen Beruf herangehen.
Was halten Sie beim Singen allgemein für wichtig?
Also ich denke was mit der Zeit eine Karriere macht ist die gute Technik. Leider gibt es viele Lehrer, die darauf nicht genug achten. Es gibt viele Sänger, die wissen einfach nicht was sie tun und verlassen sich nur auf ihren Instinkt. Da geht es wirklich um die Basics, denn man muss einfach wissen wie man singt, denn nur der Instinkt währt nicht lange.
Wie stehen Sie zum Liedgesang?
Ich liebe Lieder, aber leider ist es für mich sehr schwierig Zeit zu finden, um einen Liederabend vorzubereiten. Und zweitens bin ich es nicht gewohnt, mich einem Publukum in dieser Konstellation zu präsentieren. Man gewöhnt sich natürlich nach einiger Zeit an so etwas, aber es gibt einen großen Unterschied zwischen Lied und Oper. Bei der Oper hat man ein Kostüm und spielt eine Rolle. Beim Lied ist die Beziehung zum Publikum ganz anders, denn man ist ganz allein und das Publikum ist viel näher.
Octavian ist ja eine Ihrer Paraderollen. Was, denken Sie, macht die aktuelle Produktion so besonders?
Ich finde sie unglaublich schön und richtig, im Sinne des Textes. Die vielen Leute, die kein Deutsch sprechen, können trotzdem erkennen, was auf der Bühne geschieht, selbst wenn sie kein Wort davon verstehen. Es ist genauso inszeniert, dass die Handlung einfach glasklar ist und man nicht so sehr vom Text abhängig ist. Besonders der dritte Akt ist einfach perfekt inszeniert, was wirklich nicht einfach ist, denn es ist sehr kompliziert, jeder spricht verschiedene Dialekte. Das ist jetzt einfach alles klar.
Wer ist Octavian Ihrer Meinung nach?
Octavian ist ein edler junger Mann, ein Aristokrat, ein Graf – das darf man nicht vergessen. Er ist jung, unglaublich ungestüm und auch ein bisschen naiv, aber trotzdem sehr lustig. Etwa wenn er im ersten und dritten Akt mit dem Baron spielt und so. Anfänglich hat er da vielleicht noch ein bisschen Angst, aber dann amüsiert er sich prächtig über diese verrückte Situation. Und natürlich verliebt er sich dann ganz schnell, also ich denke er ist jung in jeder Hinsicht. Allerdings wird er reifer, denn er lernt innerhalb der Oper vieles. Die Veränderung während der Oper ist bei Octavian finde ich am deutlichsten. Ich finde nicht, dass er doof ist. Christa (Ludwig) meinte einmal, dass Octavian für sie uninteressant war, einfach ein bisschen doof. Er ist einfach jungendlich-naiv, so wie wir alle waren. Oder manche noch immer sind. (lacht)
Wie liegt die Rolle Ihnen stimmlich?
Es ist sehr schwer zu beschreiben, denn jeder hat ein paar Rollen, die einfach perfekt passen. Da geht es einfach um die Entsprechung, den Stimmklang, die musikalische Linie und viele andere Faktoren. Es ist wirklich sehr schwer das in Worte zu fassen.
Was halten Sie von der neuen Deutung der Rolle des Ochs mit Günther Groissböck als jungem Ochs?
Das ist superinteressant und sehr nahe an dem Wunsch von Strauss und Hofmannsthal. Das macht ihn gefährlicher und viel interessanter. Ich finde diese Deutung wirklich prima. 

Monday 18 May 2015

Richard Strauss, Elektra - Bayerische Staatsoper München

Performance 17th May

What a night! After the new Elektra of Vienna I decided to see the one in Munich. Different cast, different production, different impression, and I have to say that Munich definitely showed some superiority.
The production, though quite old (from 1997), is enormously minimalistic and manages to deliver the story with only few resources. The whole production was made by Herbert Wernicke who sadly already passed away nearly 13 years ago. His staging, his costumes the whole scenery is really impressive and enters into a perfect symbiosis with the work. I wish there were more productions like this instead of the trash you sometimes get to see nowadays.
Also the singers were very good as well throughout the whole cast. The only weak point was the conductor's interpretation. Asher Fisch conducted the piece without great thrill or the usual tension. His interpretation was smooth, lacking contrasts and simply boring. Nevertheless the orchestra (Bayerisches Staatsorchester) played fine and still managed to make the evening exciting.
I would say something about the choir but their part is so tiny that there is not much to say, unfortunately.
In the smaller roles (Orest's guardian, confidante, trainbearer, young servant, old servant) we heard Christoph Stephinger, Marzia Marzo, Anna Rajah, Matthew Grills, Peter Lobert. All of them did a good job in their short appearances.
Very impressive as well: the maids quintet and their matron. Okka von der Damerau, Angela Brower, Heike Grötzinger, Eri Nakamura, Hanna-Elisabeth Müller and Katja Pieweck were a luxurious cast for the opening scene of the maids. Every syllable was understandable and the dramatic drive of the scene was exemplary.
Ulrich Reß also just had a short appearance as Aegisth, but managed to state that he is a fine singer. The demands of his short part are quite challenging and he did a great job to fulfill them.
In the role of Orest Günther Groissböck convinced with a powerful profound bass voice and great acting. His noble heroic timbre was perfect for this role for he seemed to be rough and aristocratic at the same time.
As Elektra's sister Chrysothemis we heard Ricarda Merbeth, who did not fail to satisfy my high expectations. I have to admit that I am not her biggest fan, but in this role she was simply magnificent. A ravishing upper register and enough power in the lower ones make her the perfect candidate for this also really demanding role. She did a great job and earned a lot of applause in the end.
One of my personal highlights was Waltraud Meier as Klytämnestra. I do remember her first Klytämnestra in Salzburg 2010 which was really impressive, but last night was even more impressive. The intensity and voltage of her interpretation is marvelous and never fails to make you shiver. It is incredible how this woman manages to sing on such high level for such a long time now. How many singers sing Klytämnestra and Isolde in one season and are able to be convincing in both roles?
But finally to another Isolde-singer: Iréne Theorin as Elektra. I do also remember her Elektra in Salzburg together with Meier and I can say, she also still has everything this role calls for. Her stamina is exemplary and still her voice is agile and has a upper register that can cut air. And not just vocally, also her acting was so intense that you really believed that she is Elektra! During the curtain calls she was covered with "Bravos" and enormous applause.
I would have loved to give this performance the full 10 stars but after thinking about it I have to admit that the orchestral Interpretation was not enough for it. So Munich's Elektra earns 9 points (and in secret 10 for production and the singers).

Sunday 17 May 2015

Carl Maria von Weber, Der Freischütz - Semperoper Dresden

Performance 3rd May

After a lovely evening in Leipzig I travelled to Dresden to see the new production of Weber's Freischütz, which I consider to be one of the greatest operas of all time. Especially for Dresden it is a very important work for Weber was and still is a very important person for the city and it was played the night before the horrific inferno in 1945.
Axel Köhler manages to set up a quite traditional production without any kitsch or moments that remind of Oktoberfest or anything like it. With the help of Arne Walther (staging) and Katharina Weissenborn (costumes) he brought up a production that is thrilling, beautiful and enormously convincing. Every little detail fitted into a magnificent overall impression and at no time you had the feeling that anything seemed inappropriate. It definitely shows that noone needs over-modernized productions to be creative and serve the work appropriately!! My highest respect for this really succesful production.
Christian Thielemann manages to conduct this famous opera with great accuracy and many details I did not hear ever before. He and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden do not have to fear the comparison with the famous recording of Carlos Kleiber. Every single phrase was performed with great artistry and I never had the feeling that there were any questionable decision.
The choir (Sächsischer Staatsopernchor) managed to absolve their many important passages without any problems and supported the soloists perfectly. The famous choir scenes (choir of the maids, the hunters' choir) were lovely and surely highlights of the evening.
Sebastian Wartig sang the role of Kilian and gave a charming performance with his little song in the beginning of the opera. His voice had everything that role calls for: agility, power and still a gentle timbre.
Albert Dohmen sang a very rough and aggressive Kuno, but apart of his interpretation he was really good with a strong powerful voice.
Adrian Eröd managed to radiate noble superiority and mightiness in the role of prince Ottokar. His diction is enormously clear and his voice fits into those noble roles perfectly.
In the role of evil Kaspar we heard Georg Zeppenfeld who is kind of like Dresden's favorite. His profound voice convinced with evil darkness in its timbre and surprising fine agility in his quite demanding songs in the first act.
The lovely role of Ännchen was performed by Christina Landshamer who also has the ideal voice for her role. A sweet timbre with great agility and of course great comedic talent. Sometimes I wished that she would have had more power but her performance was great anyway.
Tenor Michael König sang the male leading role, the hunter Max, and did a wonderful job with it. His light voice also has a quite heroic sound with fits perfectly into this role. He depicted the despair and helplessness of his character really convincingly and I really like his whole portrayal.
For me the most positive surprise of the evening was Sara Jakubiak as Agathe. Due to the fact that I always have Gundula Janowitz in my ears when it comes to this role most sopranos have quite some hard time to satisfy my expectations. Nevertheless Jakubiak had no problems to convince me that she can definitely cope with Janowitz. She has a lovely strong soprano with a very beautiful timbre and a great dynamic range. It was magnificent how convincingly she portrayed this role with such grace, beauty and enthusiasm.
So finally I would say this was one of the best performances I heard and this is why I would give it even the full 10 stars.

Friday 8 May 2015

Richard Wagner, Das Liebesverbot - Oper Leipzig

Performance 2nd May

As last missing Wagner stage work in my collection his second opera Das Liebesverbot was my occupation last saturday. Its music has some really obvious Italian influences with catchy tunes and lovely ensemble numbers. Besides his own style (which is definitely present already) he combines Italian melodic skills au Bellini with dramatic power au Beethoven. Very often I also was reminded of Weber and at some parts even of Operetta (in a very positive way). Some of his tunes really stayed in my mind the whole evening and I was delighted by the light comedic style that I was not used to when it comes to Wagner.
The production of Aaron Stiehl (stage: Jürgen Kirner, costumes: Sven Bindseil) was quite sophisticated in terms of a main idea but still funny and hilarious when it comes to its effect. The idea of the three main spheres (Jungle of wild love, Friedrich's tidy order, and Isabella's spiritual bright sphere) was very impressive and made many relations way more understandable. In general Stiehl's management of the scenes and roles was very smart and helped the performance over several weaknesses of the piece.
Matthias Foremny and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig had some issues during the ouverture which was not played totally accurately, but they managed to eradicate those problems. During the rest of the performance they were able to maintain a high level of accuracy. Nevertheless Foremny was able to capture the musical content very appropriately and supported the singers quite well. Also the choir (Chor der Oper Leipzig) was fine and did a good job performing Wagner's high demands.
Martin Petzold as Pontio Pilato sang his small role with exemplary diction and clarity. Dan Karlström, Jürgen Kurth and Sejong Chang also did a fine job in their quite short roles.
Tuomas Pursio sang Friedrich, the opera's villain, and was able to capture this character really well with his baritone voice which has a youthful but still noble timbre. His portrayal was really convincing and in the end you just could not be angry with him.
In the role of Claudio we heard Guy Mannheim who has a magnificent wagnerian tenor voice with immense power and very heroic timbre. He managed to convince with dramatic play and thrilling phrasing.
Mark Adler as Luzio has a lighter tenor voice which suited this quite comic role perfectly. He was responsible for some really funny moments. At some parts he seemed to have issues with the very high demands of his role but he made a fine overall impression.
Maybe the best  male performance of the evening was done by Reinhard Dorn as Brighella. With wonderful acting and hilarious humor he made the audience laugh immensely. But not just his play was lovely, also his voice fitted perfectly into his character. His whole performance was a wonderful pleasure.
In the role of Mariana Olena Tokar jumped in for the ill Marika Schönberg. She has a lovely light soprano with quite some power. Her whole performance was really wonderful with beautiful phrasing and a really thrilling overall impression. Only the ending was quite unpleasent, but only because poor Mariana ended up alone anyway.
As Dorella we heard Magdalena Hinterdobler who has a lyric soprano with a very beautiful timbre and great legato skills. Unfortunately she was covered too easily from time to time, but nevertheless I enjoyed her appearances immensely.
In the main role, Isabella, Lydia Easley showed her wagnerian soprano voice which has a very broad and warm sound. Only in her higher register she tends to sound shrill and too steely. Also her stamina sometimes could have been better. Especially during the exposed dramatic outbreaks she had some issues with being covered by the orchestra. Still she managed to convince in her role without any major problems and gave a fine performance in total.
The whole Performance was really enjoyable and so I give it 8 stars.

Friday 1 May 2015

Richard Wagner, Rheingold - Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Herkulessaal

Performance 25th April

Last saturday I witnessed one of the best Musical Performances for quite some time. The concert Performance of Rheingold in the Herkulessaal in Munich was a ravishing experience with a stellar cast which you would never find in a normal opera house.
Sir Simon Rattle conducted the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks with a superior attitude and created magical 2 1/2 hours of thrilling Music. He conducted with such charme, ease and simply beauty that everyone was just blown away by the impact of his interpretation. He seemed to know the score like it was his trousers' pocket and made it sound like music from heaven. He found the perfect balance between delicate gentleness and rousing solemn parts. The orchestra played enormously cleanly and clearly without anything to complain about. Every single musician did a great job during the whole evening and helped to improve the performance even more. Only the really dry acoustics of the hall were a little bit annoying after a while because they did not really flatter the whole tonal quality. Nevertheless the musicians performed on a very high level and made the whole performance an incoparable joy.
As for the soloists they really casted every single role so well that one would wish to have such a cast in a staged performance as well. The Rhinemaidens (Mirella Hagen, Stefanie Irányi & Eva Vogel) had three very different voices from a very light (but still strong) nicely sounding soprano over a powerful light mezzo with erotic timbre to a profound mezzo with a very dark timbre. Their diction was very clear and their voices sounded great together.
Also very powerful and profound were the two giants Fasolt and Fafner, sung by Peter Rose and Eric Halfvarson. While Rose's voice has more lyrical qualities (which fits his role perfectly), Halfvarson's voice is black as night and manages to capture the evilness and corruption of  his character. It was really interesting to see how convincingly they delivered the contrasts of those two brothers.
Christian van Horn as Donner also did a great Job with his heroic baritone voice which sounded as brutal and rough as it should do as thunder god. Sometimes his diction could have been better but he did a fine job anyway. Benjamin Bruns as Froh also was quite fine with a very light but still heroic tenor voice which had a very youthfull timbre.
In the role of Mime we heard Herwig Pecoraro who also has a strong tenor voice with a strong upper register, but it sounds less youthfull but I thought it has a little bit more character in its sound. He was perfectly casted for this role which needs a lot of character in the voice.
This is also valid for the role of Loge which was sung by Burkhard Ulrich. He also has the ability to deliver many different shades of a character just through his voice. He perfectly hit the opportunistic details of his role and gave a wonderful performance.
Tomasz Konieczny also gave a brilliant performance witch his strong baritone voice which has a very dark timbre and the ability to deliver the evil character of Alberich with many different colors. He also acted a lot which totally helped him to make a very convincing portrayal of his role. I thought that his voice suited Alberich perfectly because of its dark and rough sound.
Also equipped with quite some stamina was Michael Volle as Wotan. His baritone voice sounds way more heroic and noble, but also is able to give a very rough impression when needed. He impersonated the egomanic character very well and his singing reflected the evolution of his character impressively.
Annette Dasch had some smaller appearances in the role of Freia which she handled lovely. Her strong soprano with its youthful timbre has quite some power and still does not loose its beautiful sound. Her voice suits the role of the love goddess as well as her beautiful exterior.
Elisabeth Kulman once again blew my mind as Fricka, even though I was more impressed by her Fricka in Walküre. But anyway, her huge mezzo soprano has this very special timbre that is able to make a convincing bickering wife. Her diction is exemplary and one is able to catch every single syllable with great pleasure. I am really pleased that I have been able to see her again.
Finally one of my highlights was Janina Baechle as Erda. With her really short appearance she was still able to capture the whole audience with her strong but still delicate mezzo voice. She was so mysterious and wondrous that one was barely able to breath because of excitement.She sang her phrases incredibly gently and especially her soft pianissimo on the final "Meide den Ring" was exceptional!! Seriously, what a voice!!
In the end I would like to say that this was one of the best performances I ever heard and if it had been a staged production I probably would have had a heart attack due to the excitement. Nevertheless I give the Rheingold concert 9 stars!