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

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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

Tannhäuser @ The Flemish Opera

55fe59aa2160bFor years I tried to listen to Wagner. But it’s just not my thing. And the 3-4 times I went to see it life (Tristan, Götterdämmerung, Holländer and one more I think, and only because it was part of my subscription) it turned out to be an expensive nap and a repetition of steps which followed the same sad pattern: 1-Enthusiastically think about an evening at the opera, 2-Listen carefully forcing myself to scratch together a bit of curiosity, 3-Feel the tiredness come up after 5-10 minutes, 4-being woken by thunderous applause and leaving the opera at the first interval. Big was my surprise when I assisted at Tannhäuser at the Flemish Opera in Ghent a few days ago. The ouverture is melodious, there are arias, duets, ensembles, instead of endless non-stop music, and not too bad ones at that. Of course for somebody who hungers for belcanto, everything seemed different, main thing being that singers seem to scream. But at least this opera made me want to stay another act rather than running off like a scalded cat.

Tannhauser

Tannhauser

I am really not the right person to talk about Wagnerian voices. But Tannhäuser sounds like a murderous role, a huge range. And I admired Andreas Schager who was up to task. Liene Kinca as Elisabeth had a beautiful timbre and never forced her voice. It rather sounded as if Venus (Ausrine Stundyte) and Walther von der Vogelweide (Adam Smith) had slight difficulties when notes rose too high. But I liked Daniel Schmutzhard and Ante Jerkunica in their respective roles as Wolfram von Eschenbach and Hermann. Calixto Bieto kept the things in black and white, tree tops hanging from the ceiling on black background in the first act, clean and minimal white lines in the second act. I don’t go into the interpretation as already reading the libretto awakened a mix of hilarity and ridiculousness. But the orchestra and chorus played and sang well.

Muzikale leiding-Dmitri Jurowski, Regie-Calixto Bieito, Décor-Rebecca Ringst, Kostuums-Ingo Krügler, Belichting-Michael Bauer, Dramaturgie-Bettina Auer, Koorleiding-Jan Schweiger, Hermann-Ante Jerkunica, Tannhäuser-Andreas Schager, Elisabeth-Liene Kinča, Venus-Ausrine Stundyte, Wolfram von Eschenbach-Daniel Schmutzhard, Walther von der Vogelweide-Adam Smith, Biterolf-Leonard Bernad, Heinrich der Schreiber-Stephan Adriaens, Reinmar von Zweter-Patrick Cromheeke