Thursday, 23 June 2016

Ludwig von Beethoven, Fidelio - Wiener Festwochen, Theater an der Wien

Performance 20th June

I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of Fidelio at the Wiener Festwochen on my way back from Berlin. It is the last season of the festival's director Markus Hinterhäuser before he leaves to take over the Salzburg Festival. Unfortunately the Fidelio production was not really a nice one to celebrate his farewell from Vienna. The production led by Achim Freyer (also being responsible for the costumes with Amanda Freyer and the stage with Petra Weikert) was nothing more than a strange freakshow. It was annoying, boring and simply a totally witless production that did not really serve the plot at all. The strange surrealistic costumes and the static stage already bored me after the first 10 minutes. The dialogues have been cut distinctly and did not make any sense anymore most of the time. Also the fact that all the singers remained onstage throughout the whole performance was a very strange idea and surely an additional exposure for the cast.
Musically Mark Minkowski led a very interesting performance with the Les Musiciens du Louvre. He focused on the many different details of the score and the orchestra played very thrillingly with a very direct but still cultivated sound. At certain moments the orchestra was just a bit too loud for the small theatre and could have been a bit calmer. Also sometimes the original sound idea gave a bit of a harsh impression but most of the time it was very interesting to not have a full romantic sound for this opera. The Arnold Schönberg Chor also did a good job having a great dynamic range and a very balanced sound during the prisoner's choir and the finale.
In the short role of the Don Ferrando we heard Georg Nigl who sounded very light, almost like a low tenor, but did a good job overall. The performance could have been a bit more authorious. Julien Behr sang Jaquino and did a very job with that role. His tenor was light, clear and strong enough to be heard over orchestra.
Ileana Tonca on the other hand had some issues with the volume of the orchestra. While having a very lovely beautiful light soprano voice she has covered by the orchestra very easily and had to really fight against it during the lower parts of her role. Franz Hawlata was definitely one of the more pleasing singers of this cast with his profound bass voice. It could have been a little bit more focused and balanced but overall he did a very good job.
Jewgeni Nikitin seemed very unlucky in the role of Don Pizzaro having serious issues with the high tessitura of the role and surprisingly also with the volume of the orchestra. His stamina was just not enough for this role and he seemed very uncomfortable in it most of the time.
Michael König also was not the ideal voice for Florestan. His tenor voice is too lyric and his upper register seemed quite strained. He probably should stick to lighter roles like Max (which he does very well) in order not to damage his voice.
In the title role we heard Christiane Libor who was the only one who really did a very good job. Her voice might already be a bit heavy for Leonore, but she still has the ability to take back her voice to a very delicate piano and still have enough power and stamina to sing the dramatic outbursts appropriately. She maintains a very beautiful timbre throughout her whole range and it was wonderful to hear her.
Alltogether it was a very ambivalent evening that did not really have the quality that you would expect from the Wiener Festwochen. I would still give 7 out of 10 stars (just because of the musical part).
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen - Siegfried - Staatsoper im Schillertheater Berlin

Performance 15th June

Once again I have been lucky and had the chance to see Siegfried as well. Having liked Rheingold very much I was really excited about this performance because the cast was really something not to be missed. The production of Siegfried was not as interesting as Rheingold but also featured really interesting details. Guy Cassiers used the different lightning concepts and the relief walls in the background again even though the effect did not work out as strong as in Rheingold. The stage (Guy Cassiers & Enrico Bagnoli) looked really great during act two with very abstract trees which really looked impressively. Also the staging of Erda's appearance and the awakening of Brünnhilde looked marvelously and had a great impression on me. Tim van Steenbergen's costumes looked very interesting as well. While Alberich and Wotan looked like some sort of bugs, Brünnhilde and Erda wore very elegant dresses and Siegfried looked like a rockstar. The dancers were not as prominent as in Rheingold but were featured in some really important moments. This time the dancing was not as noisy so I really totally enjoyed it this time.
Daniel Barenboim once again did  great job conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin. The dynamic range and the uncompromising accuracy of the orchestra was really compelling. Barenboim had everything under controll and was able to create a wonderful atmosphere and impressive progressions. I loved that he kept the brass down in order to not cover the strings for important motifs.
As the little bird from the forest we heard young Austrian soprano Christina Gansch who has a wonderful light lyric soprano with a very appealing timbre. Having heard her in Salzburg already it was a pleasure to hear her again and a pity that she did not sing more. She performed it very appropriately with a very bright and flexible voice.
Falk Struckmann as Fafner was not as pleasing as in Rheingold. Even though he sang very well and his voice is very powerful I missed the darkness and profundity of this role in his voice. I personally would like to have a very dark and sluggish voice for this role, but as I said it was just a matter of taste.
Jochen Schmeckenbecher once again did a good job as Alberich with his very light clear voice. His performance was thrilling again and very convincing especially during the first scene of act 2. He performed the role very well both, vocally and acting-wise.
As Erda we heard Anna Larsson again who gave a compelling performance. Appearing from a huge heap of fabric she looked marvelous in that dress and was very convincing. Not only vocally with her soft mezzo voice, but also with great mimics and acting.
Stephan Rügamer also sang again, this time as Mime. He did a very good job in this role even though I preferred his Loge because the voice suited this role more. Anyway, his Mime was performed on a very high level as well and he showed a great range of interpretative possibilities.
Iain Paterson sang the role of Wanderer really excitingly and with great authority. His voice seemed to be not totally comfortable with the high parts of the role but he managed everything without any problems. The timbre of his voice seems perfect for this role and his performance was simply thrilling. Especially the great riddle scene of act 1 was one of my highlights of the evening because of his great singing.
The hero of the evening was Andreas Schager as Siegfried proving once again that he is one of the leading Wagner tenors of our times. I do not know what to write about him anymore because it is always the same. His powerful tenor has a very unusually bright timbre and his voice also convinces with great flexibility. His upper register is simply incredible and his stamina really impressive. Already after the first act he totally brought down the house.
With Iréne Theorin he had a Brünnhilde that could easily keep up with him. Her voice is powerful, steely and her high notes are seemingly effortless. But not only can she sing very loudly, she also showed some great piano singing during the final "Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich". I have never heard it so delicately and calmy before. Theorin showed that she simply is one of the few singers out there who can sing this repertoire without ruining their voices. Brava!
Alltogether it was a magic evening that really made my heart beat faster. This was world-class singing and I am really happy that I had the chance to hear it. Therefor there will be 9 stars for the Siegfried at Staatsoper Berlin.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen - Das Rheingold - Staatsoper im Schillertheater Berlin

Performance 11th June

I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first performance of Rheingold of the current Ring at the Staatsoper in Berlin. Unfortunately I got just Rheingold due to the enormous requests. However I was totally happy to have been there because it was a marvelous performance. The production led by Guy Cassiers originally made for Milan is very interesting and features some really great ideas. Especially the stage (Guy Cassiers & Enrico Bagnoli) is quite spectacular and shows some really sophisticated details. The changing walls and the change of perspectives induced by the different lightning was really interesting and a magnificent idea. Also the idea to include dancers to support the plot (choregraphy: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) was brilliant and worked out very well. Only the noises made by the dancing were a little bit disturbing at some point.
Musically Daniel Barenboim managed to conduct a very clear and transparent performance with great accuracy and dramatic feeling. The Staatskapelle Berlin played thrillingly with a great range of dynamics and colours. Especially during the orchestral interludes the orchestra showed great musicality and dramatic drive.
The three Rhinemaidens were sung by Evelin Novak, Anna Danik and Anna Lapkovskaja. The trio was well balanced and vocally more than appropriate. Their voices blended together so well that it was a pleasure to hear them sing.
Fasolt and Fafner were sung by Matti Salminen and Falk Struckmann. Salminen being sort of Wagner royalty still has a great dark bass voice and convinces with a thrilling performance. Struckmann also gave a brilliant performance with a very rough voice and very clear diction.
Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke gave a great performance as Mime with a very flexible voice that has a very natural timbre for a tenor. In the role of Alberich we heard Jochen Schmeckenbecher who convinced with a very aggressive voice. His timbre suits the role very well and his interpretation was very convincing.
In the roles of Donner and Froh we had the luxurious pleasure to hear Roman Trekel and Simon O'Neill. Finally a cast where these two roles are sund by appropriate voices. I think very often these roles are underestimated. Trekel sang a very authoritarian Donner with his heroic noble baritone voice while O'Neill's youthful heroic timbre suited the role of Froh perfectly.
Stephan Rügamer as Loge gave one of the best performances with a very flexible voice and a thrilling interpretation that was full of character and playfulness. His performance was cheeky and shrewd. Anna Larsson sang her signature role, Erda, and did a very good job in it. Her warm and soft mezzo / contralto voice suits the role very well and of course she has a lot of experience singing this role all over the world. Unfortunately there seemed to be a technical issue and so she involuntarily had to remain on stage longer than she probably wanted.
The roles of Fricka and Freia were sung by Ekaterina Gubanova and Anna Samuil. Gubanova was an unusally soft and balanced Fricka with a gorgeous voice. The timbre is sonorous, her transitions are extremely smooth and her diction is exemplary. I never heard such a vocally elegantly Fricka! Samuil's voice on the other hand tended to sound edgy and the intonation seems rather unnaturally. I was not really happy with her performance even though she did not seem to have any problems with the role.
As Wotan we heard Iain Paterson who was a more than appropriate choice. His voice has the necessary heroic noble timbre and also the stamina and power to sing this role appropriately. I would have loved to see his Walküre-Wotan as well for he definitely has the voice to sing these roles on a very high level.
Alltogether it was a great evening which was very impressive. It surely was a brilliant performance and therefor I give 9 stars to the Rheingold at Staatsoper Berlin.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Monday, 13 June 2016

Opera-Talk with Angela Meade

5th June

Being based in Berlin at the moment I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview American soprano Angela Meade who is currently doing the run of Il Trovatore at Deutsche Oper Berlin. Here is the result:

You are known for your Bel Canto and early Verdi roles. What is it that attracts you to this repertoire?
Verdi and the Bel Canto repertoire speak to my soul the way a lot of other composers don’t. I love the visceral aspect of the music. I love the emphasis on the meaning of the words via an extended musical thought. Many people have asked me about when I will take on Wagner and while I’m learning to appreciate it, it doesn’t give me the immediate emotional response Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini do.
Most of your roles feature a lot of vocal acrobatics, which you master so easily. How do you prepare for these demands?
It takes a lot of practice. Singing coloratura, pianissimo high notes and maintaining excellent breath control throughout a role, takes practice. When I first started singing this repertoire, it obviously took more time because the trademark passagework was new and unfamiliar to me. The more I sing this repertoire though, the more easily it comes to me because the patterns and the style are the same. I remember when I was offered my first Rossini role (Semiramide), I thought to myself, “oh goodness, I don’t know if my voice will move that fast! There are SO many notes and how will I ever remember what comes next and what goes where” but of course it ended up being fine, it just took a lot of study to figure out what sorts of patterns Rossini uses and then to memorize those patterns. I sang a lot of Mozart throughout my schooling and the principles of singing all that Mozart translated into knowing how to sing Rossini as well as establishing my breath control for Bellini and Donizetti. Singing Verdi well comes out of the ability to sing Bel Canto well. All singing should be based on a good Bel Canto foundation. 
How do you start learning a new role?
I like to listen through many recordings with as many of my inspirational singers (Caballé, Sutherland, Margaret Price, Jessye Norman, Leontyne Price, Callas) as possible to get a flavour for the piece, with score in hand and see how it strikes me initially. I’ll research what the story is and if there is original source material to read, I’ll read it. Then I’ll start translating the score into my native tongue so that I can make more sense of the flow of the text. After that, I’ll take it to the piano and work through recitatives because they take the longest to inhabit your body. The sweeping melodies of arias and ensembles sink in fast, but the recitatives take longer to settle and are more reliant on others so that you have a flow of natural speech. Once I’ve worked on the music and text on my own for a while, I’ll take it to a coach.
What is you dream role? Have you sung it yet?
I don’t know that I have a dream role. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a dream role. I’m very fortunate that I adore the repertoire I sing, but I’m not certain there is one role over another that I would rather sing. I have already sung the vast majority of the standard (and some not so standard) Bel Canto and early Verdi repertoire. I have enjoyed all of it. There are many sections of various roles that I find move me more than others. For example: Act IV of Il Trovatore; Act IV of Ernani; the end of Act 1 of Anna Bolena and the final scena; the very end of Norma when she is pleading with her father; the final scena of Beatrice di Tenda; the duet with Jacopo in I Due Foscari; Parisina’s Act II aria into the sleeping scena; Com’è bello and the obscure inserted cabaletta of Lucrezia Borgia. I am an emotionally sensitive person, so situational drama in terms of death (of my own character or another) seem to move me the most.
What is the future bringing? Any new roles? More in Europe?
I am finding myself in Europe more and more. I will be doing concert versions of Rossini’s Ermione in Moscow, Lyon and Paris, all of which will be debuts for me, as well as Norma at Teatro Real in Madrid in October and Anna Bolena at Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville in December. The new year will bring with it a new role, that of Lina in Stiffelio at ABAO in Bilabo.
Do you have an idol /role model?
I would probably have to say overall it would be Montserrat Caballé.  I think I’m a pretty sensitive singer and I would say I learned how to float pianissimos from listening to her. I love the beauty and the sincerity she brings to her portrayals.
What made you want to be a singer?
I always dreamed of being a singer, although I had little to no knowledge about opera and classical singing as a child so I didn’t know that was an option as a career. I suppose I could say it found me. I was in community college thinking I was going to be a doctor. I was taking all sorts of pre-med classes but wasn’t fulfilled or engaged in what I was doing. As an elective, I was participating in the college choir and it was there that I felt part of something I loved to do. The director of the college choir approached me and pointed out that I was musical and had a lovely voice and wanted to know if I had interest in studying voice with a friend of hers. I was immediately in love with the idea. So I went to study with him and he introduced me to opera. He gave me a couple of operatic arias (Susanna’s Deh vieni, non tardar and Cleopatra’s V’adoro pupille”) and I instantly fell in love with the style of the music and the how natural this type of singing felt to me. I loved how I felt when I sang this type of music. It felt free to me. It felt like I was able to access deep emotions and express them through my voice. So I decided after about a year of study with him, I transferred to a four year university to pursue my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and it all snowballed from there. I had become completely taken with this thing called opera. I was so curious about everything. I wanted to learn everything about it.
How would you describe your voice yourself?
What a hard question for a singer to answer about themselves because the way I perceive my voice I don’t think is necessarily how the audience perceives it.
I hear honey in my voice in the top when I sing pianissimos. I hear metal sometimes in the middle to upper passaggio when I sing Verdi and some of the more dramatic Bel Canto like Norma. I think my voice is loud and full of presence but not in a harsh way, but more in a round, warm, enveloping way.  I think my voice is full of overtones. I think it has the ability to be very colourful and to express different emotions.
You’re currently singing Leonora in Il Trovatore here in Berlin. What kind of woman is she for you and what vocal difficulties does the role have?
Leonora is a strong woman on the outside who is scared and delicate on the inside. She wants nothing more than to love and be loved by Manrico. When put in a situation she can’t handle emotionally, she goes to extremes. First when she thinks Manrico is dead, she commits her life to a convent and then when she thinks he is dead or going to be killed at the end of the opera, she takes her own life to save his or to be with him in death.  She can’t fathom life without him.
Vocally speaking, the demands on Leonora are immense. Verdi has given her every technical demand. She must sing long legato lines; soaring, floated high notes; she must ride over the ensemble in Act II; she must move from floating in the highest registers down into her middle and chest voice in just a page and she must have incredible stamina to move through D’amor, the Miserere and Tu Vedrai seamlessly. Act IV is the most intense for her because the singing demands are nonstop.
The production of Hans Neuenfels is quite progressive even though it is 20 years old. How do you experience it as someone who is involved?
When I first learned what the production was, I was a little taken back because I thought a lot of it had nothing to do with the text or even the story in general. It is hard to bring a character to life when your circumstances are counterintuitive to what you’re saying. The more I rehearsed though,  the more I was like “oh ok I guess I can sort of see how this might work”. You have to start to think about it in a different way. It has been a very interesting experience for me to think about her differently than I always have. Even though I’m a traditionalist in terms of productions, I can now see how this production explores and emphasizes the darker side of the story and of people and humanity in general.
What do you think about Berlin and the Deutsche Oper?
Berlin has really grown on me. I was just saying to my husband the other day that if we had to move Europe, that I could definitely see myself living in Berlin. Last time I was only here for a week or ten days so this time I’ve been able to settle into the lifestyle of the city. The vibe is relaxed and peaceful and I like that. Coming to sing at Deutsche Oper has been a pleasure both times. It’s a great house with lots of international artists, so you feel like you are at home, even though you aren’t. It’s very welcoming and inviting. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Giacomo Puccini, Tosca - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Performance 9th June

After seeing Tosca at the Staatsoper last week I went to see the production at Deutsche Oper with a wonderful cast. The production itself is probably the oldest one I have ever seen (premiered in 1969) but was simply wonderful to look at and very well done. Boleslaw Barlog created a very realistic atmosphere and brought some real drama onstage. The conduction of the characters was great and included so many sophisticated details which showed that he was really dealing with the characters and the plot. Stage and costumes were made by Filippo Sanjust and looked marvelous. Especially the elegant costumes were stunning and created a very convincing atmosphere. My favorite part of the staging was the scenery of the final act with the wonderful Castel Sant'Angelo and the view over the roofs of Rome. The continuos increase of light created the sensation of a real daybreak. This whole act worked out simply perfect including a wonderful jump of our Tosca in the end.
Musically it was even more convincing. I do not know how he did it but Stefano Ranzani created some real magic this evening. His interpretation was clear, balanced and showed a huge dynamic range. The Orchester der Deutschen Oper was phenomenal and played so excitingly that the whole performance was ravishing experience. Especially the dramatic outbreaks were marvelous but also the intimate parts sounded really brilliantly. I never heard such a thrilling Tosca before (from the orchestral point of view).
The smaller roles were casted solidly and appropriate with Dong-Hwan Lee (Jailer), Andrew Harris (Sciarrone) and Jörg Schörner (Spoletta). Especially Schörner convinced with his performance as disgusting devious servant of Scarpia.
Jan Martinik once again gave a very convincing performance as Sacristan as in the week before at the Staatsoper. Also really well casted for such a small role was Derek Welton as Angelotti. His heroic youthful baritone voice suited the role perfectly and one wished that he had more to sing.
The antagonist of the opera, Scarpia, was sung by Ambrogio Maestri who has a very powerful heroic voice and a great acting talent. His performance was totally convincing and showed why Maestri is one of the leading baritones for Italian opera currently. His voice covers quite a range and has a very characteristic dramatic timbre. His whole performance was very enjoyable and appropriate.
Roberto Aronica also gave a wonderful performance as Cavaradossi. His tenor voice has a very light timbre but quite some power and his top register works seemingly effortlessly. His performance was captivating and convincing. Especially the third act was very touching and somehow seemed very naturally.
Adrianne Pieczonka sang the title role and gave a very good performance. Her steely voice has very smooth transitions even though the timbre is quite edgy. Besides her vocal power her voice is able to cut through the orchestra without any problems. Her portrayal was very touching and showed that she has very good acting skills. Her despair in act two looked so real and made the audience empathise with her.
My overall impression was very good and I had a lovely evening. This production shows that old production do not have to be uninteresting and most current directors could learn a lot of it. Therefor I would give 9 stars to Tosca at Deutsche Oper Berlin.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde - Deutsche Oper Berin

Performance 5th June

Tristan und Isolde is a piece that changed the course of music history and marks a transition that ultimately led to Schönberg and the second Viennese school. Also Tristan has a strange effect on people (certainly not everyone, but many people). It leads to a state of ecstacy, yeah a real jag or "Wagnerrausch" in German. Especially the second act is simply enchanting and is full of mystic sounds and the most yearning music.
The production of Graham Vick seems quite strange in the beginning, but has quite interesting ideas and ultimately does a pretty good job. The stage (Paul Brown) looks like some sort of hotel room/lobby with great windows, a sofa and elegant interior. The whole business look of the costumes (also Paul Brown) is quite sober, but doesn't really bother. I especially liked the idea that Tristan and Isolde are old people in the finale act (playing in some sort of retirement home).
Donald Runnicles created a great atmosphere and showed a very clear but also misterious interpretation of the score. The prelude started out of nothing and gave me goosebumps all over my body. The Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin followed his lead very well and gave an astonishing performance. Especially the range of colors in the second act was impressive. The Chor der Deutschen Oper seemed a bit uncoordinated at certain moments but they gave a solid performance overall.
In the smaller roles we heard Seth Carico (Steuermann), Attilio Glaser (Stimme eines jungen Steuermanns) and Peter Maus (Hirt). Seth Carico probably made female hearts beat higher when he appeared for his phrase dressed with nothing than a towel and some shaving foam. However, all three of them gave solid performances during their short appearances.
Jörg Schörner sang the role of Melot with a tenor voice that sounded as if it could definitely handel bigger Wagner roles than that. One of my personal highlights was Tanja Ariane Baumgartner as Brangäne. Her slim, but still powerful mezzo voice suited the role perfectly and her performance was simply brilliant. For sure the best Brangäne I have heard live so far!
Also Ryan McKinney as Kurwenal gave a great performance. Both, his acting and singing, were wonderful and his dark sonorous baritone voice definitely would make a great Wotan. He was not only a handsome Kurwenal, but also a very skillful actor and sang his part marvelously, so it was a pleasure to be there to hear him in this role.
As King Marke we heard Albert Pesendorfer who gave a very touching performance. He conveyed the whole drama and the despair of his character really well. His voice is perfect for these Wagner bass roles and his performance was totally satisfying.
Stephen Gould mastered the role of Tristan without any problems. Even though he sounded a bit strained during some top notes he convinced with great stamina and power until the very end. Especially the third act was spectacular with his dramatic outbreaks which he pulled off very well. He seemed to have arranged his ressources really appropriately. He surely is one of the leading Tristans and Wagner tenor in general.
Another leading Wagner singer was performing the role of Isolde. Nina Stemme convinces with the sheer power of her steely soprano which sounds very controlled. Not only can she sing loudly, she is also still able to keep the volume down and sing calmly and intimately. Her high notes are simply glorious and she has everything that this role is calling for.
After the performance the audience went crazy with bravo shouts that almost brought down the house. Totally earned the artists enjoyed the huge exaltation. Alltogether it was a magic evening and a highly recommendable performance that earns 9 stars.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

Gioachino Rossini, Il Barbiere di Siviglia – Aalto-Theater Essen

Performance 4th June

With The Barber of Seville the Aalto-Theater staged its last premiere in this season. Therefore worked Jan Philipp Gloger together with Ben Baur (set design) and Marie Roth (costumes) to invent an overall well-thought-out interpretation of Rossinis opera buffa. For this Figaro put Rosina already during the overture into a wooden box where she had to live over the opera’s full length. That means that the whole story took place in a huge wooden box. Rosina were caught in this box, could not escape and functioned as a buyable article and not so much as an human being with true feelings of love. To point out her status as an object did Rosina wear a red dress and a grand red bow. Karin Strobos showed her Rosina in a multifaceted way. In the high register as well in the lower one came Strobos with a strong and richly coloured voice. Her interactional play especially with Count Almaviva entertained the audience for great laughter. Laughing was definitely allowed and favoured. It started right at the beginning of the overture when Figaro entered the stage with a baton and tried to conduct the orchestra. Through the whole opera Figaro stayed in this role of the conductor and directed the situations and persons on stage. Georgius Iatrou mimed a pretty casual Figaro who loves it when everything works as he predicted and planed. It was very clear that Iatrou was quite nervous at the beginning. His entrance aria seemed to be as in a rush. Towards the end of the first half his voice cleared up so his mild baritone voice appeared and brought an impishly figure whose singing showed a friendly character but whose gestures were full of evil purpose. Count Almaviva on the contrary was the always Rosina loving character who trusted Figaro’s talent to bring him together with his beloved girl. Juan José de León made sheep’s eyes at his Rosina with an impressive powerful voice where his high notes were extremely strong and thrilling. Also León’s playing came naturally and with joy. Quite differently where his appearance in the second act when Almaviva enters the stage as a pretended  music teacher and cover for the origin music teacher Don Basilio. Likewise Don Basilio, were Almaviva dressed in a long black leather coat and imitated an ageing rocker. His aria pace e gioia sia con vio! did he not sung in a nicely operatic way but screamed it; another hilarious detail in this production. The actual music teacher Don Basilio was performed by Tijil Faveyts. He was an unagitated character whose best years were definitely over. Faveyts showed this attitude with a straight and calm singing and great legatos. His employer Don Bartolo were sung by Baurzhan Anderzhanov. Superb amusing were his mimicry of Rosina. With lightness and great expression in his voice gave Anderzhanov an agitated Bartolo; totally in contrast to Basilio. Generally every single character had its precise unique character which enhanced all the performance and underlined the theatric character of this opera buffa.
The Essener Philharmoniker under the conducting of Giacomo Sagripanti played accurate and precise in partly quicker and partly slower speed as common. The choir of Aalto-Theater (rehearsal: Patrick Jasolka) integrated nicely in the tumultuous scenes.
For this interesting interpretation of Rossini’s opera hit in the box and the strong cast, I give 7 out of 10 stars.
Reviewed by Christine Arnold

Monday, 6 June 2016

Richard Wagner, Lohengrin - Semperoper Dresden

Performance 29th May

I had the enormous pleasure to see the final performance of the current Lohengrin run at the Semperoper Dresden which was highly anticipated because of the phenomenal cast. I have to say I rarely heard such intensive applause (already after the first act) before.
The production of Christine Mielitz is over 30 years old and really conventional and a bit cheesy. You could tell by the conduction of the roles that it is quite old even thought the choir parts were positioned quite effectively. The stage and the historical costumes (Peter Heilein) looked very beautifully and elegantly. Especially the second act was better simply because of the wonderful majestic scenery.
Christian Thielemann led his orchestra, the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, and showed why they are known for their distinct sound. He really is the leading conductor for Wagner at the moment and the Staatskapelle played marvelously. The range of different colours and timbres was simply magnificent. The Semperopernchor also sounded brilliantly that evening with a great dynamic range from the most intimate piano to the majestic choir scenes in the second act.
Derek Welton sang a very refined Heerrufer with his youthful heroic baritone voice. He definitely is on a good way and might be doing bigger roles soon. Georg Zeppenfeld as Heinrich gave a solid performance as always. I actually even thought that this role suits his noble dignified bass voice better than Hunding for example. His singing suits the role of a kind exceptionally well and the audience loved his performance.
Tomasz Konieczny gave his debut as Telramund and did a great job. His voice managed the high parts of the role really impressively without lacking the necessary darkness and dramatic power in the lower register. I thought he was brilliant and a very appropriate casting choice.
I have never really been a fan of Evelyn Herlitzius and her ruptured voice, but I have to say that her Ortrud was really amazin. Not necessarily because of her vocal performance, but because of her incredibla acting skills. Every single look has a meaning and she rules the stage without making any noise. Of course also the stamina of her voice is impressive, but the sound is just not very pleasant and the transitions everything but smooth. However her performance suited the role wonderfully and I have to admit that it was a pleasure to see her.
Of course the most anticipated performance was given by Anna Netrebko as Elsa making her Wagner debut. Of course I do not have to write about her voice, because everyone knows that it is powerful, beautiful and gained a lot of weight, especially in the lower register. The interesting thing is her interpretation. She sang her Elsa quite verismo-like and her German (which many people were worried about) was very clear, even over articulated. I think that she needs to do it more often and get into this music a bit more, because this run obviously came with a lot of pressure. Her performance was wonderful, but could need some refinement, which will surely come with time passing by.
The other awaited debut was given by Piotr Beczala in the title role. His voice has the power and surprisingly now also the heroic timbre needed for the role. The bright timbre and his beautiful legato phrasing are simply perfect for the role. Only the very top register could be a bit more heroic, but I am sure this will happen soon. I have never heard a Lohengrin of such vocal quality and he will definitely go on doing it and work on it. The only thing that was a bit odd is his acting which seems at least as old-fashioned as the production itself.
Alltogether it might have been a very unusual performance, but definitely a highly professional performance that was totally worth seeing it. Therefor I would give 9 stars.
Reviewed by Daniel Url