Monday, July 18, 2011

Komische Oper 'Festival 2011: Mighty Meistersinger

Since I was in town and since I loved this production first time I saw it  [and since I couldn't get a ticket for  Matsukaze], I decided to see Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Komische Oper Berlin. Repetitio est mater studiorum ;)

I believe every aspiring opera producer, as well as active directors who believe they can improve, should see this production. Andreas Homoki knows how to produce operas: his shows are clever, they wonderfully suit the music, and the theatrical side (creativity!) is given as much importance as is music and singing.

All the singers in this show act as professional theater actors, none of the chorus members is left to wander aimlessly on and around the stage, and they all seemed to enjoy themselves doing the show yesterday. Homoki has his concept, he is the one who runs the show, and his theatrical magic works without 10 miles of fabrics, heavy contraptions...  Legoland-like decor is enough to him to tell the story about the Meistersinger, and paint its parallel with Germany, and more generally, a parallel of a coexistence of old and new, of traditional and modern... just like every aspect of this show shows us!

Andreas Homoki - before the show

Since this was the last show of the operatic season, and also closing the Komische Festival 2011, it is understandable that the show was not at as high a musical level as it was when I saw it last December [Patrick Lange and the orchestra started a bit tentatively, but they self-tuned fast and then rolled it with vigor to the end, even if occasionally too loud], but all in all this was a brilliant show again. I blogged about it already and since the cast remained the same, I'll send you to that blog entry.

This time I could more enjoy the beginning of Act-3: after the riots from the end of Act-2, and the destruction of the town, Hans Sachs realizes the power of Arts, that it can be abused, and realizes the importance of his role in guiding that energy that generates Art in people. Very beautifully spotted by Homoki, and also by Lange who emphasized the gravity of that particular moment.

Homoki comes to congratulate and thank Ina Kringelborn for being a super-trouper

Many people apparently came to Berlin for this show [and you all should!], it is the finale of the Komische Festival.... and something dramatic backstage had to happen: Ina Kringelborn sprained her ankle... but with a help of pain-killers this very courageous girl accepted to do the show anyway (you wouldn't even notice the limping if Homoki didn't come up on the stage to tell us that before the show)  Brava Ina! In the end Homoki did not come to greet the crowd and soak the cheers for his wonderful show, but he came to offer Ina a bunch of flowers.

Thomas Ebenstein (David), Tom Erik Li (Beckmesser), Marco Jetzsch (vStolzing), Tomas Tomasson (Sachs), Ina Kringelborn (Eva), Dimitry Ivashchenko (Pogner)

Every day during the festival they fill the intermissions by appropriate music (chamber orchestra for Mozart, flute & piano music for Poulenc's Carmélites). Here they emulated Bayreuth, and before the next Act a wind-quartet played a recognizable motive from the following Act.

Since this entry is about Die Meistersinger, I guess it is the right moment to add several lines about the Glyndebourne production of the same opera, directed by David McVicar, that like many of you I too saw on video.
David is a bit like Robert Carsen: he stuns you with a couple of great productions, and then surprises you by some apathetic routinely shows. His take on the Meistersinger would belong to the second category, I'm afraid. In short, the lucky ticket-holders were given to attend a show that looks like a vintage Wolfgang Wagner or Otto Schenk productions filmed in the 90's in Bayreuth and at the Met respectively. You could not tell the difference between this and the above-mentioned productions already available on DVD's. If we forget about the tired choreography, this is as traditional --albeit luxurious-- production as you can possibly have. It is really too bad that the Claus Guth production from Barcelona never got to be released on DVD.

Another positive point of the Glyndebourne Meistersinger is that the Festival organizers provided an internationally open live broadcast: many curious folks who were not sure if they're ready for a long opera by Wagner, actually tried it and got whirled in Wagner-mania ;)

Don't get me wrong: I like most of the Dave's productions, but for his standards this one was really no good  [similarly Robert Carsen's Eugene Onegin, La Traviata, Les Boréades... were routinely, but I generally like his productions and respect his work a lot!]

Having said that, on the absolute scale, this Meistersinger is of course a much better production than Don Giovanni presented in Glyndebourne last year (where the bright spot was  Donna Anna by a phenomenal Anna Samuil!)
Gerald Finley sounds wonderfully melodic as Hans Sachs --almost like Peter Mattei-- although I am not sure if this interpretation really fits the Sachs' character. Maybe I am too used to Wagnerian singers in this role... Anyways, great job Gerry!  
Johannes Martin Kränzle was fantastic as usual, and Marco Jentzsch continues his rise to the world's top Wagnerian tenors, but to me the most impressive was the orchestra and Vladimir Jurowsky and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

 Here is an excerpt with Gerald Finley singing beautifully (scenically nothing is happening in this part!)

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