Category: Music

Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden: Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser (January, 28th, 2018)

By , February 15, 2018 22:24

First: The obvious (in German):

Musikalische Leitung: Patrick Lange
Inszenierung: Uwe Eric Laufenberg
Bühne: Rolf Glittenberg
Kostüme: Marianne Glittenberg
Video: Gérard Naziri
Chor: Albert Horne
Licht: Andreas Frank
Dramaturgie: Regine Palmai

Hermann, Landgraf von Thüringen: Young Doo Park
Tannhäuser: Lance Ryan
Elisabeth: Sabina Cvilak
Venus: Jordanka Milkova
Wolfram von Eschenbach: Benjamin Russell
Walther von der Vogelweide: Aaron Cawley
Biterolf: Thomas de Vries
Heinrich der Schreiber: Joel Scott
Reinmar von Zweter: Alexander Knight
Ein junger Hirt: Stella An
Nymphen und Grazien: Charlotte Dambach, Viviana Defazio, Laurin Thomas, Rouven Pabst, Nicholas Bruder
Vier Edelknaben: Eunshil Jung, Hyerim Park, Isolde Ehinger, Daniela Rücker
Chor & Extrachor des Hessischen Staatstheaters Wiesbaden, Statisterie des Hessischen Staatstheaters Wiesbaden, Hessisches Staatsorchester Wiesbaden

First of all: I don’t like Laufenberg, what he did to Parsifal in Bayreuth is a sacrileg. Second: This Tannhäuser isn’t as bad. Third: It need not be Christian Gerhaher to sing a great Wolfram.

Uwe Eric Laufenberg is a director, who has some good ideas, but always fails in making these ideas “round” and consistent in a staging. So his stagings jump from one idea to the next, always leaving us in a stage of “what the fuck does he now want to tell us?”

Tannhäuser is all about the conflict between “true love” and “pure sex”. That alone is something, that would need more than just some naked bodies dancing across the stage. Calixto’s approach (as in his staging, which I saw in Bern, and which will soon be re-staged in Leipzig) was to make this “conflict” visible by having the people, who represent one side of the coin (Wolfram: “true love”, Tannhäuser: “pure sex”) really fight each other on stage. Laufenberg just tried to display the torn emotions by using symbols (“naked girls” and “longing gestures”). This “more clinical” approach then conflicts with the nakedness of the dancers, so it leaves us in a stage of “WTF?.

Lance Ryan also added to this problematic staging. Yes, he’s a powerful actor, but his voice…

But then there was Benjamin Russell, who made us long for his “Ode an den Abendstern” from the first momement he opened his mouth. Thanks for that!

Luckily, Patrick Lange also made a great leader of the orchestra, so in total it was an evening worth spending.

Oper Stuttgart: Luigi Cherubini: Medea (January 31st, 2018)

By , February 15, 2018 22:04

First: The obvious (in German):

Musikalische Leitung: Alejo Pérez
Inszenierung: Peter Konwitschny
Bühne und Kostüme: Johannes Leiacker
Licht: Reinhard Traub
Chor: Christoph Heil
Dramaturgie: Bettina Bartz

Medea: Cornelia Ptassek
Iason: Sebastian Kohlhepp
Kreon: Shigeo Ishino
Kreusa: Josefin Feiler
Neris: Helene Schneiderman
1. Brautjungfer: Aoife Gibney
2. Brautjungfer: Fiorella Hincapié
Mit: Staatsopernchor Stuttgart, Staatsorchester Stuttgart

Peter Konwitschny is one of those, who have a distinct hand in doing their stagings. This has been my 10th staging from him, and I liked it!

Peter, like Calixto, is one of those, who know, how to make singers act and perform. And in an opera, which has the topic of a split marriage and the children as topics of battle between ex-wife and husband, and them being sacrificed on the altar of this marriage-gone-wrong is a topic, which needs a guiding hand in staging.

Peter places the first two acts into a kitchen placed onto the beach of greece. This kitchen becomes cluttered with debris over time, just like humanity uses this planet as a resource, that we all assume as granted, and nothing worth caring about. This attitude of neglect also transpires into the actions of all acting people, there’s none, who really cares. In act three, the back-walls of the kitchen are removed, and we see the sea cluttered in plastic debris, just like the characters have been “just using” all living items for their own pleasure and benefit.

It’s a strong staging in using this child-murder theme to make us think about how we murder our planet. A typical Konwitschny, and a very good one!

Komische Oper Berlin: Franz Schreker: Die Gezeichneten (February 10th, 2018)

By , February 15, 2018 21:50

First: The obvious (in German):

Musikalische Leitung: Stefan Soltész
Inszenierung: Calixto Bieito
Bühnenbild: Rebecca Ringst
Kostüme: Ingo Krügler
Dramaturgie: Simon Berger
Chöre: David Cavelius
Licht: Franck Evin
Video: Sarah Derendinger

Herzog Antoniotto Adorno: Joachim Goltz
Graf Andrae Vitelozzo Tamare: Michael Nagy
Lodovico Nardi, Podestà der Stadt Genua: Jens Larsen
Carlotta Nardi, seine Tochter: Ausrine Stundyte
Alviano Salvago, ein genuesischer Edelmann: Peter Hoare
Guidobald Usodimare: Adrian Strooper
Menaldo Negroni: Ivan Turšić
Michelotto Cibo: Tom Erik Lie
Gonsalvo Fieschi: Johnathan McCullough
Julian Pinelli: Önay Köse
Paolo Calvi: Samuli Taskinen
Il Capitaneo di Giustizia: Joachim Goltz
Ginevra Scotti: Katarzyna Włodarczyk
Martuccia, Haushälterin bei Salvago: Christiane Oertel
Pietro: Christoph Späth
Ein Mädchen: Mirka Wagner
Ein Jüngling: Emil Ławecki
Chorsolisten der Komischen Oper Berlin, Vocalconsort Berlin

This has been my 17th staging by Calixto, and sadly, I have to admit, it’s not been his best.

But, let’s start at the beginning.

Schreker’s opus is an opus, which has a difficult topic, especially, when it comes close to what one might have experienced oneself. Calixto mentioned, that he has also experienced abuse as a child, so I did assume, that this opera might be one of those, in which he would be at his best. Sadly, there were only a couple elements/pictures, which were so good and strong, that they convinced me. The “painting”, that Carlotta does of Alviano performed as a stagging of a wall with a knife is one of those pictures, that stuck. Her breaking free at the end of Act 2 in kicking the last piece of that painting through the wall, and vanishing with Alviano into the dark behind the stage, is part of that. The intensity of Carlotta murdering Tamare at the end of Act 3 is another one of these rare intense moments, that we all long for, when going to a Bieito staging.

These moments were made possible by the outstanding performances of Ausrine Stundyte, Peter Hoare and Michael Nagy. These three alone made it worth visiting this staging, with all its shortcomings.

So, what are these shortcomings?

Calixto mentioned (in the comments from him in the booklet to this staging), that he took the theme of robbing young girls and putting them into the Elysium “playground” a step further by also using boys, and by making this Elysium like Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Huge Teddy Bears and other child pets were on display in Act three. So, trying to make Alviano and Tamare and the other Grandes into unknowing, never-to-be-getting-adult-children is a good idea, but it would have needed some more convincing flow of this theme in the overall staging. Having also videos of the abusers’ faces displayed on the stage’s back in act 1 and 2 also were a topic of his interpretation. Sadly, the monotonous video-display (two full acts) and the boys didn’t really hold for the length they were on display.

But again, still worth visiting, even the not-so-good stagings from Calixto are still something to keep in mind and to continue to think about. And with the orchestra and its director in such good shape, that also makes a visit a thing to remember.

Capriccio-Kulturforum

By , July 15, 2009 11:11

Tja, was soll ich sagen: Wer Lust und Zeit und Interesse hat, sich über klassische Musik et.al. auszutauschen, findet hier das beste deutschsprachige Forum dazu: http://www.capriccio-kulturforum.de/

Liebe Grüße,

Matthias

Thomas Hampson in Heidelberg, again

By , April 23, 2009 03:08

Yesterday I was at the Heidelberger Frühling, visiting Thomas Hampson‘s Liederabend. When we bought the tickets, it was indicated, that he might be singing Schumann’s op. 39, something, that Thomas did not yet sing or record. Sadly that had been reverted to op. 35, and the concert also did cover Liszt songs and some of the Rückert songs by Mahler.

It seems, Thomas had hay fever, like many in the audience. That coughing “even in the quietest moments” is a bad habit, that does seem to get worse every time. Thomas was (due to the hay fever?) not as good, it seemed, he had some problems with the upper notes, but still, his voice is good, and his pronunciation of german is exquisit.

So, with some mixed emotions, I did enjoy the concert, but had heard better of him already.

Matthias

Automatic composing? How good will this be?

By , September 28, 2007 01:40

Yesterday I saw in a german newsletter, that a person in Germany did create an automatic composing program named “Ludwig”. He did it, as he did his Check-program Fritz. Not by placing the algorithms of composing into the code, but by having the program place note after note, and then evaluating the quality. Even these quality evaluation rules aren’t hardcoded, but are looked up in a DataBase, that can be fed with new information. So, my real questions and concerns are:

  • How Automatic can one make the creative act of composing?
  • Will such things survive and replace “ordinary composers”?

As I asked in http://www.tamino-klassikforum.at I am really curious, but find the idea itself interesting and challenging. Something to watch!

Matthias

Thomas Hampson on American Song-writing

By , October 16, 2006 09:11

Thomas Hampson, my favourite living Bariton, shared his insights on public sharing of IP (in his case: music) and great american songwriters in an interview with WNYC. Really great listening, check it out:

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/soundcheck/episodes/2006/06/02

In the same session, there also was a small episode on the greatest ever recorded album in america, Frank Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours”. Also worth listening to!

Wagner 2: Lohengrin, Nagano, Lehnhoff, Baden-Baden

By , June 8, 2006 05:20

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Baden-Baden, enjoying the highly acclaimed and praised performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin by Nikolas Lehnhoff, conducted by Kent Nagano. This was the third and last performance in Baden-Baden, I don’t know, if the participating operas (Lyon (Opera National) and Milano (Scala)) will host this performance also. If yes, go there! Or if any of these performances will lead to a DVD (which I would welcome!).

We again did prepare us by watching and listening to older videos and CDs of former performances, and by also listening to the introductory lectures given by Stefan Mickisch. We can highly recommend his CDs, they are fun listening to, and do provide a profound introduction to the theme and the music. The sad thing is: They are german only. But, those who love Wagner should also be able to understand german, at least a bit… 😉

We also have to report some sad news: Yesterday, both Waltraud Meier and Klaus Florian Vogt (Ortrud and Lohengrin) were sick, and were not allowed to sing. Waltraud was replaced by Anette Bod, and Klaus Florian did the acting, and Stuart Skelton did the singing from the right side of the stage. Stuart was the Parsifal in Frankfurt (check my former blog), and we both agreed, that his voice was much better yesterday during his performance of Lohengrin, then during his performance of Parsifal. Although I’m not a fan of Waltraud, my feeling w.r.t. the performance of Anette was: She was “shrieking” to much. OK, this is also attributed to the role, but still, I hadn’t been completely convinced by her performance. But we missed Klaus Florian most, because he was praised that much (and I saw small snippets of his performance in TV shows in the last two days, which were really convincing!), and we were eager to listen to his performance. But: People (and singers) are human, and sickness can happen to anybody.

Putting these sad things aside, let’s look at the overall thing:

Highly recommended!

First: Kent Nagano made his orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, perform clear and precise. I was able to hear things. I never heard before! This also made hear-able discrepencies, and tensions, that some other performances try to neglect.

Second: The setting was more modern, and as such allowed to concentrate more on the emotional problems the characters have (Elsa, for one: The driven, the victim). This also reflected in the movements of the people (not that much of “showing”, but more “human”).

Third: Singing was great, best yesterday was Tom Fox as Friedrich von Telramund.

Forth: The scenery fitted well with this “modern” setup. They placed a chair (backward facing) and a lecturn on a round plate, surrounded by an amphitheatre, so that all people “talking” were standing behind the lecturn and “announcing” their things and thoughts. This made the impression of a university setting from the 19th century. This was convincing, as we are dealing with a “high court”. The second movement had a stair-flight, which fitted well with the actions, and the third movement returned to the amphitheatre setting.

Short: We loved it!

Wagner

By , June 2, 2006 05:59

Last week, again, was my birthday, and as the day after that was a public holiday, my girlfriend surprised me with tickets to a performance of Wagner’s opera Parsifal at Opera Frankfurt (check:http://www.oper-frankfurt.de/saison/2005_2006/seiten/premieren/parsifal.html).

That day was a rainy day, so we both were really happy, that she did decide to spend that public holiday in the opera instead of in the open…;-)

To make it short:

We both highly recommend that!

Two years ago I had been to Baden-Baden to the highly acclaimed performance of Parsifal by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, conducted by Kent Nagano (check, for example: http://www.hampsong.com/discography/discography.php?id=C0_37_16). I went there for Thomas Hampson as Amfortas (as you can derive from the link), and loved it.

Next week we will be back to Baden-Baden to see Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s version of Lohengrin (sadly without Thomas Hampson).

To compare these two Parsifal performances, we did watch the DVD (which I really can recommend), in order to prepare ourselfes (and my girlfriend, who didn’t know this opera before), so we went to Frankfurt well prepared.

So, were did we see the differences?

First: In Frankfurt we had Julia Juon as Kundry. In Baden-Baden it was Waltraud Meier. Although the world seems to value Waltraud as better, we both agreed, that Julia was much better. This is attributed to the fact, that Julia has more volume in the deeper registers, and as Kundry is a person, that “suffers” from long-evity, and the incapability of dying, that possibility to perform sadness and being tired by expressing it in deep and low tones, made her superior to Waltraud.

Second: In Frankfurt the scenary was not that dark and black as in Baden-Baden. That made for more moving feelings. Still: That sadnees in the scenary in Baden-Baden was intentionally so. In Baden-Baden, the Gral (Holy Grail)-scene in the first movement was missing some of the glamour (which Lehnhoff did intentionally), but at least I valued the more “traditional” setup in Frankfurt more. Helping here was the voice of Titurel, because it had not been put into the echo/background, but still remained on stage, at the table, and Magnus Baldvinsson has a really great voice! This together made for the most moving putting-in-scenary of this episode I’ve ever seen or listened to.

The second and the third movement didn’t fall short, so, as stated above, we can really recommend that performance. And the orchester was great. The only sad thing to say (but that’s also true for the Baden-Baden version) is, that the bells were electronic, and not real.

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