Magic Flute by Castellucci @ Brussels

The season at the Munt opened with Mozart’s Magic Flute. A season which, for a change, includes two 19th century Italian staged opera’s which are neither Verdi nor Puccini and has a mere 30% of contemporary operas. Unfortunately, Meyerbeer’s grand opera is not staged (though we are still waiting for the coproduced-but-never-staged Muette de Portici, or a re-staging of the wonderful Py/Minkowsky Huguenots with a excellent 2nd cast headed by John Osborn).

Magic flute, then, a very traditional title, directed by an unconventional director. Magic flute is one opera, which, in my opinion, HAS to be re-interpreted. The sun against the darkness, Pamino in search of Pamina, Monostatos, are the symbols of the progressive/active patriarchy against the evil/passive matriarchy, the manipulation of the natural for its own good, with a hint of racism and misogyny. An odious text, which got an enlightening new vest in last year’s Gent production by David Herman. On another planet we are with Castelluci’s view on the subject. While the overture stands for the darkness (all in black, a neon tube light is shattered etc), Act I is all in white. And when I say all, I mean everything. The people, the clothing, the shoes, the background, the props, the floor, everything. All singers and all dancers act with small and slow movements. The singers have doubles, which mirror their movements and even lip sync, the dancers behind them dance slowly, creating intertwined choreographic forms which are enhanced by the use of feathers and of slowly rotating platforms. No spoken dialogue, just one musical piece after the other. At the end of act one bizarre shapes (architectural forms designed by algorithms by Swiss architect Michael Hansmeyer) move together with the singers, dancers and the doubles creating a huge, white, barock cathedral.

Act two is totally different in that the setting has contemporary features. It starts with eerie music while pregnant women pump their milk from both breasts. I was too busy looking at the technicality of the process to read the text projected above them so i missed the philosophical point. However, with these ladies the mother figure started to get its recognition (the Mother/Queen of the night was also the only figure which was not doubled). The setting was not white anymore but all-beige, the floor, a separating wall, the clothes even the hair. The music starts, but while Act I was played without text, in act two newly created text is interposed into the musical pieces and recited. First by five women, later by five men. The women, one by one, tell us, within 1 minute each, about the moment they became blind, who at a small age, who suddenly while on a plane etc. They tell about the world they see, a world made of shadows and darkness. The men on the other hand tell about the moment in their lives when their skin was burnt, who through scalding oil, who through fire, an explosion etc, a world made of desperation, scarring skin and the moment of “too much light”. Latest by then it becomes clear that Castellucci opposes the moment of lights to those of shadows and pulls a parallel to the darkness and light of the Queen and Sarastro.

Castellucci certainly finds a way to make us think and breaks with conventions, but the message is so overwhelming that the music and the libretto lose all connection with their creators. The orchestra, which includes 18th century brass and timpani, has not much life, I heard Manacorda direct much better. None of the singers have any particular flaws but none are really memorable or touched me in any way.

Muzikale Leiding-Antonello Manacorda, Regie, Decor, Kostuums, Belichting-Romeo Castellucci, Choreografie-Cindy Van Acker, Algoritmische Architectuur-Michael Hansmeyer, Artistieke Medewerking-Silvia Costa, Dramaturgie-Piersandra Di Matteo, Antonio Cuenca Ruiz, Koorleider-Martino Faggiani, Sarastro-Tijl Faveyts, Tamino -Reinoud Van Mechelen, Sprecher-Dietrich Henschel , Königin Der Nacht-Jodie Devos, Pamina-Ilse Eerens , Erste Dame-Tineke Van Ingelgem, Zweite Dame-Angélique Noldus, Dritte Dame-Esther Kuiper, Papageno-Georg Nigl, Papagena-Elena Galitskaya, Monostatos/Ein Mohr-Elmar Gilbertsson, Erster Priester/Zweiter Geharnischter Mann- Guillaume Antoine, Zweiter Priester / Erster Geharnischter Mann-Yves Saelens, 20/09/18, pictures from movie-stills published on demunt.be

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An excellent Clemenza di Tito in Gent

Many were the beautiful things in this Clemenza di Tito given in Gent. What struck me most was the beautiful ending of act one with the changes of moods and tempi. That’s Mozarts merit of course, but the opera was well conducted, sung and directed. Michael Hampe’s setting is traditional, with classical structures mixed with 18th/19th century costumes. The movements on stage are very well directed, which is quite difficult for such an opera with a classical aria/recitativo structure and the chorus added drama during the key moments. Montanari conducts well what is more lyrical and shows sensitivity for the slower parts, but some pieces such as the ouverture or the March are too fast for my liking and are at the expense of details.

The Sesto of Anna Goryachova is wonderful, her range equal in all registers, her coloratura exact and she is fully immersed in the character. Her  recitativo accompagnato that opens the finale of act one (O dei che smania è questa) is very dramatic and shows her also an excellent actress, but the highlight for me was the aria Deh, per questo istante solo (Sesto’s confrontation with the emperor) where acting, singing and directing were just excellent. Lothar Odinius as Tito has a strong voice and sings delicately but it is not light enough to sing the runs accurately and he sinks in intonation in more than one occasion. Vitella is Agneta Eichenholz, her upper and lower register are not fully convincing and sometimes she pushes the notes from below but she sings acceptably well, her notes being satisfactorily steady to pass unharmed the trio (Vengo! Aspettate!) and the final aria. Cecilia Molinari is an impeccable Annio with an excellent phrasing. Very good also the Servilia of Anat Edri. This wonderful production was completed by the Publio of Markus Suihkonen and the chorus of the Flemish Opera.

Dirigent-Stefano Montanari, Regie- Michael Hampe, Décor- Germán Droghetti, Kostuums-Germán Droghetti, Belichting-Hans Toelstede, , Tito-Lothar Odinius, Vitellia Agneta Eichenholz, Sesto-Anna Goryachova, Annio-Cecilia Molinari, Servilia Anat Edri, Publio-Markus Suihkonen, 11/5/15, pics from https://operaballet.be

Lucio Silla @ Brussels

Mozart was 16 when he composed Lucio Silla but it remained the last opera he wrote for Italy for after the opera premiered during the Carneval season of 1773, the Regio Ducal Teatro (for whom Mozart wrote Mitridate and Ascanio in Alba) did not commission any more operas to Mozart. The opera has no easy or proper plot, which is not uncommon in operas of that period. Although the librettist Giovanni de Gamerra went on to play a small role in the development of what was to become romantic opera, the characters in Lucio Silla are very static. Mozart composed a varied palette of music, some conventional pieces, others remarkably deep, using some new and elaborate forms, a considerable amout of recitativi accompagnati-a more dramatic form than the recitativo secco-and expanding the orchestra with trumpets, giving the orchestra more elaborate writings then relegate it to a standard accompaniment. Recitivi were written when still in Salzburg while the arias were composed tailormaid to the strengths of the singers. They all turned up in Milan between end of November and beginning of December 1772. The first Cecilio was the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, while the first Giunia was Anna de Amicis, equally famous. De Amicis “was very satisfied with the arias, and Mozart introduced in them passages which are very unusual, unique and extremely difficult and which she sings amazingly well…” father Mozart reported, who was in Milan with his son. Giunia and Cecilio each sing in 7 pieces. And Mozart gives them a wonderful duet to close Act I. Lucio Silla himself sings only in 3 pieces, which is either due to his text written to be conveyed dramatically by the recitativo or by the fact that the originally intended star had to be replaced last minute with a lesser known singer, or both. The new tenor arrived December 17th and the next day Mozart had composed the two arias for him. Cinna has also only 3 arias but has the privilege to sing the first, while Celia’s role lightens the atmosphere, seen that she is not included in the political plot. The full orchestra rehearsals were done the 18, 20 and 22 December, the dress rehearsal the 23rd and the opera was performed the 26th and run for 26 performance, a considerable amount. Mozart was pleased with both Anna de Amicis and Venanzio Rauzzini, and for the latter, around the 15th January, he composed the famous motet Exultate, jubilate.

The director sets the story in modern days and when the curtain rises, one sees a modern house (which later revolves) and tress around it, very much like in Pizzi’s Pietra del paragone, but less stylish. But the plot is quite thin, the da capo arias very long and Tobias Kratzer really only asks for very conventional movements (except for much cutting of veins and a dog running around) and the little action on stage starts boring very soon. The orchestra played the ouverture swiftly and nervously (maybe a bit too nervously?) but Manacorda directed and accompanied very well. I thought Jeremy Ovenden was just acceptable. His lower register weak, his interpretation extremely thin. Much better Lenneke Ruiten. Her role has extreme demands and she manages well with a beautiful and bright top register. In one of the most difficult arias ever written Ah se il crudel periglio she convinces much less (drops a note every now and then to breath). Anna Bonitatinus gave a lovely recital of Rossini songs a couple of weeks back. A forgotten repertoire that she rendered beautifully. But her Cecilio was not as convincing. Her tight vibrato is a bit unpleasant and it seems to me Cecilio is a size too big for her. Her 2nd entrance aria was sung with much transport and fury and was a joy to hear, as was her last aria, but there are constant struggles with pitch. Marvellous Simona Saturova as Celia. She sings  her four arias wonderfully and with great taste. I had big hopes for the opening aria but i had to wait for Ilse Eerens to sing her other two arias which allows her to show her bravura. I like her beatiful timbre and clear top notes. Good also Carlo Allemano but untidy roulades.

Conductor-Antonello Manacorda, Director-Tobias Kratzer, Set And Costume Design-Rainer Sellmaier, Lighting-Reinhard Traub, Video–Manuel Braun, Dramaturgy-Krystian Lada, Lucio Silla-Jeremy Ovenden, Giunia-Lenneke Ruiten, Cecilio-Anna Bonitatibus, Celia-Simona Šaturová, Cinna-Ilse Eerens, Aufidio-Carlo Allemano. 7/11/17, pictures by  www.demunt.be

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

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

 

 

 

Le Nozze di Figaro – Mozartiade @ Brussels

1529 Shadi_TorbeyThe theatre was only half full, I guess due to a disorderly organization, change of name half way through, relative little public attention and little communication on ticket sales. But the location is extremely suitable for an opera production, one has a cosy sense of intimate informality. Eric Gobin puts 3 doors on the stage and very few props but it works. The musical part was somewhat uneven. David Miller’s direction is flat and monotone and the lack of colours and variations spread to the singers as well, with few exceptions. From the singers Keith Tillotson as Bartolo acted over the top and sang with poor intonation, while Christine Schmidt as Marcellina had a wobbly-ish voice, but was overall acceptable. Pauline Claes and Gianna Cañete Gallo were convincing as Cherubino and Barbarina. Cécile Lastchenko as Susanna and Laura Telly Cambier as Countess sang well but with a horrendous, really horrendous pronunciation. Laurent Kubla and Shadi Torbey on the other hand were very good. (Except for the few unprecise colorature in the Count’s aria) they both had an extreme clear pronunciation, beautiful voice (which was perfect for the size of the theatre) and great singing. Both were truly enjoable (and Shadi Torbey was even announced sick). Good all other roles and the lovely girls of the choir. The royal Chambre Orchestra of Wallonia played well.

Director-David Miller, Mise en scene-Eric Gobin, Figaro-Shadi Torbey, Susanna-Cécile Lastchenko, Conte Almaviva-Laurent Kubla, Conteassa Almaviva-Laura Telly Cambier, Cherubino-Pauline Claes, Barbarina-Gianna Cañete Gallo, Basilio-John Manning, Don Curzio-Jean-Michel Van Oosten, Marcellina-Christine Schmidt, Bartolo-Keith Tillotson, Antonio-Yu-Hsiang Hsieh

Idomeneo @ The Flemish Opera

34A4055I don’t feel this Idomeneo had any particular faults so maybe I just was in a particularly scrupulous mood. I found Roberto Saccà throaty, Renata Pokupic gasping for air every couple of seconds with not even a hint  of a legato, Serena Farmocchia missing the vocal gravity for Elettra, and the direction at times a bit silly. Furthermore the opera had quite lengthy recitatives and I couldn’t understand almost anything. Singers without a proper pronunciation are, in my eyes, not complete, even the phrasing comes across a very approximate when words are not taken care of. On the other hand I appreciated the direction’s narrative clarity, the diction of Roberto Saccà (the only one),  Ana Quintans sweet timbre and beautiful singing. I also enjoyed the swift and crisp sound of the orchestra, prepared by Paul McCreesh and on this evening directed by Benjamin Bayl. Everything considered a good performance though not fully convincing.

Muzikale leiding-Benjamin Bayl, Regie-David Bösch, Decors-Patrick Banneart, Falko Herold, Kostuums-Falko Herold, Belichting-Michael Bauer, Idomeneo-Roberto Saccá, Idamante-Renata Pokupic, Ilia-Ana Quintans, Elettra-Serena Farnocchia, Arbace-Anton Rositskiy, Gran sacerdote-Adam Smith, La voce di nettuno-Leonard Bernard

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

Die Zauberflöte @ Liège opera

zauberflote-mario-cassi-anneke-luyten-sabina-willeit-et-beatrix-papp-c-opera-royal-de-wallonie-lorraine-wauters-31The wonderful Mise en scène, created for the very same Liège opera in 2010 by Cecile Roussat and Julien Lubek brings us into a dreamlike, surreal and phantastic world of moving bedsheets, acrobats, and furniture coming to life, which fits  the magic world of the libretto perfectly.

The day I went the tenor singing Tamino was absent und his role was sung by Matthew Newlin, while the director Julien Lubek acted out Pamino’s role on stage. Newlin sang Tamino a bit throaty, with little refinement and short in the top of the range. Anne-Catherine Gillet as Pamina, though affected by a light vibrato, charmed with a lovely timbre and a good pronunciation of the German. I can’t say Mario Cassi as Papageno didn’t sing well but the effort to pronounce well was big and I feel it affected the singing line and overall performance. (Similar problem for Sarastro). Acceptable were the performances of Burcu Uyar as Queen of the Night, though not very sternflammend and with strained top notes, as well as Monostatos. Lovely the Papagena of Inge Freisig and very well the Three Ladies.

zauberflote-c-opera-royal-de-wallonie-lorraine-wauters-8Personally I feel that this production didn’t quite achieve a high standard due to the direction of Paolo Arrivabeni, who directs lively, but orchestra and singers show poverty of colours and monotony of phrasing.

Direction musicale-Paolo Arrivabeni, Mise en scène-Cecile Roussat et Julien Lubek, Décors -Elodie Monet, Cecile Roussat et Julien Lubek, Costumés-Sylvie Skinazi, Lumières-Marc Gingold, Pamina-Anne-Catherine Gillet, Tamino-Matthew Newlin, Papageno-Mario Cassi, Königin der Nacht-Burcu Uyar, Sarastro-Gianluca Buratto, Papagena-Inge Dreisig, Monostatos-Krystian Adam, Erste Dame-Anneke Luyten, Zweite Dame-Sabina Willeit, Dritte Dame-Beatrix Krisztina Papp, Sprecher-Roger Joakim, Erster priester 2. Genarnischter-Arnaud rouillon, Zweiter priester, erster geharnischter-Papuna Tchuradze