Monday, February 15, 2010

Der fliegende Holländer in Amsterdam (1)

Director Martin Kusej
Conductor Hartmut Haenchen

Daland Robert Loyd
Senta Catherine Naglestad
Erik Marco Jentzsch
Mary Marina Prudenskaja
Der Holländer Juha Uusitalo

I should structure this review upside-down and first mention the extraordinary conductor.  I very much liked his Ring, but his Parsifal [in an unforgettable Paris production by K.Warlikowski] made me hooked up on his way to interpret the music by Wagner -- the beauty and the capacity to bring new quality to the show through music: that Parsifal was one of those rare operatic experiences which stays with you forever. Now what I can say about his Hollaender? It is simply unbeatable. Yes, "unbeatable" is the right word! Of course the chemistry between him and this orchestra is an important factor -- you don't get this result with just several weeks of rehearsals; it takes years to build this level of mutual confidence and understanding.  He and his orchestra never covered the singers, every instrument was distinctly percievable, yet the whole ensemble produced a gloriously homogenous sound. The nuances Haenchen impeccably sculpts through his choices of tempi. They do not only give a better sound to the orchestra, but they support and further emphasize the dramatic intentions by Kusej which were simultaneously occurring on the stage.
It is maybe the fact that this was their third show [5 to go!] that everything clicked right... Whatever  the case, this orchestra and  Hartmut Haenchen were simply wonderful on that night of February 12.

Then, I should stop for a moment and praise the chorus. Martin Wright -who directs the DNO chorus-- did a great job and sounded like the famous Deutsche Oper Berlin chorus. This particular opera is tricky for any chorus, but in this production it is even more difficult because Kusej decided to split them in two, place them on the opposite ends behind the stage, while the crowd of "dutchmen" occupied the stage itself (thus giving their presence the surreal element). And they never sounded out of tune or disordered. They  matched the beats of maestro Haenchen with almost surgical accuracy. Great stuff & huge congrats to them!

Now, how to talk about the singers in this production without going overboard? I don't believe it's possible but I can try. ;)

Marco Jentzsch is a young German tenor who we should keep an eye on. He's not yet that big, but I bet he will soon be rocking the operatic stages all over Europe. Right now he sounds Klaus Florian Vogt-ish although he's not as easy in the top register, but his lower register is more heldentenorish. His voice must be a good fit for Lohengrin, Walter/Meistersinger, and definitely he's an awesome Erik. The fact that he was sharing  the stage with Naglestad and Uusitalo didn't seem to intimidate him the least.

Marina Prudenskaja is now in the same league with Sophie Koch. Her Octavian in the sensational Herheim's production of Der Rosenkavalier in Stuttgart is the strongest I've listened to so far (live in the theater). She  now seems to have turned more towards the Wagnerian repertoire. She participated in the Valencia Ring, this was her first Mary, and she will be singing in the La Scala Ring. Although her role is quite short in this opera, Marina was a necessary ingredient to keep the outstanding singing level up. Plus her physique was a perfect match for her place in the Kusej's production.

What to say about the unforgettable Wotan in the Ring by La Fura dels Baus, who now reached the maturity to give his best in portraying the role of the Dutchman? He's now more experienced but his timbre still possesses that youngishness, and you could tell he still has the desire to do better. Juha Uusitalo  killed this role last Friday. I don't believe anyone could sing this better. RIght now he's on the top of his potential: an astonishing command, security and that heroic touch which makes the wagnerian voices so impressive. And yet the way he sounds makes you feel you're listening to something truly unique - something that even he wouldn't be able to repeat. And so now, after this sensational Dutchman, I definitely get on his bandwagon! [ He will soon be singing in the Vienna ring; I will try to go for at least one opera.

To be quite honest, before going to Amsterdam I thought Catherine Naglestad wouldn't be able to do as good as Nina Stemme did in the same role, who I saw in Vienna a couple of years ago. It's a grueling role for a soprano, especially towards the end where it gets tougher to sing and after it already took a heck out of you. But after this Friday night, I am happy to say that I was dead wrong. It is in fact wrong to compare the Senta of Nina Stemme with that of Catherine Naglestad. They are very different but both awesome in their own way. Catherine's Senta is a fragile, overly sensitive girl who liberates her inner self in the last part of the show. Her voice precisely progresses along that line and she most amazingly manages to conduct the middle range of her voice in such a way that it acquires the volume, the width, the roundness as the show goes on, towards its culminating point which is the end. Plus she still has that ease in the higher register which used to be the trademark for Karita Mattila. It's now Catherine Naglestad's. If you see her name in any production you might get a chance to see, do not miss it!

Robert Loyd very good too ;)

Will make a separate post about the Kusej's production tomorrow. Before that here are several curtain call pics:

Uusitalo, Naglestad, Jentzch, Prudenskaja, Loyd, Ringelhahn

Mary Marina Prudenskaja

 Erik (Marco Jentzsch) and Daland (Robert Loyd)

Everybody's waiting Senta...

...and she comes -- la bravissima Catherine Naglestad

  Maestro Haenchen joins in and an instant Standing O ensued

This is how the stage --with a huge crew-- looked like from my 1st balcony [cca 70€] seat.

Unforgettable Dutchman and Senta: Juha Uusitalo & Catherine Naglestad


  1. Pfff, c'est malin, ça ! Evidemment, c'était la production de Kusej qui m'intéressait (plus que l'oeuvre elle-même, faut bien dire...

  2. Ça arrive ;)
    Après un spectacle si complexe tu as toujours besoin de souffler un peu, pour laisser l'orage se calmer.

    Sinon il faut écouter Haenchen et cet orchestre jouer cette musique fantastique. Et puis le livret se prête bien pour des belles solutions scéniques -- ce que Kusej confirme d'ailleurs (même s'il le modifie une peu ;) ).

    La chose qui m'a surtout frappée c'est la réaction du public à la fin: soit ils n'ont rien compris de ce qu'ils venaient de voir, ou bien ils ne se sentaient pas concernés par les propos de Kusej [et pourtant le public est assez vieux et manifestement "riche"]. C'est très étrange ça..