Posts Tagged ‘Anna Samuil’

Götterdämmerung, Staatsoper Berlin, Schiller Theater, April 2013

11 April, 2013

When the Rheinmaidens playfully tease Siegfried at the start of Act II, their musical movements were far better than the unmusicality of the irritatingly intrusive dancers, who reappeared in this final part of The Ring. Their manipulation of silk sheets was fine, but this is the first time I have seen opera ladies move more gracefully than dancers, which suggests Belgian director Guy Cassiers should abandon them and let Wagner’s music speak for itself.

Act 1, images ©MonikaRittershaus

Act 1, images ©MonikaRittershaus

Under Barenboim’s direction it did so in spades, with a grippingly emotional Siegfried funeral march movingly complemented by a  red glow in the lighting. But after this the production failed to carry conviction. Siegfried’s arm merely flopped to one side rather than rise in warning to Hagen, who stayed where he was before quietly leaving the stage. He suddenly returned from stage-right to shout Zurück vom Ring, before barging his way through the onlookers to get to the Rhein, but why wasn’t he anxiously waiting and following Siegfried’s body with his eyes? It didn’t make sense.

Nor did some of the video imagery of faces with tongues hanging out, but there was fine singing in abundance. Waltraud Meier, an exceptional Sieglinde in Walküre, returned to sing Second Norn with a lovely evenness of tone, and reappeared strongly as Waltraute in a well wrought conflict with Brünnhilde. Iréne Theorin was commanding in that role, singing with effortless intensity. Siegfried was boldly sung by Andreas Schager, slim, youthful and convincing, as was Mikhail Petrenko as Hagen, and Johannes Martin Kränzle reprised his deeply powerful Alberich. Anna Samuil returned from her Freia in Rheingold to sing Gutrune, and Gerd Grochowski was an immensely effective Gunther, his firm voice complementing a melancholy stage presence that reminded me of a younger Jeremy Irons. His performance was an unexpected pleasure.

Brünnhilde, Hagen, Gunther

Brünnhilde, Hagen, Gunther

Overall, this production has its strong points, particularly in the lighting and some of the better video imagery, but its weakest points lie in the use of dancers. Rheingold was particularly bad in this respect, and Walküre was easily the best part, and the only one in which dancers were entirely absent. An interview in the Walküre programme showed Belgian director Guy Cassiers to have some rather naïve political ideas that included blaming Europeans for much of the poverty in the world. Perhaps his attitudes stem from Belgium’s poor colonial record, but noting that Wotan is cleverer than many of today’s politicians is a bit jejeune.

That Monsieur Cassiers is inspired by concepts relating to the interplay between good and evil, and success and failure, is no bad thing, but the unifying force that makes this Ring work so brilliantly is surely the musical direction by Daniel Barenboim. That plus a clever choice of singers who fitted their roles made this a hugely musical pleasure.

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Don Giovanni, Glyndebourne, July 2010

24 July, 2010

This production starts with a bang. The audience, seated in a lighted auditorium, is suddenly plunged into blackness as the first chord comes thundering from the orchestra. Then as the stage gradually lights up during the overture we see a cubical building of stone slowly rotating, showing different facets, and I thought of Dr. Who’s tardis. This turned out to be right on the mark, as the building later opens out to reveal various sets, the last of which shows a long table adorned for dining in a raked and dissolute room. The Commendatore appears from beneath, and drags the Don to hell at the front of the stage. This Jonathan Kent production is cleverly lit by Mark Henderson, and the designs by Paul Brown suggest a spooked version of La Dolce Vita in late 1950s Italy.

The End of the Party in Act I, Glyndebourne photo by Bill Cooper

Within this context, Gerald Finley is the perfect Don, suave and brutal. His killing of the Commendatore is done by dragging him to ground and clobbering him with a brick. After that, both he and Luca Pisaroni as Leporello performed with an insouciance that gave the impression either one would happily shop the other if push came to shove. Their singing had a clarity and attack that made them seem a nasty pair of scoundrels, and with such performances the rest of the cast could be almost passengers, yet there was some excellent support.

The Don with Zerlina, photo by Bill Cooper

Guido Loconsolo performed well as an unusually assertive Masetto, with his two-tone shoes and youthful physicality, and Anna Virovlansky as Zerlina was prettily seductive and absolutely infuriating in her flippant responses to him. Kate Royal sang well as a mousey Donna Elvira, still in love with the Don but clearly incapable of attracting his attentions, apart from her angry assertions of his callous inconstancy, and William Burden was a very fine Don Ottavio, restrained yet powerful. Brindley Sherratt sang well as the Commendatore, and Anna Samuil did her own thing as Donna Anna, singing out strongly for her fans in the audience, yet never quite integrating with the rest of the cast.

The Commendatore crushes the Don, photo by Bill Cooper

This was, at least for me, a super production, and the first orchestral bang at the start was followed by another when the wedding party suddenly poured forth from the cubical structure, and a third at the start of Act II. My only complaint was that the Act II fight where the Don beats up Masetto was poorly done — the blow knocking Masetto to the ground was very wide of the mark — but this is something that should be rehearsed by fight director Alison de Burgh before every performance. However, Vladimir Jurowski did a superb job with the orchestra, which played with immense feeling for the light and shade of Mozart’s score.

Performances continue until 27th August.