Monday 14 August 2017

A final farewell

Some of you might already know it, some may have expected it and for a few it might be a surprise, but the latest review of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth in Salzburg was the final and last one of its kind. Due to a more or less sudden career change earlier this year I decided to shut down this blog and so (as some of you may have realised) there were less reviews over the last few months. This is because I only reviewed some final shows where I received press tickets and did not review any other shows anymore. I undertook some final trips to different places and the festival season in Munich and Salzburg is the finale of a project that lasted for more than 3 years and was definitely way more succesful than I thought.
I want to thank everyone who spent time reading my reviews and interviews, all artists who were ready to give a young journalist a chance for some really interesting interviews and all the press offices who were so open to collaborate with me over the years including the big houses in Berlin, Vienna, Munich and the great festivals all over Austria and Germany.
It was my pleasure to see so many great productions and performances over the last 3 years and get to know so many interesting people. However I realised that there are so many people now who are blogging about opera and it would take much more time to keep up the level of quality. It seems that nowadays everyone thinks that he can review an opera performance no matter if they actually have the necessary knowledge.
Another reason, as mentioned, is my new job as an artist manager in an agency in Munich. I believe that it is not good to work as a reviewer at the same time and therefor the blog had to end. Nevertheless I am very happy about my new job because I have the chance to use my distinct knowledge about singing and the human voice to support talented singers and their careers.
So this is the end, once again I want to thank all of you for your support.
All the best to everyone of you,


Sunday 13 August 2017

Dmitri Shostakovich, Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District - Salzburger Festspiele, Großes Festspielhaus

Performance 10th August

For my very last review on this blog I went to see a wonderful production of an opera that might not be known to everybody. Shostakovich wrote his Lady Macbeth when he was barely 25 and created an interesting highly explicit piece of musical porn. The music is a wild mix of different styles and very often I had the feeling that Puccini was a big influence, but on the other hand there are also wild and grotesque parts that show Shostakovich's crazy side. I was positively surprised by the piece and I have to say that is a very exciting opera that should be performed way more often.
The production by Andreas Kriegenburg is really impressive and shows an almost veristic approach. All the relations between the different characters were worked out so clearly that it was almost like watching a movie. Kriegenburg was able to keep the level of excitement very high throughout the evening. Only the final death of Katerina seemed a bit over the top and predictable. I especially liked the stage by Harald B. Thor with that huge working class residential buildings that created a thoroughly depressing atmosphere. The smart idea to have rooms coming out from those buildings worked very well and helped to deliver the story. The costumes by Tanja Hofmann also helped to support the plot and the different characters. Especially the great difference between the working class and Katerina (and her old family).
Musically there were no wishes to be left under the baton of Mariss Jansons. He knows the score perfectly well and conducted a more or less flawless performance with the Wiener Philharmoniker. That is why th several interludes were definitely some great musical highlight. Also the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor gave a brilliant performance with great passion and lovely playfulness.
Most of the many small roles were cast very well and showed the high level of the performance. I especially want to mention Ksenia Dudnikova's dark soft mezzo / alto voice which suited her role very well. Also Stanislav Trofimov as Pope gave a wonderful performance with his drunk acting and a strong imperious voice.
Maxim Paster also convinced as absolutely drunk and wimpy Sinowi. I do not know if he did it on purpose but his tenor voice also gave a very unstable impression which suited the role very well. If this was part of his interpretation it really worked out.
As his father Boris we heard Dmitry Ulyanov who also gave a strong performance with a balanced powerful bass voice and an exciting interpretation. He made such a despicable impression that everyone would have killed him probably.
Tenor Brandon Jovanovich was an incredible Sergei with passion, power, a balanced voice and great acting. I can barely imagine the role to be sung any better and he definitely earned his applause for his highly laddish acting.
Due to the illness of Nina Stemme we had Evgenia Muraveva jumping in and singing the title role instead of the small role of Aksinya. I was really keen to hear Nina Stemme, but I have to say that Miss Muraveva probably did a better job with a beautiful strong soprano voice that is definitely more flexible than Stemme's voice. Muraveva gave a brilliant performance and really kept the excitement on a very high level throughout her performance. What a chance for this singer and maybe we will hear more of her in the future.
Alltogether it really was an exciting performance and another great success for the new director of the Salzburg festival. I would give 9 stars to Lady Macbeth in Salzburg.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Richard Wagner, Lohengrin - Tiroler Festspiele Erl

Performance 29th July

Another final visit, another final review from the little village Erl with the famous Festival. Erl has also been a regular station on my several trips and so I visited the final performance of this festival. As usual the production was led by Gustav Kuhn himself and was rather simple, plain and focused more on the music than on intensive direction. The stage by Jan Hax Halama also only featured a few little details and mainly involved the staircase that goes down into the stage and several platforms for the choir. The costumes by Lenka Radecky also were some sort of historical and futuristic, but looked very elegant. Especially the two female protagonists looked stunning.
Of course also the musical lead was in the hands of Gustav Kuhn who conducted with a lot of experience which sometimes seemed a bit unexciting. Nevertheless he and the Orchester der Tiroler Festspiele Erl did a good job supporting the singers and gave a solid pleasing performance. I also want to mention the Chorakademie which sounded lovely and really powerful.
Michael Kupfer-Radecky was a luxurious Heerrufer with a strong and slender baritone of a very warm and heroic timbre. He gave a great performance and it would have been nice to hear more of him.
Pavel Kudinov sang a very imperious and profound King Heinrich with a sonorous bass voice. Except of some top notes he gave a really wonderful performance and showed a very understanding portrayal. Especially during the first act he simply gave a lovely performance.
As Telramund we heard Michael Mrosek who seemed a bit troubled by the role. Often he had to shorten notes and the top parts of the role definitely brought him to his limits. He seemed more like a parody than actually really intimidating which is not really helpful for that role.
His wife Ortrud was sung by Mona Somm who seemed not to be in best shape too. I know Somm's powerful instrument quite well after her Brünnhilde and her Isolde, but this evening she did not absolutely convince me. Despite her roaring top notes she did not really show the same strenght in the lower register and simply seemed not totally comfortable with the role. I guess Ortrud simply needs a mezzo with good top and not a dramatic soprano.
Joo Anne Bitter as Elsa is best described as probably the best Elsa I ever heard. Her light but rich soprano voice sounds beautiful and controlled throughout her whole range and she perfectly sang the role without any problematic moments. From her first notes to the very last ones she just gave a marvelous performance and despite her singing also looked beautiful with her long flowing blonde hair. BRAVA!
Johannes Chum on the other hand was a more than problematic Lohengrin. He has a very odd timbre and his diction makes me question the language he is singing in. Consonants were barely recognisable and also the vowels sounded pretty much the same most of the time. As if this was not enough he also had to fight for the whole last act and basically had to scream the last 20 minutes in order to get through the performance. I guess the role is just out of his league.
Alltogether it was still a lovely performance and I did not regret the trip. The Lohengrin in Erl gets 7 stars.
✰- - -
Reviewed by Daniel Url