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

Desert Island Delights at the RCM: Offenbach's Robinson Crusoe

Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.

Akira Nishimura’s Asters: A Major New Japanese Opera

Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.

The Outcast in Hamburg

It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!

Monarchs corrupted and tormented: ETO’s Idomeneo and Macbeth at the Hackney Empire

Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one - as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.

Der Fliegende Holländer and
Tannhäuser in Dresden

To remind you that Wagner’s Dutchman had its premiere in Dresden’s Altes Hoftheater in 1843 and his Tannhauser premiered in this same theater in 1845 (not to forget that Rienzi premiered in this Saxon court theater in 1842).

WNO's The Magic Flute at the Birmingham Hippodrome

A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.

Puccini’s Messa di Gloria: Antonio Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra

This was an oddly fascinating concert - though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph - they were not so much luxurious - rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.

WNO's Un ballo in maschera at Birmingham's Hippodrome

David Pountney and his design team - Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) - have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.

Super #Superflute in North Hollywood

Pacific Opera Project’s rollicking new take on The Magic Flute is as much endearing fun as a box full of puppies.

Leading Ladies: Barbara Strozzi and Amiche

I couldn’t help wondering; would a chamber concert of vocal music by female composers of the 17th century be able sustain our concentration for 90 minutes? Wouldn’t most of us be feeling more dutiful than exhilarated by the end?

George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at Wigmore Hall

This week, the Wigmore Hall presents two concerts from George Benjamin and Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern, the first ‘at home’ on Wigmore Street, the second moving north to Camden’s Roundhouse. For the first, we heard Benjamin’s now classic first opera, Into the Little Hill, prefaced by three ensemble works by Cathy Milliken, Christian Mason, and, for the evening’s spot of ‘early music’, Luigi Dallapiccola.

Marianne Crebassa sings Berio and Ravel: Philharmonia Orchestra with Salonen

It was once said of Cathy Berberian, the muse for whom Luciano Berio wrote his Folk Songs, that her voice had such range she could sing the roles of both Tristan and Isolde. Much less flatteringly, was my music teacher’s description of her sound as akin to a “chisel being scraped over sandpaper”.

Rossini's Elizabeth I: English Touring Opera start their 2019 spring tour

What was it with Italian bel canto and the Elizabethan age? The era’s beautiful, doomed queens and swash-buckling courtiers seem to have held a strange fascination for nineteenth-century Italians.

Chameleonic new opera featuring Caruso in Amsterdam

Micha Hamel’s new opera, Caruso a Cuba, is constantly on the move. The chameleonic score takes on a myriad flavours, all with a strong sense of mood or place.

Ernst Krenek: Karl V, Bayerisches Staatsoper

Ernst Krenek’s Karl V op 73 at the Bayerisches Staatsoper, with Bo Skovhus, conducted by Erik Nielsen, in a performance that reveals the genius of Krenek’s masterpiece. Contemporary with Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten, Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron, Berg’s Lulu, and Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, Krenek’s Karl V is a metaphysical drama, exploring psychological territory with the possibilities opened by new musical form.

A Sparkling Merry Widow at ENO

A small, formerly great, kingdom, is on the verge of bankruptcy and desperate to prevent its ‘assets’ from slipping into foreign hands. Sexual and political intrigues are bluntly exposed. The princes and patriarchs are under threat from both the ‘paupers’ and the ‘princesses’, and the two dangers merge in the glamorous figure of the irresistibly wealthy Pontevedrin beauty, Hanna Glawari, a working-class girl who’s married up and made good.

Mozart: Così fan tutte - Royal Opera House

Così fan tutte is, primarily, an ensemble opera and it sinks or swims on the strength of its sextet of singers - and this performance very much swam. In a sense, this is just as well because Jan Phillip Gloger’s staging (revived here by Julia Burbach) is in turns messy, chaotic and often confusing. The tragedy of this Così is that it’s high art clashing with Broadway; a theatre within an opera and a deceit wrapped in a conundrum.

Gavin Higgins' The Monstrous Child: an ROH world premiere

The Royal Opera House’s choice of work for the first new production in the splendidly redesigned Linbury Theatre - not unreasonably, it seems to have lost ‘Studio’ from its name - is, perhaps, a declaration of intent; it may certainly be received as such. Not only is it a new work; it is billed specifically as ‘our first opera for teenage audiences’.

Elektra at Lyric Opera of Chicago

From the first moments of the recent revival of Sir David McVicar’s production of Elektra by Richard Strauss at Lyric Opera of Chicago the audience is caught in the grip of a rich music-drama, the intensity of which is not resolved, appropriately, until the final, symmetrical chords.

Expressive Monteverdi from Les Talens Lyriques at Wigmore Hall

This was an engaging concert of madrigals and dramatic pieces from (largely) Claudio Monteverdi’s Venetian years, a time during which his quest to find the ‘natural way of imitation’ - musical embodiment of textual form, meaning and affect - took the form not primarily of solo declamation but of varied vocal ensembles of two or more voices with rich instrumental accompaniments.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

[Photo by Marcus Lieberenz]
25 Jan 2017

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

A review by David Pinedo

Photos by Marcus Lieberenz

 

Holten’s vision turns out a facilitating backdrop to put Wagner’s musical cosmos on a pedestal. From the Orchestra of the DOB, Alex Kober coaxed an electrifying momentum burning with brilliance in the musical details of Wagner’s early masterpiece. The evening flew by.

Act I opens with a shooting star on the hanging backdrop. The meandering fog making its way lowly across the stage during the slow-burning, lusciously misty Overture, evoked my memory of the cloak of morning fog covering Lake Lucerne during my Swiss adventure to Tribschen, where Wagner composed Lohengrin around 1850. I can’t imagine a better way to open this opera. And this was just the beginning.

Annette Dasch conquered the audience with her stunning portrayal of Elsa von Brabant. She captivated from the moment she appeared on stage. Dasch endowed Elsa with a chastity and devotion, which she reflected with ferocious virtue in her voice. She equally convinced in her growing panic and doubt concerning the true name of her savior and husband, Lohengrin.

In Act II, the slim beams with green light vertically erected on stage, I associated with the Northern Lights, from where, I imagined, Ortrud drew her powers. Elisabete Matos sang sinisterly brooding and highly vindictive. Her voice resonated all the envy Ortrud requires. Matos proved a scene stealer as Ortrud manipulated Telramund into her scheme to seed doubt in Elsa about Lohengrin’s origin. An intimidating and threatening tone permeated Wolfgang Koch’s angerful Telramund.

Lohengrin_MLieberenz3842.png

The light and darkness, Elsa’s innocent virtue and Ortrud’s jealousy and cunning, could not have been more strongly reflected than in the contrasting timbres of Dasch and Matos.

Dasch proved a riveting actress on all fronts. Rich in sound, convincingly emotional, and absolutely glamourous. What a voice! What great acting! I was absolutely enamoured by her.

Slightly superheroic with swan (or angel?) wings on his back, Peter Seiffert put on an honourable and warmhearted Lohengrin. Jesper Kongshaug’s lighting and smoking effects added explosive dramatic energy during Seiffert’s showstopping first appearance as Lohengrin...but no swan to be seen except for the wings on his back.

In the Third Act when he reveals he is Parsifal’s son, Lohengrin radiated nobly, almost saintly. Is Holten’s Lohengrin an angel as well? Yet even with his divine voice, Seiffert could not compete with Dasch's starpower. Still, above all, their synergy surged in romance and despair during their wedding night duet.

Holten’s ideas had some drawbacks. Gottfried’s role felt absently unexamined. At the front of the stage, his body was outlined as if at a modern crime scene. At the end, Ortrud redrew the lines emphatically provocative. It served as a continual reminder of Gottfried’s death.

After the glorious Bridal Chorus, during the wedding night, Holten’s strange inclusion of a one-person wedding bed with one pillow, that turned out to be Gottfried’s coffin covered by a white sheet with the corpse of Gottfried. In an unforeseen twist Holten seems to suggest that Ortrud was right. Elsa killed Gottfried? So there was no swan? Is Lohengrin then an angel?

Lohengrin_MLieberenz6643.png

Whatever these mysteries for interpretation, they certainly didn’t impede any of the musical drama.

In two last minute replacements, Günther Groissböck sang with a majesty that seemed to be emanating from every fibre of his body. His dashing and virtuous demeanor made for an excellent King Heinrich. Equally impressive as substitute was Markus Brück as Announcer of the King. However brief his moments, Brück owned the stage with his grounded voice as if he was the actual lead character.

With Alex Kober, the Orchestra of the DOB’s luscious strings carried on Wagner’s fast-paced drive. From the balconies or from high up in the wings, the brilliance from the brass and pulsating percussion resonated in Wagner’s majestic passages, providing spectacular moments in Act III.

In addition, under Kober the solos flashed, more so than in the powerful and thickened texture of Runnicles’s Parsifal. Then again, Lohengrin has the lighter touch of a younger Richard, whereas his last opera has a much consuming score. Runnicles optimized the power of Parsifal’s length that forces the listener to travel deeper into Wagner’s intoxicating musical cosmos.

This was just the DOB in the Fall. If you at their programming this spring, they cast the best Wagner singers (including, Herlitzius and Westbroek) for the final two performances of its current production of Ring Cycle in April. You can still catch in this Lohengrin in February.

While for the newcomers, a visit to Tannhäuser or Der fliegende Holländer should be a highly encouraging introduction to Wagner’s world.

If you can’t make it to Bayreuth, when it comes to frequent and consistent Wagnerian vocal extravagance, the Deutsche Oper is the place to be in Berlin.

David Pinedo

Heard December 11, 2016, Deutsch Oper Berlin.

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):