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

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

La Périchole in Marseille

The most notable of all Péricholes of Offenbach’s sentimental operetta is surely the legendary Hortense Schneider who created the role back in 1868 at Paris’ Théâtre des Varietés. Alas there is no digital record.

Three Centuries Collide: Widmann, Ravel and Beethoven

It’s very rare that you go to a concert and your expectation of it is completely turned on its head. This was one of those. Three works, each composed exactly a century apart, beginning and ending with performances of such clarity and brilliance.

Seventeenth-century rhetoric from The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

‘Yes, in my opinion no rhetoric more persuadeth or hath greater power over the mind; hath not Musicke her figures, the same which Rhetorique? What is a but her Antistrophe? her reports, but sweet Anaphora's? her counterchange of points, Antimetabole's? her passionate Aires but Prosopopoea's? with infinite other of the same nature.’

Hrůša’s Mahler: A Resurrection from the Golden Age

Jakub Hrůša has an unusual gift for a conductor and that is to make the mightiest symphony sound uncommonly intimate. There were many moments during this performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony where he grappled with its monumental scale while reducing sections of it to chamber music; times when the power of his vision might crack the heavens apart and times when a velvet glove imposed the solitude of prayer.

Full-Throated Troubador Serenades San José

Verdi’s sublimely memorable melodies inform and redeem his setting of the dramatically muddled Il Trovatore, the most challenging piece to stage of his middle-period successes.

Opera North deliver a chilling Turn of the Screw

Storm Dennis posed no disruption to this revival of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, first unveiled at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2010, but there was plenty of emotional turbulence.

Luisa Miller at English National Opera

Verdi's Luisa Miller occupies an important position in the composer's operatic output. Written for Naples in 1849, the work's genesis was complex owing to problems with the theatre and the Neapolitan censors.

Eugène Onéguine in Marseille

A splendid 1997 provincial production of Tchaikovsky’s take on Pushkin’s Bryonic hero found its way onto a major Provençal stage just now. The historic Opéra Municipal de Marseille possesses a remarkable acoustic that allowed the Pushkin verses to flow magically through Tchaikovsky’s ebullient score.

Opera Undone: Tosca and La bohème

If opera can sometimes seem unyieldingly conservative, even reactionary, it made quite the change to spend an evening hearing and seeing something which was so radically done.

A refined Acis and Galatea at Cadogan Hall

The first performance of Handel's two-act Acis and Galatea - variously described as a masque, serenata, pastoral or ‘little opera’ - took place in the summer of 1718 at Cannons, the elegant residence of James Brydges, Earl of Carnavon and later Duke of Chandos.

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):