Madame Butterfly @ Brussels

de-munt-mzcwmtu3mdu4mgExcept for a Japanese-looking roof which hangs mid-air, the stage is empty. But this becomes the strength of the production, which plays with lighting, panels and props being taken on and off stage swiftly, and this results in a flexible and lively, never boring change of moods and feelings. Many scenes turned out beautifully, such as the binoculars with projected boat during the waiting scene or the flowers during the women’s duet. The fact that Butterfly was a doll throughout the show maneuvered by 3 puppeteers, while Miss Voulgaridou stood at the corner of the stage dressed in a kimono, impressed me less.

de-munt-mjuyntq4mzazoqThe musical part was less exciting. I don’t know which of the many reviewed versions was played (after the fiasco of the first 1904 production in Milan, Puccini changed the score several times) but the second and third act are interminable and one of the reasons not to play Puccini too often. I enjoyed all singers except Pinkerton, who had a very tremulous voice with a top register reached only with strain. The conductor did a good job also but I sometimes felt a drop in emotional participation. Oh and by the way, the humming chorus is supposed to hum, not sing on the “u”, small detail, but changed the mood completely.

Muzikale leiding-Roberto Brizzi-Bignoli, Regie-Kirsten Dehlholm (Hotel Pro Forma), Artistiek medewerker-Jon R. Skulberg, Decors-Maja Ziska, Kostuums-Hernik Vibskov, Belichting-Jesper Kongshaug, Cio Cio San-Alexia Voulgaridou, Suzuki-Ning Liang, Kate Pinkerton-Marta Beretta, B.F. Pinkerton-Marcelo Puente, Sharpless-Aris Argiris, Goro-Riccardo Botta, Il Principe Yamadori-Aldo Heo, Lo zio Bonzo-Mikhail Kolelishvili, Il commissario/l’ufficiale-Wiard Witholt, Yakusidé-René Laryea, Madre di Cio Cio San-Birgitte Bonding, Zia di Cio Cio San-Rosa Brandao, Cugina di Cio Cio San-Adrienne Visser

A new view on Die Zauberflöte @ Gent

34A0339How many Zauberflöte can one watch without start to be bored? I mean…the  priggish Sarastro is unbearable, the writing of the libretto awful with much racism and sexism, the horrible duet for the two priests etc etc etc etc… So well done David Hermann in giving the story a completely new interpretation. This was not without a proper tweak at the libretto, but OK….the horrible duet of the priests stayed horrible, but it was the first Zauberflöte (after my first and the Kosky one), where I did not leave somewhere before said duet.

diezauberflote-03-mg-4839-cannemieaugustijns-webExcept for the opening scene, which looks a bit post-apocalyptic and where the three ladies are constantly in contact with each other, moving like a menacing blob, the sets bring us to what looks like rural America, a small house in the prairie (I guess where people are held hostage and tortured). Sarastro is the ruthless, misogynistic leader who is into taxidermy, abusive of Pamina, and heartlessly kills the Queen and the ladies at the end. Papagena is a handicapped hostage in wheelchair and Papageno is an ape-like creature that crutches when frightened and hisses like a cat when he is scared. He brings hunted birds to the three ladies at the beginning. The ladies don’t offer a flute and glockenspiel to Tamino and Papageno, but a revolver and gas bombs, the latter of which Papageno uses to knock out Monostatos. The opera ends with Sarastro smoking a cigar on his patio (after killing the Queen and the ladies); Pamina and Tamino come back and shoot him dead, presumably ending the cycle of horror. It’s one of these staging which reading would have made me think it’s a bad Regietheater. Regietheater it is, but a refreshing interpretation well thought through. The sets are beautifully designed, alternate at almost every scene and the changes are swift.

34A0571The orchestra gave a beautiful performance, playing clear and transparently with Jan Schweiger at its head, who made me fear the worst with the too solemnly played opening bars, but who excellently conducted with vibrant dynamism. Tarver has a hard time to find delicacy in the higher notes, Miss Sabirova was not completely fluid with a barely touched f in O zittre nicht, Josef Wagner also a bit hefty as Papageno, but overall the cast was very good. Lore Binon interpreted a beautifully sung, pure and clear-voiced Pamina. I’d love to hear more of her. Sarastro doesn’t seem to have secrets for Ante Jerkunica, who displays an attractive and warm timbre, especially in the deepest register, the best Sarastro I’ve ever heard.

Muzikale leiding-Jan Schweiger, Regie-David Hermann, Décor, Kostuums-Christof Hetzer, Belichting-Bernd Purkrabek, Dramaturgie-Luc Joosten, Sarastro-Ante Jerkunica, Koningin van de nacht-Hulkar Sabirova, Tamino-Kenneth Tarver, Pamina-Lore Binon, Papageno-Josef Wagner, Papagena-Morgane Heyse, Monostatos-Michael J. Scott, Erste Dame-Hanne Roos, Zweite Dame-Tineke Van Ingelgem, Dritte Dame-Raehann Bryce-Davis, Sprecher-Evgeny Solodovnikov, Priester/Geharnischter-Evgeny Solodovnikov, Priester/Geharnischter –Stephan Adriaens, Knaben-Katrijn Van Cauwenberghe, Merel De Coorde, Giulia Schoofs

200th birthday for Rossini’s Otello in Naples

49889-myimageRossini’s Otello was one of the most represented operas of the XIX century, it was written in Naples for some of the best singers of Italy. Isabella Colbran, soon to become Rossini’s wife, was famous for the big range of her voice as well as her actorial skills, depicting heroins “with real sentiment and great passion” as Spohr penned down when he heard her in Elisabetta. All operas that were composed for Isabella Colbran had long and elaborated scenes which allowed her to show off her dramatic skills. In fact, Rossini made his Otello an opera about Desdemona, frail in the first act, the second act is centered around her distress and excitement while the third act intensifies her personal tensions and emotions even more, bringing the opera to a tragic close. Andrea Nozzari and Giovanni David were two famous tenors. David the flexible tenore contraltino, usually employed for the lovers’ roles, and Nozzari the baritonal tenor, usually the temperamental antagonist. For these voices he created most of his Neapolitan operas who are regarded as his masterpieces, such as La donna del lago, Ricciardo e Zoraide, Zelmira, Armida etc. It was in Neaples where Rossini could be the most creative, opening to new musical forms and modernizing the repertoire which was not possible elsewhere. Otello also finishes with a death on stage, something that was unthinkable in other parts of Italy (although just a few months before Carafa composed Gabriella di Vergy with tragic ending, which had a tremendous success).
Otello was performed first in the Teatro del Fondo (now Teatro Mercadante) on 4th December 1816 as the main Neapolitan stage, the Teatro di San Carlo, burnt down a year earlier but was moved to the San Carlo the 18th January 1817. Although the libretto was criticized for not being completely faithful to Shakespeare, the opera was a complete and utter triumph that pleased people all over Europe for decades, making Desdemona the warhorse for such primadonnas as Ronzi, Pasta, Malibran and Grisi, just to mention a few (I refer to another blog for an extensive article on Rossini s Desdemona http://ilcorrieredellagrisi.blogspot.be/2008/07/il-mito-della-primadonna-desdemona-di.html). The public and critics praised especially Isabella Colbran’s interpretation of Desdemona emphasizing that “….this unequaled actress inspires in all minds the most affectionate feelings of melancholy, and the strongest commotions of the tragic terror. Ms. Colbran, great in the so-called bravura pieces, most praised in the arpeggios and the rapid coloratura, has no equal in the tragic or declamatory music or in the difficult talent of expressiveness”. (Giornale delle due Sicilie). Well done therefore, the Teatro di San Carlo, which staged Otello exactly 200 years after its premiers and the excitement was great to hear it in exactly the same location.

untitledThe settings are beautifully designed by Dante Ferretti, who brings us from a ship interiour in the first act , to a big room with fire place in 16th century Venice in the Act II to Desdemona’s bedroom in the third act (well, a carpet with a few cushions…). Set, costumes and colours matched all very well. I was less enthusiastic about the direction. Amos Gitai wants to link Otello’s story with today’s immigrant issue and projects war landscapes, boats full of immigrants and the likes in regular frequency (3 or 4 times if i remember well). But these projections feel a bit like a “mistake”, in the sense that it felt like someone switched on the projections by accident, and then turned them off again so that the show could continue…very bizarre… And this is all the director could think of as the singers move very conventionally and the chorus is motionless.

49890-otello-gaia-petrone-nino-machaidze-c-luciano-romano-san-carlo-cropI enjoyed all singers of the first cast. Excellent Nino Machaidze, though with an harsh timbre and not always an exemplary legato, the voice moves effortlessly over the whole range and displays remarkable coloratura. Features that she shares with John Osborne, who i remember more audacious in other productions i saw him in, but nonetheless an exquisite Otello. Somewhat careful Dmitry Korchak as Jago but very very enjoyable nonetheless in a very difficult role. A bit short in the higher register Mirco Palazzi. Gaia Petrona had a nice warm timbre and convinced as Emilia. Of the second cast I particularly enjoyed Sergey Romanovsky, a tenor to watch carefully, as his rendering of Otello was very exciting with no problems neither in the baritonal register or in the coloratura with an agreeable timbre. I found Carmen Romeu not as convincing as when she sang the same role in Gent a few years back with a voice more tired and her usual issues with intonation. Rodrigo was a role too big, I felt, for Giorgio Misseri, who had slight issues in the runs as well as the high register.

Worst was the conductor though, who dragged everybody into an expensive nap. Nomen est omen I would say, for Ferro (it: iron). Except for strette, which get a bit speedier, he directs with crawling tempi, rolls over the score with flattening carelessness, without rubati, without emotion. Even when the singers accelerate a little because the music requires it, he beats tempi like he would stir polenta. With unclear beats the orchestra shows unclean cues. A disaster is the whole finale of act I where several different pieces follow one another with different tempi, different emotions. In theory! Because Ferro, with metronomic lethargy, beats the rhythm with no crescendo, rallentandi, accelerandi, oblivious to the whole armamentarium to create a pulsating and exciting sound. The recitativi are ever so boring as Ferro adds so many little pauses between the beats and everything seems endless. What a catastrophy!

Direttore-Gabriele Ferro, Regia-Amos Gitai, Regista collaborator-Mariano Bauduin, Scene-Dante Ferretti, Costumi-Gabriella Pescucci, Light Designer-Vincenzo Raponi, Videoproiezioni-Alessandro Papa, Otello-John Osborn/Sergey Romanovsky, Desdemona-Nino Machaidze/Carmen Romeu, Rodrigo-Dmitry Korchak/Giorgio Misseri, Jago-Juan Francisco Gatell, Emilia-Gaia Petrone, Elmiro-Mirco Palazzi, Il Doge-Nicola Pamio, Il gondolier, Lucio-Enrico Iviglia. Naples 2 and 3 december 2016.

 

Rosmonda d’Inghilterra @ Bergamo

15181585_10157702911585307_2885008798243261315_nA belcanto opera that doesn’t close with one of the main characters’ aria!! The Rosmonda d’Inghilterra performed in Bergamo was the one revised for a Naples production, which changes mainly queen Leonora’s role: a different aria for the introduction and no final aria at the end. In fact it finishes in pianissimo and this makes the opera appear a bit crippled. Nonetheless I must thank the Donizetti Festival for staging such a rare opera, which contains much beautiful music. Unfortunately the tenor has an ugly timbre, his voice strains as soon as the line touches the first high notes and the few runs are very stiff. The Arturo of Raffaella Lupinacci is adequate but disappears in ensembles. I liked both the warm-voiced Ulivieri and Mei, good for the respective roles. Eva Mei (who sang from the curtain with a mime acting in Act I), a bit good-natured to sing the jealous queen and determined to kill her rival, nonetheless has a good voice also in the low notes and in her middle to high register she becomes more convincing as the voice rises. Jessica Pratt, although always a bit cold on stage, was vocally perfect for the role of the unfortunate Rosmonda. All pieces, includig her entrance aria, Perché non ho del vento (used by Donizetti for French version of Lucie de Lammermoor and written for the same primadonna as Rosmonda, namely Fanny Tacchinardi Persiani), were sung with aplomb and exemplary technique, reaching high notes with ease.

The setting was extremely simple, two sliding panels which separate rooms from scene to scene, a table and a chair. But this didn’t do much harm. The chorus, I thought, was better directed than the singers and the beautifully designed costumes provided a nice contrast to the black background. The conductor supported all singers well without overindulging in spirit.

 

Direttore-Sebastiano Rolli, Regia-Paola Rota, Scene e luci-Nicolas Bovey, Costumi-Massimo Cantini Parrini, Assistente alla regia-Irene Petris, Assistente ai costume-Jessica Zambelli, Rosmonda-Jessica Pratt, Leonora-Eva Mei, Enrico-Dario Schmunck, Clifford-Nicola Ulivieri, Arturo-Raffaella Lupinacci

Picture from Jessica Pratt’s facebook page

Les Huguenots @ Deutsche Oper Berlin

downloadLes Huguenots is maybe the most perfect example of Grand Opéra and explains why, in recent years, has been Meyerbeer’s opera with the most revivals (and still not enough IMO). In Les Huguenots (Opéra, Paris 1836), everything blends perfectly together: a grand tragic event where personal conflicts and real historic events come together with much attention to details. Additionally Meyerbeer is master in musically blending French, German and Italian styles. The presence of ballets and the skillful maneuvering of alternate crowd and solo scenes only adds to the “Grand” of the opera. Directing tragic events such as the Saint Bartholomew’s massacre is certainly not easy, but Alden chooses to show us the more trivial things. A musically dramatic scene is shown with singers and choir still on stage which is extremely sad in the third act where the choir has such a prominent role. Not only because it’s a “grand” opera where it’d be nice if the choir moves at least to some extent but especially in Les Huguenots where there are two parties opposing each other. The story is impossible to follow like this. Other times the director makes the characters move in the music’s rhythm in silly movements (the cleaning ladies with dusting feathers…), which distorts the plot, and elicits laughs from the public.The characterization of the single characters, the mass movements, the body language that characters speak to each other, everything is so conventional, without any ideas, very boring. Furthermore the setting to me looked exactly like a granary or a warehouse where to store old, unused rubbish. The chairs folded on top of each other, the horses, the bell….everything seemed to confirm that view. There is a beautiful staging by Olivier Py, getting dusty in Brussels. Why reinvent the wheel (and a ugly wheel that is).

 

download-1Only half of the singers were convincing. I liked Ante Jerkunica. Although a bit short in the higher register, he has a nice bass voice and interpreted very well. Also short, but in the low notes, was Olesya Golovneva. But in her case being short is more damaging because of the importance of her role and additionally i would have wished a bit more colour in her interpretation. Beautiful ringing high notes, though, but not enough to make a good Valentine. Patrizia Ciofi has still some arrows to her bow and sings her entrance aria acceptably (ugly-ish final acuto though) but already her duet with Raoul loses lightness due to her stopping the flow as she is aiming her notes carefully. Juan Diego Florez sings very well, as usually, but coming from belcanto he lacks the right weight and personality and almost authority of the character rendering Raoul almost a bit unexciting. At the end one can hear the fatigue. But well he sings. Very well the Urbain of Irene Roberts in a part excellently sung with a voice well supported. Michele Mariotti, except for rhythmically more intricate pieces which would have required more clarity, supports the singers well but the score never really shines, is not exciting in its musical flow, the lines lose tension and are a bit emotionless.

26/11/16, Deutsch Oper Berlin, Musikalische Leitung-Michele Mariotti, Inszenierung-David Alden, Bühne-Giles Cadle, Kostüme-Constance Hoffman, Licht-Adam Silverman, Choreografie-Marcel Leemann, Dramaturgie-Jörg Königsdorf, Curt A. Roesler, Marguerite von Valois-Patrizia Ciofi, Graf von Saint-Bris-Derek Welton, Graf von Nevers-Marc Barrard, Valentine-Olesya Golovneva, Urbain-Irene Roberts, Tavannes / 1. Mönch-James Kryshak, Cossé-Jörg Schörner, Méru / 2. Mönch-John Carpenter, Thoré / Maurevert-Alexei Botnarciuc, de Retz / 3. Mönch-Taiyu Uchiyama, Raoul von Nangis-Juan Diego Flórez, Marcel-Ante Jerkunica, Bois-Rosé-Robert Watson, Ein Nachtwächter-Dong-Hwan Lee, Zwei Hofdamen/Zwei katholische Mädchen-Adriana Ferfezka, Abigail Levis

Fotos from the internet page of the Deutsch Oper Berlin

Die Zauberflöte by Barrie Kosky @ Komische Oper Berlin

Extremely enjoyable this Zauberflöte by Barrie Kosky, a direction that toured quite some cities in the last few years and marked the 100th performance and the 4th anniversary in Berlin that very day of 25th November. This magic flute is special in that the recitativi are shortened to just a few scenes where subtitles are projected on the screen as if people would utter them. A bit silent movie-like. The singers appear and disappear from revolving doors and the whole story is cartooned around them with synchronised accuracy. The advantage is an extremely lively and flowing plot which has no downside except for the odd displeasure given by computer generation. The disadvantage is that singers and orchestra have only little liberty, musically speaking, to freely move in this pre-built and inflexible matrix. I am not sure whether the almost absence of rubati was due to the conductor or the concept of direction. But all in all an original direction that offered an enjoyable evening with overall good singing.

 

 

25/11/2016, Komische Oper, Berlin, Musikalische Leitung-Christian Kluxen, Inszenierung-Suzanne Andrade, Barrie Kosky, Animationen-Paul Barritt, Bühnenbild, Kostüme-Esther Bialas, Dramaturgie-Ulrich Lenz, Licht-Diego Leetz, Pamina-Maureen McKay, Tamino-Adrian Strooper, Königin der Nacht-Nora Friedrichs, Sarastro / Sprecher-Andreas Bauer, Papageno-Tom Erik Lie, Papagena-Julia Giebel, Monostatos-Peter Renz, Erste Dame-Nina Bernsteiner, Zweite Dame-Karolina Gumos, Dritte Dame-Caren van Oijen, Erster geharnischter Mann-Christoph Späth, Zweiter geharnischter Mann-Daniil Chesnokov, Drei Knaben-Solisten des Tölzer Knabenchores

Don Giovanni @ Liége

don_giovanni_site_c_lorraine_wauters_-_opera_royal_de_wallonie-19-1It is the Belgian film director Jaco van Dormael who was in charge of the direction of the Liège Don Giovanni. The opera opens with Donna Anna swimming in her outside swimming pool, the balcony and the wide terrace dominated only by black. A huge tilted mirror allows to see the inside of the pool. With the appearance of Donna Elvira the huge mirror lowers (in fact a hidden platform) to show the interior of an office, again all in black. Jaco van Dormael sets the time in our days, Don Giovanni is a an avid office clerk that spends his money as quickly as he uses women, drinks alcohol, and of course uses cocaine. All works acceptably well, some of the singers are better actor than others and except for the all black set (who would even choose that??) a few laps in taste and a slow act I finale, the show is agreeable to watch. A comment for the Liège Opera house and whoever decides on the program booklet….I hated that Don Giovanni’s plot was told the way it’s directed: “Act II: Don Giovanni and Leporello have cocaine powder all over their faces”…. Really…???

don_giovanni_site_c_lorraine_wauters_-_opera_royal_de_wallonie-6_0-1Vocally the opening scene was not promising:  a hysteric-sounding Donna Anna that screamed rather than sang,  a Don Giovanni that reverted to talking, sang with an unfocused voice and quite some notes out of tune and a commendatore with an awfully dry voice made me fear the worst. But then things improved. Laurent Kubla, though a bit stiff on stage, portrayed a vocally acceptable Leporello. Salome Jicia as Donna Anna, after an uncertain start, displayed her vocal skills adequately. Well sang Veronica Cangemi as Donna Elvira, nice timbre and voice well controlled from top to bottom. From both ladies I would wish a more delicate emission. Alternate results from Leonardo Cortellazzi as Don Ottavio, in his Act I aria he displayed a wonderful timbre and sang especially touching, while the Act II aria was less convincing with a muddled coloratura. Celine Mellon is a sharp voiced Zerlina, well sung and acted. Only half convincing Roger Joakim as Masetto. I was not fully satisfied by Mario Cassi. Although scenically he is a credible Don Diovanni the role is a bit too low for him and the voice became less vibrant. Alessandrini sure kept it light and I never heard the orchestra of the Opera of Liege play, if not impeccably, at least delicate as this time.

 

22/11/16: Direction musicale-Rinaldo Alessandrini, Mise en scène-Jaco van Dormael, Décors-Vincent Lemaire, Costumes-Fernand Ruiz, Lumières-Nicolas Olivier, Don Giovanni-Mario Cassi, Leporello-Laurent Kubla, Donna Anna-Salome Jicia, Donna Elvira-Veronica Cangemi, Don Ottavio-Leonardo Cortellazzi, Zerlina-Céline Mellon, Masetto-Roger Joakim, Le Commandeur-Luciano Montanaro

 

 

 

Joyce Didonato “In War and Peace” @ Bozar in Brussels

front-cover-1600x1440The show starts even before the actual concert, as in the foyer one is handed over a Hallmark card in which Joyce Didonato asks us to reflect on what brings us piece in times of war. She and her topless male dancer are already on scene when the public enters the concert hall, she on an elevated stool, the dancer in a motionless dance-pose . The concert begins, the stage is barely lit, one can only discern the primadonna climbing off her stool in the back while the music starts. The first few pieces are by Purcell, Leo, Handel, and they are all very declamatory and  highly dramatic. They talk about war and are accompanied by theatrical red lighting and unclear black-and-white projections of what seem to be flames, smoke, war-like scenarios and pulses of lights. All this while wafts of vapor are blown onto the stage projectors. So the first part clearly talks about war and ends with the primadonna, genuflected on stage and looking all misterious, while pinkish petals are projected onto the wall falling down while Didonato sings Lascia ch’io pianga.

joyce16-edited-1067x1600Since a few years this fashion of dramatizing recitals is becoming a trend. I am just not sure what the purpose is. In this particular case my malicious mind made me want to think that Didonato had vocal flaws to hide. In the declamatory pieces she leaped and jumped from low to high notes with a voice not fully controlled, which resulted in notes being out of tune, screamed or sighed (“for dramatic purpose” I guess). The pronunciation was approximate also in English.

The second was the joyous part, with mainly Handel, but also an unknown (to me) Jommelli Par che di giubilo. A wonderful aria but which was full of picchiettati which didn’t seem to have a clear path, and again the jumps in the picchiettati were sometimes not fully in tune. Where Didonato was very good was Handel, especially the lyrical pieces and the coloratura. All was accompanied by different shapes of lighting propelled onto the ceiling, the background or the balconies. I think Didonato has more to offer than this. I would love to hear her in Vivaldi, Hasse, and all those composers between Vivaldi and Mozart, I think she would be excellent in it, Zingarelli, Portogallo etc. But in this particular evening everything was over the top, an Irish neighbour I had behind me leaned towards his friend asking her “what the fuck is the naked dancer about and what are these distracting helicopters (he meant the lights) for?” The Belgians erupted in thunderous  applause…..But then the Belgians would rapturously applaud also a French fry lying all tragically on stage if it’s famous.

After the awful setting of The Munt/La Monnaie’s Capriccio by David Marton (it was the direction that bothered me. David Marton clearly does not know what to do with singing people on stage), I kind of hoped for Didonato to lift my spirit, but she succeeded only by half.

Photos from the http://inwarandpeace.com webpage.

 

Les Contes d’Hoffmann @ Covent Garden

30555527200_c1339c57b3_zNo Hoffmann I ever saw was the same. In this London production the Giulietta act is in the middle with her sailing off with Pitinacchio, the sextet is kept, Nicklauss gets the violin aria. The conductor in London was Evelino Pidó who overall did a good job but I wish would have conducted with more intensity, would have indulged in some of the melodic accompaniment to highlight the richness of the score;…the punch was missing and I had a very slight feeling of rush…a corona slightly too short, a finale cut off a second too early etc. But what bothered me most was the cuts in the repetitions: Hoffmann’s couplet in the Giulietta act or the wonderful trio “J’ai la certains flacons” just to mention two. Sooo annoying ….

30740077912_e23ec9f6b8_zOlympia sang a bit too carefully, the coloratura not entirely impeccable. I very much liked the Giulietta of Christine Rice, a beautiful timbre in a part well sung. Yoncheva gave her beautiful voice to Antonia and was wonderful except for some edgy sounding top notes. Excellent was Vittorio Grigolo’s Hoffman, ringing acuti, voice perfectly controlled, reaches all notes of the pentagram without problems, interpreting the different facets of his character very credibly. Thomas Hampson certainly knows how to sing but the part is too low and him hearing struggle with notes made me see the singer rather than the character. Very disappointing. Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse sings quite well, has a lighter voice than one that is usually heard for this character but this does not harm very much. Smaller roles all well cast. I particularly liked Crespel’s nice bass voice. Direction in 19th century style, quite traditional and little machinery.

Conductor-Evelino Pidó, Director-John Schlesinger, Set designer-William Dudley, Costume designer-Maria Björnson, Lighting designer-David Hersey, Choreographer Eleanor Fazan, Fight director-William Hobbs, Hoffmann-Vittorio Grigòlo, Four Villains-Thomas Hampson, Olympia-Sofia Fomina, Giulietta-Christine Rice, Antonia-Sonya Yoncheva, Nicklausse-Kate Lindsey, Spalanzani- Christophe Mortagne, Crespel-Eric Halfvarson, Four Servants-Vincent Ordonneau, Spirit of Antonia’s Mother      Catherine Carby, Nathanael-David Junghoon Kim, Hermann-Charles Rice, Schlemil-Yuriy Yurchuk, Luther-Jeremy White, Stella-Olga Sabadoch.

7 & 11/11/16. Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

Maria de Rudenz @ Wexford Festival

rudenz1The topic of Maria de Rudenz was derived from “La nonne sanglante”, a blood-steeped gothic drama, that did not go down well in the public’s taste and which  was accepted by the Presidency of the Fenice-where the opera was first staged – only reluctantly. The music itself did not even please Donizetti himself, and the great tenor Nourrit, present at the dress rehearsal and the first performance wrote “It can only be called a complete fiasco…. Except for three pieces that are good….the whole opera is extremely pallid….you cannot imagine the stupidity of the libretto…” It was never clear why Donizetti accepted the libretto in the first place. One theory is that over this text where no love can be found, Donizetti poured all the grief and desperation of his wife’s death, only a few months earlier. The opera was given only one additional performance in Venice, truly one of the biggest fiascoes in Donizetti’s life. Surely not helped by the intricacy of the plot and the complexity of the characters. The opera was never staged on important theatres such as London, Vienna or Paris, but was played a couple of dozen times around the world up to 1870.

MARIA de RUDENZ by Donizetti; Wexford Festival Opera; NationalOpera House; Wexford, Ireland; 21 October 2016; Maria de Rudenz - Gilda Fiume; Matilde di Wolf - Sophie Gordeladze (rt); Corrado Waldorf - Joo Wan Kang; Conductor - Andrew Greenwood; Director - Fabio Ceresa; Set Designer - Gary McCann; Costume Designer - Giuseppe Palella; Lighting Designer - Christopher Akerlind; Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ ArenaPAL;

In Wexford, the scene consisted of a simple exterior/interior façade in Castle-style which were in fact sliding doors behind which the set could be swiftly changed from scene to scene. This set consisted of revolving 3-storey-high cubes with a different location on each side. This worked extremely well and very exciting was, in more dramatic scenes, to see the revolving itself. An idea of the director was to use puppets to mimic some scenes of the prior events or of stories that are told each other. This, in my opinion, could have been avoided as it added nothing to the already excellent direction, in fact if anything it added only cringy moments of ridicule. But overall the sets and costumes were beautiful and the direction excellent, proving that masses CAN be moved around to add flow to the plot.
Gilda Fiume, though a bit cold in her overall approach, is an excellent singer with a pure, smooth and creamy voice over the whole range who adds additional empathy in the highest range of her voice by playing with dynamics.
Very good also Joo Wan Kang as Corrado, who sang with a warm timbre. Jesus Garcia was adequate until he had to reach the higher notes of his role, which he reached a bit strained. Andrew Greenwood kept everything together quite well, minor roles were well cast and the chorus sang also very well.

Conductor-Andrew Greenwood, Director-Fabio Ceresa, Set Designer-Gary McCann, Costume Designer-Giuseppe Palella, Lighting Designer-Christopher Akerlind, Chorus Master-Errol Girdlestone, Maria de Rudenz-Gilda Fiume, Matilde di Wolf-Sophie Gordeladze, Corrado Waldorf-Joo Wan Kang, Enrico-Jesus Garcia, Rambaldo-Michele Patti, Chancellor of Rudenz-Richard Shaffrey

Photo credit: Clive Barda