Peer Gynt @ Concertgebouw Brugge

Seen the rare performances of Peer Gynt, I thought I might never seen it on stage. Edvard Grieg’s skill to set the deeply philosophical drama by Ibsen into music, characterizing the different characters with profound empathy was quite extraordinary. Some of the text interacts very strictly with the music for example when trolls haunt Peer, the score exactly indicates when the fff passage needs to start and after which text; just like the last orchestral chords of the mountain king where music and text interweave, exactly as it happens during the extremely moving death of Peer’s mother Åse (see excerpt below). Unfortunately only the orchestral suits are somehow famous. But the whole music is worth hearing with the text. Thanks to the Concertgebouw Brugge we are able to hear it complete (though if memory doesn’t fail me without the Bridal Dance and the Statue of Memnon) with all the singers albeit without all actors. The pieces of spoken text are summarized by an actor; Although such pieces as the grandiose dialogue between Åse and Peer, Peer’s haunting by the trolls loose some  of the dramatic grip, I was extremely taken by the effect that Filip Jordens and the Vlaams Radiokoor achieved. Mr Jordens pulled the audience through the evening with a vivid rendition of the summarized plot, sometimes dialoguing with himself acting different characters and singing himself an acceptable Serenade. Brussels Philharmonic gave a very exciting account. From a very elegiac ingrid’s lament, to a vigorous mountain hall, a brutal haunting, a poignant Åse’s death, the conductor pulled the orchestra through the whole palette of emotions. The singers were all part of the excellent Vlaams Radiokoor. All were very good but I enjoyed most Jolien de Gendt’s Solveigh with her beautiful timbre and clear and radiant top notes and Kelly Poukens as sensual Anitra. A visual support was added showing bits from the story projected on the wall in aquarelle paintings. A very enjoyable evening and hopefully the first of a series of incidental music (Grieg’s dramatic poems Olav Trygvason or Bergliot, or Mendelssohn’s Midsummernight’s dream is just a few that come to mind).

Conductor-Stéphane Denève, Brussels Philharmonic, Vlaams Radiokoor, Brechtje Louwaard & Tristan Versteven: text & concept, Gerda Dendooven: illustrations, Peer Gynt and acting: Filip Jordens, Solveig-Jolien De Gendt, Anitra-Kelly Poukens, 3 satyrs-Kristien Nijs, Sarah Van Mol & Evi Roelants, Thief-Conor Biggs, Healer-Philippe Souvagie, 24th january, 2020

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