Meyerbeer’s Le prophète – Essen

Le prophète had its premiere in Paris in April 1849 and it was another immense success after Robert le Diable and Les Huguenots. Again Meyerbeer was able to combine all the parameters of the grand opéra such as a historic events, interpolations of personal conflicts, inclusion of ballets, rich instrumentation effects, alternation between crowd and solo scenes with lighting, spectacular costumes and scenic effects which all contribute to the grandeur of the staging. What makes Meyerbeer so special is the combination of musical languages: Meyerbeer was born in Germany, assimilated wonderfully the Italian style during his stay in Italy and acquired the French taste when he moved to Paris. Although not as “grand” as Les Huguenots, Le prophète still remains one of the most successfull operas at the time (comparable to a musical in our days), staged for hundreds and hundreds of times in all the major European cities until the beginning of the 20th century and stayed in oblivion for years only because it required great voices, a conductor able to keep the suspense for several hours and singers able to sustain the huge demand of the score. A compliment therefore to the opera houses who stage Meyerbeer operas. The plot of Le prophète evolves around John of Leiden, who moved to Münster, became the leader of  Anabaptists, held the city against the pope for over a year until he was captured in 1535, tortured and executed. Against this historic drama develops the relationship of John of Leiden (Jean de Leyde) with Berthe, his beloved and Fidès, his mother.

I thougth the Tcherniakov Trovatore in Brussels was absolute nonesense, but at least the decor was well designed. For Le prophète in Essen we have a rotating stage divided in three compartments. They are fully grey, including the parting walls, and most of the time rather empty. In Act I there is a huge table and in Act II the choir dances between crates stapled on pallets while Jean waits beers. Except Jean’s room (matras on the floor) and a few props, there is not much more. But empty can work if there is a director who knows how to direct, which in this case we clearly lacked. The problem, I think, is that Vincent Boussard has no clue whatsover what to do with all the people on stage: The choir was motionless most of the time. Which, if we consider the importance of the masses in grand opera is astounding, to say the least. During the sermon of the anabaptists  in Act I (“Ad nos”….), Berthe and Fides are chatting away as if exchanging recipes (sic…). During Berthe’s romance (Un jour dans les flots de la Meuse) Berthe sings standing on the table with Oberthal playing with her hair (because he has her in his power????) and when Fides sings her pertichini, the tutu ballerina shushes her (!). Jean goes home to play his e-guitar, the same rock music-like pose he strikes at the end of Act III with the cross in his hands (dream of celebrity?? Please!!!). Jonas vomits on the floor just before Zacharie’s aria (!!!), during the dances Zacharie and the two ballerinas run after each other on the rotating stage, the ballerinas making confused movements with a knife and an iron in their hands (!!!), the hat of Zaccaria pops a mini firework during the Trio bouffe (!!!). And so on and so on and so on, one imbecility after the other. The costumes are between a not better defined end of the XXth century and gothic-like underground.

Luckily the musical part was much better. Fides is Marianne Cornetti. Cornetti has a good technique, her strong voice is projected well and equal in all registers. Her singing is a tad cautious but admirable. Seen the difficulty of the score, especially her Grande Air in Act V, the rendering was fabulous. And even the odd unfocussed note does not affect the overall perfomance. The Berthe of Lynette Tapia has little colours, is a bit nasal, and she lacks the weight to convincingly pull off the recitatives (especially important in Act V) but overall interprets an acceptable Berthe with a light top register. Beautiful the slow part of her duet with Fidès. John Osborne forges the voice to his will and is excellent in the lyrical and delicate as well as the passionate passages. The acuti sure and resounding, the voice powerful yet flexible, his French impeccable. I felt he was somewhat distant, something i never felt observed with Osborne before. Maybe caution (he will sing the same part in Toulouse in a month or so)? Karel Martin Ludvik is a bit short in the lower register but sings well, as do Albrecht Kludszuweit, Pierre Doyen, and Tijl Faveyts as the anabaptists. Carella was in dazzling shape. The tempi were perfect, the sound he was able to create with the excellent orchestra was scintillating with timbrical colours and dramatic tension, the sound had luminous fluidity  and was at the same time light  (the orchestra was transparent down to the timpani) and vigorous, accompanying the alternating sentiments with unequalled sensitivity. If we didn’t get the grand from the staging, it was Carella who delivered it.

 

Musikalische Leitung-Giuliano Carella, Inszenierung-Vincent Boussard, Bühne-Vincent Lemaire, Kostüme-Vincent Boussard, Elisabeth de Sauverzac, Licht-Guido Levi, Dramaturgie-Christian Schröder, Jean de Leyde-John Osborn, Fidès-Marianne Cornetti, Berthe-Lynette Tapia, Jonas-Albrecht Kludszuweit, Mathisen-Pierre Doyen,
Zacharie-Tijl Faveyts, Graf von Oberthal-Karel Martin Ludvik. 29th April 2017, Pictures from the site of the Aalto Theatre Essen.

Orlando furioso @ Tourcoing

If one has to travel to Tourcoing to hear Vivaldi, one does so with pleasure, seen how little Vivaldi is performed. The orchestra is the well known “La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy” with Jean-Claude Malgoire as its conductor. Judging by this performance, the reputation is better than the quality, but then it could just be a bad day. The choice in tempi is poor, dynamics are unvaried, the playing tedious. Add to this a very scholastic rendering of the orchestra with many mistakes, and the pleasure quickly dwindles to disappointment. Slighly better the singers (but only slightly): voices that are either barely audible (Angelica) or flat when they descend to lower notes (Orlando). Ruggiero was good in his flute aria but Come l’onda sounds colourless with a little projected voice. Much better Clemence Tilquin, the only with a more homogeneous voice and some lovely acting that inflated Alcina with personality. All in all a performance with very little variations or nuances with an incomprehensible Italian pronunciation. The costumes were very well designed while staging consisted in several painted panels  which were moved up and down to bring us into the different settings or slid side-wards to make the singers appear and disappear. Simple and effective.

Direction musicale-Jean Claude Malgoire, Mise en scène-Christian Schiaretti, Adaptation scénographique-Fanny Gamet, Costumes-Emily Cauwet-Lafont, Orlando-Amaya Dominguez, Angelica-Samantha Louis-Jean, Alcina-Clémence Tilquin, Bradamante-Yann Rolland, Medoro-Victor Jimenez Diaz, Ruggiero-Jean Michel Fumas, Astolfo-Nicolas Rivenq (2/4/17) Picture from http://www.atelierlyriquedetourcoing.fr/

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

 

 

 

Mitridate, re di Ponto @ Brussels

UntitledThe musical part was very good in this Mitridate given by the Monnaie/De Munt in the tent of Tour and Taxis. Of course the problems of the venue are always the same: the cooling system (which either did not work. properly or it was turned On too late, either way it was far too hot) is too loud, one can hear the street and air traffic and the size of the venue is far too big for a Mozart opera. Smaller voices are therefore greatly disadvantaged, as it was the case for David Hansen, who already has a weak lower register, but his voice is also quite small, making it very difficult to compete with the orchestra in a regular theatre (and Rousset certainly does not cover voices), let alone under the circumstance of the Monnaie’s tent. Slightly better Yves Saelens as Arbate with an understandable Italian but an unrefined phrasing. Aspasia and Sifare, the loving couple, sing well, but Sifare’s coloratura is flattened, his Italian non-understandable. The small role of Marzio is sung by Sergey Romanovsky. Overall he sings his only aria very well with a beautiful and full voice, although lightening his voice a bit more would have made his coloratura more fluid. Mitridate is Michael Spyres and in this very difficult role that requires all the skills from rapid notes to jumps and a variety of affections he is almost exceptional.  Absolutely extraordinary I find Simona Saturova as Ismene. Her intonation, her support of the voice, her breath regulation, her coloratura, all perfectly studied, a voice with a beautiful timbre, equal on top as in the lower register, and never forced. All singers are supported with perfect musicality by Christophe Rousset.

The directors, chosen through a public competition because Robert Carsen pulled out due to the location, set the plot in modern day Brussels, with meetings being organized by country presidents to avoid “Pontexit”, news journalists following the events, screens showing breaking news etc.  For the lovers of the genre….

Muzikale leiding-Christophe Rousset, Regie en kostuums-Jean-Phiilppe Clarac & Olivier Deloeuil, Le Lab, Decors en belichting-Rick Martin, Video-Jean-Baptiste Beïs, Mitridate-Michael Spyres, Aspasia-Lenneke Ruiten, Sifare-Myrtó Papatanasiu, Farnace-David Hansen, Ismene-Simona Saturova, Marzio-Sergey Romanovsky, Arbate-Yves Saelens