Thursday 18 August 2011

Salzburg Iolanta and Rossignol with Anna Netrebko and plenty of Russian talents

Rossignol/Iolanta double bill. Concert performance. August 15th, Grosses Festspielhaus, Salzburg.
Ivar Bolton conducts the Mozarteumorchester Salzburg. Performers: Julia Novikova, Julia Lezhneva, Antonio Poli, Andrei Bondarenko (all Rossignol), Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Alexei Markov, Evgeni Nikitin, John Relyea u.a.

What most will not find surprising:
  • That Iolanta is a role perfectly suited to Anna Netrebko´s darkly coloured soprano, and Tchaikovsky´s somewhat squared phrases suit her perfectly
  • Though Piotr Beczala by all means did well, he was pulverized by Netrebko, both dramatically and vocally, especially in the duet. That he used the score, as opposed to her, did not help either
  • Alexei Markov (Robert in Iolanta) was stunning and deservedly received the biggest ovation of the evening (Netrebko excluded)
  • Also in live concerts(as opposed to on DVDs) John Relyea comes off as wobbly and shaky, but he gets point for his acting and for having learned the part by heart
  • Julia Novikova (the nightingale) has a too big vibrato especially in the middle register, preventlng the Nightingale from sounding truly beautiful
  • On the other hand Julia Lezhneva was impressive as the cook
  • Andrei Bondarenko, the newly appointed winner of the Song prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, whom many felt should also have won the main prize, used his warm lyrical barytone to portray the Emperor of China.
  • Both Evgeni Nikitin and Antonio Poli mad the most of their relatively small parts

Muti with the Verdi Requiem in Salzburg

Verdi Requiem. Grosses Feststpielhaus, Salzburg Festival. August 15th. Riccardo Muti conducts the Vienna Philharmonics. Soloists: Krassimira Stoyanova, Olga Borodina, Saimir Pirgu, Ildar Abdrazakov.

  • Muti conducted not without nuance, but his version of the Verdi Requiem is still mainly brisk and powerful
  • I still wonder to what extent the Vienna Philharmonics could actually play this piece without a conductor, though obviously someone has to coordinate between orchestra and choir
  • Olga Borodina was in booming voice, seemingly oblivious to fellow colleagues as well as the conductor and absolutely NOT blending in with Krassimira Stoyanova´s distinctly different vocalism and significantly smaller voice.
  • Well done by Saimir Pirgu, while Abdrazakov did not have an exceptional day
  • I spotted a total of 5 women in the orchestra (one concert master, the rest strings). This does not indicate all five are members of the Vienna Philharmonics as the orchestra often hire "seasonal employers" for the Salzburg Festival.
  • After the soprano´s initial "libera me", in the orchestral pause a cell phone went off...
  • Grosses Festspielhaus was sold out despite the distinctly antisocial hour of this concert (11 am). Later I found out that this day is a national holiday in Austria, which does not influence the hour of the concert as the Vienna Philharmonics traditionally play several series of concerts at this hour.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Salzburg 2011 - Claus Guth Cosi Fan Tutte in a major revision

@ MonikaRittershaus for Salzburger Festspiele
Cosí fan tutte. August 16th, Haus für Mozart, Salzburg Festival. Prod: Claus Guth. Cond: Marc Minkowski with Musiciens du Louvre. Cast: Maria Bengtsson (Fiordiligi), Michele Losier (Dorabella), Anna Prohaska (Despina), Alek Shrader (Ferrando), Christopher Maltman (Guglielmo), Bo Skovhus (Alfonso).

It is a major revision of his 2009 staging of Cosi Fan Tutte presented by Claus Guth at this years
Salzburg Festival. A pity really, that the 2009 version is already preserved on DVD, as this "new" version is more closely related to the rest of Guth´s Da Ponte trilogy (Nozze di Figaro, 2006 on DVD and Don Giovanni from 2008).
In 2011 we see the plain interior of a white house, complete with the staircase from Nozze di Figaro. The party from 2009 is over and now all excesses have been dispersed with leaving a pure psychoanalytical room, the looming pine forest (also seen in Don Giovanni) gradually dominating the house, while the two girls are increasingly covered in  (symbolical) dirt, as the two black-clad angels of Alfonso and Despina lurk around and occasionally freezes the action. Those familiar with his Nozze di Figaro will immediately nod in recognition. However, really touching, it is never. And though the theatrical assemblances to both Nozze and Don G are obvious, it is not so obvious exactly what to make of them.
But a major revision it certainly is - I don´t remember having seen such fundamental changes in the conception and execution of a work between seasons before, compared to what is on the DVD this is a substantially different production.

As always with Guth, those prefering a bubbly comedy should look elsewhere, but judging from the big applause (as opposed to the booing when this production opened in 2009), the Salzburger audience seems to have learned  this lesson - after all Claus Guth initiated his Da Ponte cycle in 2006, which is now completed and all three Da Ponte operas may be seen at this years festival.
Curiously, a Japanese tourist continued to take photographs using his flash during the performance, which was quite annoying - I could see exactly who it was, and where he was seated (on the balcony, while I was on the parterre). Why someone didn´t stop this, I simply fail to understand. Germans/Austrians are not exactly known to restrain themselves when it comes to operatic etiquette. But perhaps too many tourists were present..

This time, it was not the Vienna Philharmonics playing, instead Marc Minkowski brought his Musiciens du Louvre in a fresh take on the score.

Vocally, Maria Bengtsson was disappointing - a slim voice with a nasal sound, shaky coloratura, strange shifts in tempo and seeming to hold somewhat back. Michele Losier, who will perform in Faust later this year in both London and New York, was a fine Dorabella, however the standout of the female cast was clearly Anna Prohaska, with superb Mozartean style and sense of characterization and crystal-clear singing. My guess: In five years she will be singing the Mozartean repertoire everywhere.

Among the males, both Bo Skovhus and Christopher Maltman brings weighty stage presence, though Maltman occasionally acts more than he sings. Also Alek Shrader seems on his way to more major assignments with convincing acting and unstrained vocalism.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Christopher Maltman: 4
Bo Skovhus: 4
Alek Shrader: 4
Maria Bengtsson: 3
Michele Losier: 4
Anna Prohaska: 5

Marc Minkowski: 4

Claus Guth: 3-4

Overall impression: 4
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