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

Advertisements

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

midSUMMER MOZARTiade, Brussels, July 2016

UntitledSo, coming back to the BOF, which was first announced and then cancelled. It started as Brussels Opera Festival but now it is presented as midSUMMER MOZARTiade… Not two opera’s anymore but one: Le nozze di Figaro, staged at the Park Theatre with young and very promising singers. So certainly something to look forward to.

Instead of the second opera we will see “A servants’ ball”, which is explained, with a letter by Mozart, as “facchinata”. Facchinata is, as Mozart himself explains in a letter to his sister (Milan, 3rd March 1770), “eine Mascherada, die facchinad, welche schön zu sehen ist, weil sich leüte anlegen als facchin, oder als hausknecht, und da ist ein barca gewesen, wo vielle drin waren, und viel sind auch zu fuße gegangen, 4 oder 6 Chör Trompeten und paucken, und auch etliche kör geigen, und andere Instrumenten” (a masqued ball, that`s wonderful to watch as people dress up as facchini or household servants, and there was a barca (boat?) with lots of people in it, and there were also lots of people on foot, 4 or 6 choirs of trumpets and timpani, and several choirs of violins and other instruments). Well, this seemed promising. But then the program mentions “Voice & piano recitals”. So not a facchinata? Then why mention the letter? On the bright side, the facchinata will be held in the Lorraine Room of the Cercle Royal Gaulois Artistique et Litteraire, “the pleasure garden of Brussels” which will give us a possibility to visit the venue.

masquerade-frolic-scott-jonesAnother happening will be “Mozart in the air”, a set of concerts in the Brussels Royal Park. There is no program to understand who or what we will hear. But the organizers still have a full year to prepare it and fill the internet with plenty of information. I am certainly looking forward to it so let’s them all wish all the best and a happy start in July 2016. For more information visit the festival’s website http://www.amadeusandco.be/en/

I cannot refrain from mentioning the little professionalism in giving indications on how to get a ticket. When calling the only available number one is instructed (in French only) to leave a message….

De Munt/La Monnaie season 2015/2016

MM_Home_EM_VruchtvleesjpgAn excellent 2015/2016 season was recently presented at De Munt/La Monnaie with a balanced choice in styles and good casts. The season starts off with a belcanto gem by Donizetti, L’elisir d’amore, under the direction of Damiano Michieletto, whom I admire much, and conducted by Thomas Rösner, who, if my memory serves me right, I enjoyed hearing in a lively Cosi fan tutte in Winterthur two years ago. The loving couple, Olga Peretyatko and Dmitry Korchak, are belcanto experts and the evening promises, at least on paper, to be a success.After L’elisir d’amore the operahouse will close to undergo renovation works.

Powder her face is an appreciated new entry. Composed in 1995 by Thomas Ades on a libretto by Philip Hensher, it tells the story of the “dirty duchess”  (I refer to the guardians article for details http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/mar/27/thomas-ades-powder-her-face-sex-selfie). Musically it is an individual mix of different styles written for a small orchestra with a large  percussion section.

I am especially happy about the choice of La Vestale by Gaspare Spontini. Although an Italian, he perfectly merged the French declamatory and the Italian style, writing a milestone in French music which soon was extremely successful also outside France. Performed only rarely, Maria Callas was one of the great Giulias.

The Christmas spirit is brought by Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck, which is also a lovely opera. Pity it is given at the Bozar in a semi-staged version.

To be sung was created in 1994 on music by Pascal Dusapin, a composer who will present a world creation in April this year in De Munt/La Monnaie (Penthesilea). I am not fan of Dusapin and I would have preferred any of the cancelled proposals (Some of the pages in the program are grayed out, showing that these operas had to be cut due to the government’s financial change in subsidy policy. These opera’s are Die Dreigroschenoper by Weill, L’incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi and Die tote Stadt by Erich Korngold.

A Russian is also present this year, and a rare surprise with that, with Anton Rubinstein’s The demon. One of the last Russian Romantics, Rubinstein was mainly known as pianist and The demon, his only opera, has become a rarity. Such a pity it is a concert version. Another concert version is presented with another Italian, this time a verismo opera (the reason for the concert version is, according to the program, that it “is difficult to present onstage”…): Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Not heard very often in these latitudes. A welcome composition. Pity again, it is in concert form (Why are the Dusapins never in concert form?)

A florian_leopold_gassmannreal jewel is L’opera seria by Florian Leopold Gassmann; After having heard this opera in 1997 in Innsbruck under the direction of Rene Jacobs, I am extremely happy to see it again in Brussels. The plot is a mockery of opera habits in the 18th century, an opera in the opera, where an opera troup is rehearsing an opera seria, with its whimsical singers, it’s egomaniac dancers, its greedy impresari.

An original, and welcome, choice is Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedicte, a far too rarely performed opera: “Je fis…l’opéra-comique Beatrix et Benedict (!). Il fut joué avec un grand succsès et sous ma direction, sur le nouveau théâtre de Bade, le 9 août 1862” writes Berlioz in his autobiography.

Mozart is always welcome, and although Mitridate, re di Ponto was given with Carsen’s direction in 2007, the opera, written by a 14-year old Mozart, will be a treat seen the chosen cast which includes Lenneke Ruiten, Myrtò Papatanasiu and the excellent Michael Spyres and Simona Saturova under the direction of Christophe Rousset.

The umpteenth world creation for the Munt/Monnaie is Frankenstein by Mark Grey. The idea came from La fura dels Baus, who will also take care of the direction, which, personally, is the reason to see the opera.

Picture1However, I can not refrain from some additional comments.

First-Belgium is a small country with 3 opera institutions. From Brussels, opera lovers travel to Gent or Antwerp and Liege. Why they sometimes give the same opera’s within the same season or the same year is a mystery to me. Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni are in the 2014/2015 season at Vlaanders Opera  while both operas were also given in the years 2013/2014 in Brussels. And this year we have L’elisir d’amore, in June in Liege and in September in Brussels.

Another thought I would like to share is about the Cirque Royal, a highly inappropriate venue for operas. The theatre is round and this poses problems on where to put the orchestra. Furthermore the singers sing in any direction, which results in a very peculiar sound. This is partially due to the renovation works and Peter de Caluwe “…takes this opportunity…to play with locations…matching them with the appropriate projects”. I hope he takes this opportunity only during the renovation works.

However, I must congratulate the Munt/Monnaie for an overall marvelous season, varied and with many rarities to look forward to. The absence of the various Joosten, Tcherniakov et similia  is also reassuring. The chief conductor Ludovic Morlot has resigned at the end of December. I am not sure this is such good news. Issues between the conductor the orchestra are a recurring thing and the orchestra could benefit (read: improve) from a stable baton. The concerts are also interesting and varied. These include recitals by Anna Caterina Antonacci, Simon Keenlyside, Matthias Goerne and Christophe Prégardien and concerts such as the Grande Messe de morts by Berlioz,

http://www.lamonnaie.be/en/502/Programme

Bozar in Brussels – Paisiello and Berlioz

What De Munt/La Monnaie doesn’t offer in terms of variety this year (50% is 20th century music and the remaining 50% are the omnipresent Haendel, Mozart and Verdi, though still one interesting Fierrabras – albeit in concert version) was given at the Bozar with only a couple of days from each other, organized by the Klarafestival.

IMG_1664Il barbiere di Siviglia. Not the well-known rossinian version, but Giovanni Paisiello’s, composed over 30 years earlier for the court of Saint Petersburg. Petrosellini’s libretto (which was set to music also by Francesco Morlacchi) is almost equal to Cesare Sterbini’s libretto for Rossini, and I was amused when I heard the same scenes, and in some cases the  exact same words. Paisiello’s genius doesn’t show as much in the Barbiere as it does in other works like Nina or Fedra. But the music is delightful, with heights in the Pace e gioia ensemble, Rosina’s music lesson, Bartolo’s Vuoi tu Rosina. The singers also follow stage directions and act the respective roles so the evening is almost as enjoyable as a staged opera. The cast rests on Pietro Spagnoli’s shoulder who’s rendition of Bartolo is perfect: excellent diction, wonderful singing technique, versatile actor. The rest of the cast are solid professionals with Mari Erismoen as Rosina, André Schuen as Figaro and Fulvio Bettini as Don Basilio. I didn’t enjoy Topi Lehtipuu very much, whose voice I found weightless and dry. Renee Jacobs gives a personal but lively and sparkling rendition of the score making it a highly enjoyable evening.

 

IMG_1691The other vocal work given at Bozar only a couple of days later is Romeo et Juliette by Hector Berlioz. It is described as a symphonie dramatique and includes 3 soloists and a choire and is regarded as one of Berlioz most admirable works. Richard Wagner was present at the premiere on 24 November 1839 and it must have made an impression on him if 20 years later he sent Berlioz the printed version of his Tristan and Isolde with the inscription Au grand et cher auteur de Roméo et Juliette, L’auteur reconnaissant de Tristan et Isolde.

Isabelle Druet’s and Jean-François Borras’ roles are rather short and confined to the beginning and neither have particularly marked my mind. Jerome Varnier’s voice was a bit absent and I felt it didn’t give the big recitative and aria of père Laurence the gravity it needed. François-Xavier Roth, who directed an interesting Christophe Colombe (by Félicien David) in Gent which I much enjoyed, chiseld the wide variety of emotions perfectly, from the whirling “fête” to the sweet and delicate love duet (Romeo and Juliet are impersonated by the orchestra) and the stirring final “serment”

Brussels Opera Festival opens in 2016

logo1In times of crisis where one can barely avoid reading news of opera houses being on the brink of a precipice, it is such balsamous news to read of new opera festivals. This one is called Brussels Opera Festival and, according to the webpage (http://bofestival.com) will open in July 2016. The hosting house will be the Royal Park Theatre (facing the Belgian Parlament), which has a history of staging plays, but for a period presented also operettas and opera comiques. The first two production in 2016 will both be Mozart operas, namely Le nozze di Figaro and Zaïde. I can’t wait, and I wish the new festival a prosperous future.

Don Giovanni (Brussels), Lucia di Lammermoor (Verona), Così fan tutte (Ghent)

don n giovanni1The Don Giovanni in Brussels under the direction of Warlikowski was awful. I recommend  this director to read the libretto the next time. Da Ponte’s libretto offers a multitude of double meaninsg. No need to descends into pornography just for the sake of it. Musically things were not exciting either with a very disappointing Barbara Hannigan as Donna Anna. As much as she is acclaimed in modern music, she didn’t convince me at all in the classical style. I couldn’t find full enjoyment in any of the other singers (Don Giovanni-Jean-Sebastien Bou, Il commendatore-Sir Willard White, Don Ottavio-Topi Lehtipuu, Donna Elvira-Rinat Shaham, Leporello-Andreas Wolf, Masetto-Jean-Luc Balestra, Zerlina-Julie Mathevet) Don Giovanni never seemed such a drag…..

 

I rather preferred the Lucia di Lammermoor in Verona, which, with its thrifty set, gave a more complete and satisfying reading than the Mozart opera. Musically wonderful with a (to me) unknown Maria Grazia Schiavo who sang with a full deep  and a good upper register. The slightly unpitched top notes from the first two musical pieces didn’t affect the overall thrilling performance. An equally wonderful Piero Pretti as Edgardo and a very good Marco di Felice as Enrico made this a lovely afternoon. The cast was completed by Alessandro Scotto di Luzio as Arturo, Sim Insung as Raimondo, Elisa Balbo as Alisa and Francesco Pittari as Normanno.

 

cosi1A quite boring night in Gent with Cosi fan tutte followed in January. Musically not very convincing. A very good Dorabella and Guglielmo (Maria Kataeva and Riccardo Novaro), an acceptable Fiordiligi and Despina (Christina Pasaroiu Aylin Sezer) an inadequate Don Alfonso and Ferrando (Umberto Chiummo and Sebastien Droy) and a drab conductor (Jan Schweiger) make this evening rather easy to forget. Was it not for the director… Guy Joosten spoiled yet another Mozart opera. I am totally in the dark when it comes to understand what this amateur is trying to tell us in Mozart (or in any opera for that matter). The scenes are filled with slapstick and inconsistent ideas that could be used (and be equally out of place) in any other opera. Joosten hits the bottom when he made Despina awaken the two lovers by hitting them with the Mesmer stone in the groin. No idea what to do with the singers either when they don’t sing except letting them sit or stand still. The set is lovely (the bar/reception of a hotel) though not consistent (“in casa mia” sings Fiordiligi, which is not translated into subtitles. Are they the hotel owners?)