Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

Ovid and Klopstock clash in Jurowski’s Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’

There were two works on this London Philharmonic Orchestra programme given by Vladimir Jurowski – Colin Matthews’s Metamorphosis and Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. The way Jurowski played it, however, one might have been forgiven for thinking we were listening to a new work by Mahler, something which may not have been lost on those of us who recalled that Matthews had collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the completion of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony.

Birtwistle's The Mask of Orpheus: English National Opera

‘All opera is Orpheus,’ Adorno once declared - although, typically, what he meant by that was rather more complicated than mere quotation would suggest. Perhaps, in some sense, all music in the Western tradition is too - again, so long as we take care, as Harrison Birtwistle always has, never to confuse starkness with over-simplification.

The Marriage of Figaro in San Francisco

San Francisco Opera rolled out the first installment of its new Mozart/DaPonte trilogy, a handsome Nozze, by Canadian director Michael Cavanagh to lively if mixed result.

Little magic in Zauberland at the ROH's Linbury Theatre

To try to conceive of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as a unified formal entity is to deny the song cycle its essential meaning. For, its formal ambiguities, its disintegrations, its sudden breaks in both textual image and musical sound are the very embodiment of the early Romantic aesthetic of fragmentation.

Donizetti's Don Pasquale packs a psychological punch at the ROH

Is Donizetti’s Don Pasquale a charming comedy with a satirical punch, or a sharp psychological study of the irresolvable conflicts of human existence?

Chelsea Opera Group perform Verdi's first comic opera: Un giorno di regno

Until Verdi turned his attention to Shakespeare’s Fat Knight in 1893, Il giorno di regno (A King for a Day), first performed at La Scala in 1840, was the composer’s only comic opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Scene from <em>Der Freischütz</em> [Photo by Katrin Ribbe]
12 Sep 2016

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

Rarely have I experienced such fabulous singing in such a dreadful production. With magnificent voices, Andreas Schager and Dorothea Röschmann rescued Michael Thalheimer’s grotesque staging of von Weber’s Der Freischütz. At Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Alexander Soddy led a richly detailed, transparent and brilliantly glowing Berliner Staatskapelle.

Der Freischütz at Unter den Linden

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Scene from Der Freischütz

Photos by Katrin Ribbe

 

As the voices had the best kind of chemistry, the extremes of musical excellence and ugly setting made for an ambivalent experience. Thalheimer’s staging will be difficult to forget, because the great resonance of the energetic music, passionate vocals, and Martin Wright’s choir made it highly memorable.

While Weber’s Der Freischütz is not often performed, the ‘first German Romantic opera’ has increasingly more new productions popping up across Germany. Based on a folk legend Friedrich Kind wrote the libretto: about Max the forester, his love for the head forester’s daughter, Casper his nemesis’s envy, and the forest demon, Samiel, up to no good. Magic bullets, female forebodings, spirits of the dead, dark magic, and the forest setting contribute to the work’s rich Romanticism. The Overture and the Wolf’s Glen Scene music are often performed in symphony halls. Weber weaved German folk tunes in the dark Romantic score.

Olaf Altmann’s grey stage, made up of a hole in the back of the stage as entrance of a metallic cavern through which the people crawl on stage. Olaf Freese’s lighting helped brighten the grim tone with his atmospheric, sometimes colourful effects. Thalheimer has been directing more and more opera (I was also disappointed by take on Verdi’s Otello in Antwerp). He leans too heavily on his concept and forgets humanistic aspects: an intellectually provocative concept still needs an emotional dynamic.

freischuetz_259.png

The highly theatrical gestures during the drama undermined any refined emotion. The over-acting singers made caricaturesque facial expressions, that led to a void of emotional authenticity between the singers, although through their voices they regained their sense of humanity.

The most baffling concoction was Thalheimer’s Samiel, performed effectively revolting by Peter Moltzen with unnerving spoken dialogue. But towards the end it was impossible to find meaning in the demon’s monstrous gestures. In unsettlingly choreographed scenes, he becomes a puppet master that controls several characters with unseen strings.

Andreas Schager brought thrilling vocal highpoints to the spectacle. With “O, die Sonne” Schager immediately commanded the stage with his charismatic vocals overshadowing the others. “Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen” he belted with great anguish, singing about the challenges of his life. His nuanced voice rich with lyricism contributed greatly to Max’s emotional authenticity, even while looking awkward expressing Thalheimer’s over-the-top theatrical gestures.

freischuetz_366.png

Not to be outdone, Dorothea Röschmann equally dazzled with authentic virtue as Agathe. She is modest letting her voice convince. Her purity moved me to tears with her “Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle”, as she prays to heaven to protect her after her foreboding dream where she is shot by Max.

In supporting cast, Evelin Novak sang decently under Thalheimer’s peculiar directions.

Tobias Schabel as Casper stimulated an eerie atmosphere in his “Schweig', schweig'! damit dich Niemand warnt”, where makes his faustian pact to deliver Max to Samiel.

With Soddy the strings produced brooding resonance. The orchestra delivered a ceaseless luxurious sound. With Martin Wright’s preparation, the choir sang with crystal clear diction and impressively dynamic volume. The choir’s intensity led to thrilling shivers and goosebumps. Its highlight the Huntsman’s Chorus in Act III, where Thalheimer has the members hold beer mugs in typical old-fashioned German gear.

One of Thalheimer’s effective changes came from cutting out nearly fifteen minutes of spoken dialogue. Although the story became a bit more difficult to tackle, these cuts resulted in two uninterrupted hours of fast-paced musical momentum from Soddy and the Berliner Staatskapelle, which made the experience still very much worthwhile.

David Pinedo

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):