Monday 26 September 2016

Richard Strauss, Salome - Stadttheater Klagenfurt

Performance 24th September

After a well-deserved little break I started the new season with Strauss' Salome at an operahouse I've not visited before. The Stadttheater Klagenfurt is one of Austria's city theatres and opened their season with Strauss extremely complex opera about the femme fatale from the biblical story. Already quite progressive during its time of origin it still does not fail to captivate the audience with its sheer brutality and decandence. The Klagenfurt production was led by Michael Sturminger and convinced with a very coherent concept. He brought the plot into the present without creating great ambiguity and showed a very intimate and yet thrilling direction. Especially the conduct of the characters seemed very naturally and not as mannered as in many other productions. The stage and the costumes were made by Renate Martin & Andreas Donhauser and also supported the plot very well without being to obstrusive.
Musically conductor Alexander Soddy did a great job leading the Kärntner Sinfonieorchester with great passion, accuracy and musicality. Despite of some smaller inaccuracies the orchestra managed the highly comlex and difficult score very well. Also the volume level was very appropriate and they did not cover the singers. The extremely opulent Dance of the seven veils went very smoothly and was probably one of the highlights of the evening.
The many small roles were cast quite ambivalent with some very good performances and some a bit boring ones. However the overall impression was still positive.
Christiane Döcker as Page had the chance to show her sensual dark mezzo voice that has a very soft and warm timbre. Also Mathias Frey convinced with a very young tenor voice with a bright youthful timbre and a very even tone.
The Herodias of Ursula Hesse von den Steinen was very expressive with a very dramatic voice. Sometimes there could have been a bit more balance, but alltogether her performance was fine and satisfying. As her husband Herodes we heard Jörg Schneider who gave a brilliant performance even though the audience was told that he might be a bit sick. However he sang this difficult tenor role with a powerful, bright and clear voice. His top notes came so easily that it was really impressive and it was definitely one of the best performances this evening.
Same is valid for Michael Kupfer-Radecky as Jochanaan. Though he was singing from under the stage during his first lines his powerful baritone voice filled the whole auditorium. His voice is definitely Wagner proven and probably best described as heroic, warm and sonorous at once. Without problems he managed the sometimes very high tessitura of this role and gave a wonderful performance.
Finally the title role was sung by German soprano Anna Gabler who also did a very good job. While having a very dark soprano voice in the middle register her upper register is bright and clear. Some of the top notes could have been a bit more relaxed but alltogether she gave a great performance. Not only musical but also acting-wise she convinced as the spoiled young princess and showed that this role suits her voice very well.
Alltogether it was a very enjoyable evening (if you can call Salome enjoyable) and the Stadttheater Klagenfurt showed a good performance. They did the best they can with their possibilities and succeeded with a ravishing thrilling evening full of opulent decandence. Therefor I give 8 stars to the Salome production in Klagenfurt.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Sunday 25 September 2016

Otto Nicolai, Il Templario - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Concert performance 30th August

As glorious final of this year's festival I went to see the rarity Il Templario by Otto Nicolai who is known to basically be the founder of the Wiener Philharmoniker. The piece is a very interesting example of the combination of Italian Belcanto and Germanic instrumentation with ravishing ensemble scenes and captivating dramatic flow. While the story is rather complicated the melodies are very catchy and show that Nicolai is one of the many underestimated composers.
The Wiener Philharmoniker played the piece of their founder with great passion and showed that they really want people to discover this wonderful music. The dramatic drive and the soft elegance of the orchestra were impressive and thanks to conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada everything sounded very much in balance. He worked out the dramatic outbursts with great energy and was also able to support the singers more than appropriately. The Salzburger Bachchor did a great job during the several choir parts with a balanced sound and highly tasteful phrasing.
In the smaller roles of Isacco di York and Luca di Beaumanoir we heard Franz Supper and Armando Piña who both gave solid performances. Supper sometimes seemed to have some difficulties with intonation, but without any serious issues. Adrian Sâmpetrean as Cedrico il Sassone showed that he has a very beautiful voice with a warm pleasant timbre that has a lovely balance between dramatic skills and lyric abilities.
Kristiane Kaiser as Rovena seemed a bit uncomfortable even though she did a good job overall. Sometimes her soprano could have been a bit more flexible and sound more relaxed. Nevertheless she gave a very elegant and passionate performance.
Briano, the plot's antagonist, was sung by Luca Salsi, who also sang excellently. His powerful dark baritone voice with its threating timbre suited the role perfectly and he showed great abilites with his elegant Belcanto phrasing.
My personal highlight was mezzo soprano Clémentine Margaine as Rebecca. Margaine's voice is sensual, her timbre is warm and tender and she has the dramatic power that is also important for that role. She probably gave the performance of the evening and is definitely a name to remember.
Last but not least, Juan Diego Flórez also gave a great performance as male lead, Vilfredo d'Ivanhoe and mastered the many high notes without any problems. His piercing bright tenor voice gained some dramatic power over the few last years and it sounds pretty good.
Alltogether it was a brilliant night with a great re-discovery and hopefully the festival will go on with its rarity policy and give us many more rarely performed operas that are worth being performed again. Therefor I give 8 stars to the marvelous performance of Il Templario.
Reviewed by Daniel Url