Monday 22 June 2015

Richard Wagner, Der fliegende Holländer - Semperoper Dresden

Performance 18th June

As last big journey during the season, I travelled to Dresden once more to see one of my favorites: Wagner's Holländer. The dutchman was the first Wagner opera I ever saw and is basically one of the reasons why I am Wagnerian today.
The production in Dresden is totally absurd and foolish. It seemed like you hear the opera and see something totally different. So many things did not make any sense and I think they did not take the piece seriously enough. Florentine Klepper's production is just total nonsense even though the staging (Martina Segna) and the costumes (Anna Sofie Tuma) were fine I did not really like the whole performance optically.
Musically I thought it was quite good. I expected it to be a little bit better but I have to say that my expectations were quite high from the very beginning. Constantin Trinks and the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden gave a very strong and accentuated performance, but sometimes a little bit too loud.The singers (who had quite strong voices) were covered by the orchestra several times and I do not think it was due to weak voices...
What I liked very much was the choir (Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden) with great strong singing in the several choir scenes of the opera. Especially the big choir scene during the third act was a pleasure to hear.
In the role of the helmsman I heard Timothy Oliver who seemed not to be totally comfortable in the upper register but anyway he did a fine job in this small role.
Tichina Vaughn sang the role of Mary and showed a very profound an strong mezzo / alto voice. Especially in the lower register her voice sounded warm an strong while in the upper register her vibrato tended to get a little bit too strong. Nevertheless she gave a lovely performance in her role.
As Erik Tomislav Mužek had some issues with the role. He simply does not have the voice for this part for his light lyric tenor voice is not able to deliver it appropriately. His phrasing showed that he is quite strained and he did not have the neccessary calmness to perform the role with enough ease.
Georg Zeppenfeld gave a great Daland with his profound and dark voice. As I said the orchestra was quite loud and so from time to time his voice was covered which was quite a pity. Zeppenfeld's performance was wonderful without any doubt and he surely was one of the highlights.
In the role of the dutchman Evgeny Nikitin was one of the highly anticipated performances of the evening and I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed. He has quite a strong voice, but his phrasing was very rough and clipped. There surely are people who would like it, but it was not really my taste.
Christiane Libor on the other hand did not fail to convince me (once again). Her Senta has the perfect balance between gentle delicate singing and dramatic outbursts. I am just not getting tired of her voice which has a very distinctive timbre and sheer endless power reserves. Her ballad was really captivating and the second act duet was basically leaded by her.
Generally, as I said, I expected a little bit more but anyway I did like the performance in the end. Therefore I would give it 8 stars.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Vincenzo Bellini, Norma - Bayerische Staatsoper München

Performance 13th June

Yesterday a marvelous performance of Bellini's famous opera took place in the bavarian state opera in Munich. A nice cast was led by not-from-this-world-soprano Sondra Radvanovsky. But first about the production.
The whole production (including staging, costumes and light concept) was designed by Jürgen Rose. It was quite dark with a few intensive blue contrasts. Rose also mixed together some authentic elements with modern aspects and managed to bring up a production that suited the opera quite appropriately. I especially liked the idea of using two seperate floors during the last scenes of the first act and the first scenes of the final act. I thought it looked quite impressively.
Musically Paolo Carignani led the Bayrisches Staatsorchester very tastefully and controlled through the piece. His interpretation was more focused on the dramatic content of the score than on too extensive focusing on the melodies which I thought was very good. The dramatic power of the orchestral passages were really nice and the singers were supported very well by Carignani and the orchestra.
Also fantastic: the Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper which sang the several choir scenes really wonderfully with great taste. I especially liked the "Guerra" scene during the second act for it was so rousing and exciting that I really had goosebumps.
Francesco Petrozzi sang the little role of Flavio, Pollione's friend, and did a good job. It is not really a role to shine bright but anyway he has a nice voice and sang beautifully.
Oroveso was sung by Mika Kares who has a huge instrument with a very dark profound timbre. Especially during the final scene I really liked his singing and acting for it really displayed the emotions of his character very convincingly.
Golda Schultz shined bright in the small role of Clothilde. Her clear soprano is quite strong for a lyric / light soprano and her timbre was just genuinely lovely and cute. I would love to hear her Sophie at this year's Rosenkavalier in Salzburg for she seems to have the right voice for this role.
Pollione was sung by Italian tenor Massimo Giordano. I personally thought that his voice sounds very natural and not as artificial as many others. His whole portrayal was really captivating and I have to say I really liked it. Of course I also have to say that he did not really stand a chance next to Radvanovsky, but really, let's be honest: who would?
Ekaterina Gubanova gave a wonderful Adalgisa with a strong but still agile mezzo voice that also impressed with some quite high notes. She sounded really great throughout the evening and her duets with Norma were some of this evenings highlights. During the final of the second act duet with Norma she definitely shared the final high note which genuinely impressed me.
But the most impressive aspect of the performance was Sondra Radvanovsky as Norma. What a huge immense voice, not to mention her incredible voice control!! She filled the auditorium with such ease and magnificent stamine that one was literally blown away. But not just her power, but also her delicate pianissimi are just marvelous. She performed the most amazing decrescendi I ever heard, and that several times throughout the evening. Her powerful dramatic voice might not be the most agile one but she managed the coloraturas without any problems and her enormously dramatic and convincing portrayal was genuinely extraordinary. This woman is the Norma of our days without any doubt! Her whole performance (including a bombastic high d during the climax of act 1) is best described as "intense" and was totally worth every effort.
If you have the chance to attend one of the remaining performances I can just advise you to go and see it for it is a real spectacle! And therefore I give Munich's current Norma 9 stars.

Monday 8 June 2015

Antonio Caldara, Dafne - Salzburger Landestheater, Heckentheater Mirabell

Premiere performance 7th June

What an extraordinary experience! Yesterday the Salzburger Landestheater brought a lovely opera from Antonio Caldara on the stage of the hedge theatre in the gardens of Mirabell. Hearing this music in such a cozy and elegant atmosphere is maybe the highlight of the Landestheater productions of this season.
Directed by Marco Dott and equipped by Bettina Richter the evening was a great success. The whole producion is simple, does not need much on the stage and shows that they really thought through the whole opera. Many lovely details and some marvelous ideas to support the plot made this production genuinely adoreable. For me it was a great example of simple elegance. The wonderful overall impression is also triggered by the interesting idea that every protagonist has a statue double (represented by 4 dancers). The imaginative choreography by Josef Vesely was great, very artistic and elegant, but still funny with great mimic details.
Vesely (Aminta's statue) himself jumped in for an injured collegue and danced together with Anastasia Bertinshaw (Dafne's statue), Iure de Castro (Febo's statue) and Andrii Lytvynenko (Peneo's statue).
I was most impressed by Bertinshaw and de Castro for they personified their roles so elegant and convincing that it was a pleasure to watch them. Bertinshaw really looks like a greek statue with her graceful elegant apperance (who would not fall in love with her) and also de Castro posed like a real greek god. Particularly funny were the several moments when the statues reacted to the humans making selfies and photos with them. I really had some great laughs during the performance due to the funny ideas.
But now to the musical part: Peter Ewaldt conducted the Mozarteumorchester with great elegance as well and accompanied his singers very appropriately and tastefully. The orchestra seemed to feel very comfortable with this music and performed it genuinely wonderfully with a great sense of phrasing.
Dafne's father Peneo was sung by Marcell Bakonyi who has a very noble voice which is capable of transmitting emotions very well. Especially his appearance with the bag full of touristic stuff was very entertaining.
Armin Gramer sang the role of Febo and gave a nice performance with his gentle even counter tenor voice. He impressed with great agility and very good acting (especially that he turns quite unsympathetic continuosly during the whole opera).
Kristofer Lundin sang Aminta, Dafne's other lover, and did that very beautifully. His youthful tenor has quite some stamina but also a very gentle timbre. I thought his character was quite heartbreaking and I always felt a little bit sorry for his character. Nevertheless he gave a very convincing and fine performance. I am pretty sure that he will sing some major roles in the closer future  for he seems to have a really good voice.
Dafne herself was sung by Hannah Bradbury with a clear beautiful and gentle light soprano voice. I wonder why she is not used for main roles more often. Her voice is chrystal clear with a strong but still light timbre. I loved how she created the contrast between impulsive young girl in the beginning and the broken disappointed woman in the end.
So finally I can say that this performance was an enormous pleasure to watch and hear. I highly recommend everyone who has the possibility to witness one of the following performances to do so because it genuinely is an experience not to be missed!!
Therefore: 9 stars from me.

Monday 1 June 2015

Richard Wagner, Tannhäuser - Oper Leipzig

Performance 31th May

What a night!! And what a finale of the Wagnerfesttage in Leipzig!! The Tannhäuser concert yesterday evening was a full success with incredible singing on a magnificent level. I have to admit that I had goosebumps during almost the whole performance. Even though it was just a concert performance (semi-staged) the whole cast did a marvelous job delivering the story.
Matthias Foremny conducted the Gewandhausorchester and the Chor der Oper Leipzig so delightfully amazing with such love for details and the overall impression of the score. The orchestra sounded so mighty and solemnly during the big scenes, but also delicately and soft during more intimate scenes. The choir mastered his several scenes, that are probably the most famous ones of the opera, without any problems with much grace and beauty.
In the small role of the young shepherd Jennifer Porto gave an impression of her lovely light soprano voice that suited very nicely to this role. She could have sung it a little bit more like the simple shepherd songs.
Dan Karlström and Sejong Chang sang the two smaller roles of Heinrich der Schreiber and Reinmar von Zweter. Both still had the chance to give an impression of their voices during the smaller ensemble scenes. Karlström with his strong light tenor voice and Chang with a profound noble bass voice.
Also showing exemplary nobility (and a bit of agressiveness) was Tuomas Pursio as Biterolf. His noble and powerful baritone voice suited the role, which always seems a bit rude, perfectly.
In the role of Walther von der Vogelweide, Sergey Pisarev was able to show his really beautiful tenor voice with a very gentle timbre. He surely did not have the biggest voice, but it genuinely is a very beautiful and clear one.
This time Rúni Brattaberg totally convinced me that Hunding in Walküre just is not his favorite role. His portrayal of the Landgraf Hermann was so noble and strong. His powerful profound bass voice suited the role of the loving father and regent so very appropriately
Another real highlight was Kathrin Göring as Venus. I already knew that she is a very strong performer, but this Venus really was sexy, seductive and so beautifully sung that everyone would just have stayed with her.
The male highlight for me was Mathias Hausmann as Wolfram von Eschenbach. I personally think that Wolfram is the real hero of the opera (who needs tenors anyway), because he is just such a lovely and honorably person. Hausmann sang the role with a strong baritone voice with wonderful legato phrasing and a very beautiful lyric timbre.
Daniel Kirch sang the male protagonist Tannhäuser with a powerful tenor voice which sometimes had some issues with intonation. Still his portrayal was very passionate and convincing. Everynow and then I thought he could have performed the role with a little bit more ease but anyway, his performance was really good and the role really is quite demanding.
And now finally to my total highlight of the evening: Christiane Libor's Elisabeth is just magnificent. She has the perfect balance between powerful stamina and beauty of tone (including the most delightful pianissimi) which is essential for this role. The whole character just suits her like a custom-made glove. Her prayer in the third act almost made me cry! Bravo, really bravo!
If this had been a real staged performance I think I would have turned mad because of its superiority. Nevertheless I will award 9 stars to this really marvelous grande finale of the Wagnerfesttage Leipzig.