Posts Tagged ‘Manuela Uhl’

Der fliegende Holländer, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Wagner Wochen, February 2010

12 February, 2010

The stars of this performance were Manuela Uhl as Senta, and Hans-Peter König as her father Daland. Both sang very strongly, and along with Endrik Wottrich as Erik, they portrayed their roles with great sensitivity. Egils Silins as the Dutchman was not in the same league as Uhl and König. He would have made a good Hunding in Walküre, but did not have the voice to dominate in this particular cast. His stage presence was also weak, and when facing Senta alone on stage he held a rather pathetic stance. A good director should be able to overcome this, but I’m afraid Tatjana Gürbaca was not up to the job. She was probably more concerned with her own strange concept, in which the men were shown as financial traders, and the women as performers and party girls. In the end the Dutchman gave Senta a knife to kill Erik, which she did, and Senta’s nurse Marie killed Senta the same way. I haven’t the faintest idea what story Ms. Gürbaca was trying to stage and, judging by the enormous amount of booing at the end, nor did most of the audience. The words, however, were by Wagner and so was the music, beautifully played under the direction of Jacques Lacombe.

In the previous two operas this week, Lohengrin and Rienzi, the lighting was wonderful but there was no mention of the lighting designer. In this opera, however, Wolfgang Göbbel took credit and it was appalling — far too bright much of the time, and when lights were shone directly into the auditorium it suggested that the director wanted to insult the audience as well as Wagner. Indeed the director was the problem, rather than Herr Göbbel, who designed wonderful lighting for Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt at Covent Garden a year ago. But if you closed your eyes, as I did most of the time, the great music still came through with fine effect.

This is apparently Ms. Gürbaca’s first Wagner opera, and I hope it may be her last.

Cassandra by Vittorio Gnecchi, and Elektra by Richard Strauss, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

15 February, 2009

Cassandra, by the Italian composer Gnecchi, was written four years before Stauss’s Elektra. It tells of Agamemnon’s return to his wife Klytemnestra, who intends to kill him as revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia at the start of his voyage to Troy, and of course to preserve her relationship with Aegisthus. Agamemnon brings Cassandra with him from Troy, and she prophesies death. He believes her, but his wife whisks him away and the deed is done. The opera ends with the death of Agamemnon, though Cassandra will die later because that is her fate when someone finally believes her prophecies. The main role was for Klytemnestra, brilliantly sung by Susan Anthony, and her lover Aegisthus was well sung by Piero Terranova. Cassandra herself was very well portrayed by Nora Gubisch, but she only appears late in this fifty-minute opera. Agamemnon was Gustavo Porta. The late Romantic music was melodic, but tended to be at fever pitch without much of a let-up — it needed more light and shade.

Elektra had a very strong cast of female singers: Janice Baird as Elektra, Hanna Schwarz as Klytemnestra, and Manuela Uhl as Chrysothemis. Both the latter two, who were in Salome three days earlier as Herodias and Salome respectively, sang their roles in this opera particularly strongly. The small part of Aegisthus was well sung by Burkhard Ulrich, and Orestes was ineffectually portrayed by Egils Silins.

The director for both operas was Kirsten Harms, with scenery and costumes by Bernd Damovsky. In both operas the sets were very plain, having high walls with no top in sight, and the women’s costumes were modern and plain, mainly black dresses. Agamemnon in Cassandra, and Orestes after the murder in Elektra, were both covered in pinkish/red paint from top to waist, and looked like simple butchers.

The conductor was Kazushi Ono, but in Elektra, which I have heard many times before, the orchestra seemed out of control on the loud passages, with the brass too harsh. He certainly brought the quiet passages under control, almost as if in a chamber opera, but I found myself unmoved by the effect.

Salome, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Feb 2009

12 February, 2009

In this bizarre production the performers were dressed as clowns, in striped costumes, with upturned buckets, funnels, saucepans, and the like as headgear. They entered and exited through yellow doors in yellow walls, occasionally popping their heads up from behind these walls. Whether this would work for a stage version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t work for a Strauss opera. Only Salome, right at the end, wore anything reasonable, namely a pink slip, and the evident intention was to show her as the only normal person in a world of lunatics. I felt sorry for Manuela Uhl as Salome, because she didn’t come over well until the final scene, and was given no dance. This high point of the opera started with two of the erstwhile guards dragging in a cleaning trolley and clearing the stage, after which they, along with the other four people on stage danced in a conga. Salome eventually took off her striped clown outfit, but there was no sexual allure whatsoever, and when Herod at the end of the dance sings, Herrlich. Wundervoll, you wonder why. As to the singers, Hanna Schwarz was excellent as Herodias, and Clemens Bieber sang Narraboth with power and incisiveness — what a shame he dies so early. Chris Merritt was a slightly underpowered Herod, Manuela Uhl a powerful but slightly screechy Salome, but they were all badly let down by Morten Frank Larsen as Jochanaan, whose voice was quite wrong for the part — powerful on the higher notes, but completely lost on the lower register. The absurd costumes and scenery were complemented by ridiculous staging, with the performers required to make stylized and nonsensical arm movements, and walk forwards and backwards in meaningless ways. The entire nonsense was attributed to an artist named Achim Freyer. But perhaps if one closed ones eyes and listened to the glorious music? No, that didn’t work either, because Ulf Schirmer as conductor seemed to have little control of the orchestra. In the loud passages they let rip, and in the more lyrical moments they were dull. Strauss’s music needs playing with restraint and emotional conviction. But this one-dimensional performance didn’t begin to do justice to what ought to be a highly charged musical rendering of sexual desire and religious fervour. What a let-down!