Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Melanie Diener kills Fidelio

Fidelio (in concert), Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, February 21 2011

Kurt Masur

Kurt Masur ..... conductor

Melanie Diener ..... Leonore
Burkhard Fritz ..... Florestan
Matthias Goerne ..... Pizzaro
Kurt Rydl ..... Rocco
Sophie Karthäuser ..... Marzelline
Werner Güra ..... Jaquino
Bálint Szabó ..... Fernando

Orchestre National de France and Choeur de Radio France

It's been crazy/busy these days on this end -- thus less frequent blog posts.

I was able to see the content of the 2011-2012 season at the Paris Opera which  instantly cut my appetite for opera - so I wasn't in too good opera-mood, to say the least. Happily there are still a few good promising shows to see at Bastille this season and then as far as opera is concerned I will look elsewhere more often than it was the case until now.

I'll try and update the list of new productions to be presented in 2011-2012 across Europe, so check out the list on the right side of this modest [yet marvelous ;)] blog.

I should also post a review on a sensationally successful production of Hérodiade at the Flanders Opera that I cleverly picked to go and see [Sunday, 9 days ago.] 

This entry instead is a quick report on the concert I was able to attend last night at Théâtre des Champs Elysées (TCE). I feel I should say a word about this concert because it will be repeated tomorrow night and I hope I could urge some of you who could make it to TCE and listen to this concert live, because of the very good cast, and especially sensationally string Leonora/Fidelio by Melanie Diener. She has a perfect voice for the role, with perfectly solid gravi and impressively sound high register, delightfully powerful and clean (no problem with intonation as we often see the high-volume singers struggling to do correctly)

The rest of the cast is very good too. Burkhard Fritz maybe cannot match the way Jonas Kaufmann sculpts Florestan, but he makes a strong impression, with a good command and apparent ease in his singing [I was not impressed by his Lohengrin in Berlin a couple of years ago, but this Florestan is perfectly within his grip.] I guess Matthias Goerne and Kurt Rydl could have exchanged the roles. Matthias' velvety warm timbre would have sat better with Rocco, and Kurt Rydl's vocal darkness would suit better Pizzaro. Always pleasant to listen to, Bálint Szabó and Werner Güra completed the cast of male singers, while Sophie Karthäuser made a promising debut role as Marzelline. They were all very good but the homogeneity of the cast was positively disturbed by a dazzling performance by Melanie Diener. It's just astonishing how rock-solid, sane and safe her singing is.

The orchestra was OK. I've heard them performing better but --all things considered-- this was a fine performance too. In fact it all started clumsily as the brass section was systematically too loud, and the famously good strings could not cut through to reestablish the balance in the orchestral texture. 10-15 mins later the things started to click right and the rest of the performance was good. At the same time, first 20 mins were too loud for the singers too. Since this was the first time I could hear Sophie Karthäuser and Werner Güra singing in this opera, I couldn't know if they were too weak or it was rather Kurt Masur who was not careful, but later on it became clear that the conductor was not particularly attentive. Kurt Masur opted for fast tempi and I was impressed with the singers who adapted to this fast paced Fidelio quite well. Kurt Masur is a legend and he of course received long series of cheers by enthusiastic crowd. To me, on the other hand, this evening will be remembered as the one when Melanie Diener has set a bar very high for singing this role.

The singers were in the middle of the orchestra and since I was sitting very close to the stage I could not see them properly and so I took only a few pics.

Burkhard Fritz

Sophie Karthäuser

Kurt Rydl
The only pic with Melanie Diener I could take [none with Szabó, Güra or Goerne...]

The concert will be radio broadcast on France Musique on March 19 2011, at 7 pm (CET)


  1. Was it the 'normal' Fidelio? I'm still reeling from the 1805 score I heard in Komische Oper last Friday! (I can't be quite as positive about Von Peter's staging as you were either!)
    But do try to see Kosky's new Rusalka, it was truly marvellous!!

  2. "The orchestra was OK." I hope this opera can be performed in a highly better way. Had Melanie Diener not been in the cast, this might have become my worst souvenir of a concert performance.
    I also appreciated Sophie Karthäuser performance. I agree with you saying that the balance between the orchestra and the singers was not right, even from a first balcony seat. (BTW, were you on the second row?)

  3. Too bad you didn't like the Benedikt-show Cloudy. I loved it for its deep digging question of our contact with history: to dwell on what we could learn from the past and not take it as a heavy bulk on our shoulders that paralyzes our sight to the future.
    This concert was the usually performed (1814) version of Fidelio.

    Hi Joël! I thought the orchestra was fine in the second half. First 20 minutes were really bad, but later on they improved, I thought. I don't want to open a can of worms concerning the geriatric conductors... As for the cast I thought they were all good, with Melanie singing absolutely majestically.

    4th row seat.

  4. That this man is still invited by the ONF is an obvious sign of the cultural decadency of Paris and France. Shame on Radio France for that, and boo to that old idiot who is certainly not a legend. Stupid audience.

  5. Interesting. Thanks for the analysis. I am very, very excited to hear of such a fine performance by Melanie Diener... I love Fidelio, and Leonore is such a wonderful and such a challenging role.

  6. Sacré Rameau! I was on a train when I read your comment and was laughing like crazy :) Decadance is a permanent process, I think, which is only counter-punched by occasional bursts of creativity. The case of Kurt Masur at TCE is maybe not an example to choose to counter-argument your statement but the Festival Présences is :)

    Hi Lucy! If you get a chance to listen to her singing live, you should. She's not often performing operas but when she does, it's a treat. I've listened to quite a number of various singers singing Leonore/Fidelio, but Melanie Diener is a whole different league. Cheers

  7. Thnx for the tip Cake.

    Balance was horrible, especially in the beginning and Karthauser and Gura almost inaudible. Goerne really does not have bottom range for Rocco but his voice is too smooth and rich for Pizzaro. Perfect for Woolfram tho.

    Your main point stands: Diener was GREAT, GREAT, GREAT, GREAT.

  8. Hi Marcillac. Glad you too liked Melanie's singing as much. As for Goerne I would've been happier if he'd sung Rocco rather than Pizzaro. Not perfect but would be better than Pizzaro. It's a shame conducting wasn't good but hey - you can't have it all :) Melanie rulz