Saturday, May 31, 2014

Twelwe-tone celebration: Zimmermann's Die Soldaten -- webcast from Munich

Andreas Kriegenburg is in charge of staging of this amazing opera and the choice to choose him for directing this opera is excellent, which makes me very optimistic for the tonight's show -- live from the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, webcast following this link starting from 19:00 CET.

Visual resemblance with the characters of the Kriegenburg production of Wozzeck is obvious...

Andreas Kriegenburg is a very atypical opera producer. He learned his skills as a carpenter in the sets building crew. Being an East German during the times of GDR, the era of pre- and post-unification of Germany his life was uncertain and he could see first hand the hardship and the lives of many changing radically overnight, people struggling on many different level to adapt and to make the best of their lives... -- which necessarily made him a more sensitive soul, and more experienced man with respect to majority of the opera producers in business today.

His best known opera production to date must be Wozzeck, also presented at the Bayerische Staatsoper (BSO) in Munich and was already streamed via webcast. That production alone is a very good example that the broadcasting opera is a good idea per se, but certainly lacks in impact on the viewers when compared to what you feel when seated at the BSO auditorium [provided you can make abstraction of the fancy-dressed unbearably snooty crowd, which is arguably the only obstacle to your good feeling at the BSO]. Then, we could see his Otello in Berlin (Deutsche Oper -- it's still running there FYI) and finally he marveled the crowds by his take on The Ring a couple of years ago, which is as good as the best Ring production so far -- that by Kasper Holten for the Kopenhagen Opera. His Tosca at the Frankfurt opera was praised by many and nowadays Kriegenburg is one of the most sought after directors in the world.

Die Soldaten is maybe even more challenging than Götterämmerung (for example), and it will be interesting to see how Andreas avoided the traps that poor Alvis Hermanis did not manage to avoid when staging this opera at the Salzburg Summer Festival in 2012 [you can see that show on this link]. The main treat of that Salzburg production was actually the orchestra and the amazing Ingo Metzmacher conducting. Tonight, the superb BSO orchestra will be conducted by their chief conductor Kirill Petrenko  and it will be interesting to listen to the way he read this superbly written score. While he was expected to excel in Wagner --which he definitely did, although I personally prefer Kent Nagano's conducting-- I am not so sure dodecaphony suits his rather unique "rough-but-melodic" style (but I hope I'll be proven wrong tonight).

Apart from the complicated staging issues (handling the simultaneous actions without too distracting or dispersing the viewers), a huge problem that any opera house faces when putting this opera on the stage is its enormous cast. The BSO troupe is very good and they will certainly be up to this challenge. Among the soloists we will see Barbara Hannigan (anti-casta-diva whom we love), Nicola Beller Carbone, Daniel Brenna [excellent in Salzburg in the same role],  Michael Nagy and the larger than life Hanna astonishing Schwarz.

Reading Synopsis prior to the show is indispensable for this opera so here is your link.

and a longer film --introduction to this opera and this production-- prepared by the BSO staff:

While waiting for the show to begin, I must say that I did not see one [new] opera production in Paris this year that was worthy to blog about. Several of these productions were webcast and the copies can be found on the Internet. Arguably the worst of them was Aida staged by the hyper-productive Olivier Py who definitely lost his mojo [especially baffling was his production of Alceste that even I --a huge fan of Gluck's operas-- found insipid and boring]. Laurent Pelly did the best he could to make something out of the pitiful libretto of I Puritani, but the whole spectacle in the immense auditorium of Opéra Bastille looked misplaced and borderline laughable.
As usual, since the arrival to the throne of Nicolas Joel, there were some great revivals. The superb Willy Decker production of La Clemenza di Tito was back and always marvelous Stéphanie d'Oustrac in the role of Sesto too. A smashing Krzysztof Warlikowski production of The Makropulos case, sublimely conducted by Susanna Mälkki, was one of the highest points this 2013/2014 season, but the most important event was definitely the revival of Tristan und Isolde (that I went to see no less than four times!)...  More about that in some other post (hopefully).
 I would be unfair if I didn't mention also the phenomenal Sonya Yoncheva who was amazing in Lucia di Lammermoor that she sang fantastically alongside Michael Fabiano who is my biggest positive surprise this year [would you be surprised if I told you he's a yet another superb American tenor?!]. Finally Ekaterina Syurina and Charles Castronovo were fantastic in I Capuleti. Charles is definitely one of the world's top tenors right now: his interpretations of the belcanto roles are unbeatable (modern, refreshing and sung beautifully), his Tome Rakewell last years at the Garnier Opera was sublime and his Nerone in Poppea e Nerone in Madrid (2013) was the best I've seen him act and sing so far.

OK, back to Die Soldaten (the show begins in just a few minutes) -- cf. this link

  • Barbara Hannigan and Okka von der Damerau are excellent, as expected... ;)

  • This is a moment when I don't really like this libretto: while I abhor the argument by Captain Haudy, I so dislike the Father Eisenhardt's preaching... Is it really sermon a source of good humanistic behavior?! I say NO, absolutely not! So we're forced to side with Eisenhardt even if we don't buy into his BS either...

  • Finale of Act 1 with always magnificent Barbara Hannigan [no other opera singer can  sing and act like that woman!]

  • The soldiers look definitely scary and the whole image creepy... 
  • but this music is OUTSTANDING -- wtg K.Petrenko! Is this opera simply emphasizing the fact that the sexually frustrated men behave irrationally but in such a way that it unavoidably leads to violence (and misanthropy)... Isn't that in fact a source of terrorism too?!
  • The way Kriegenburg handled this tricky Scene 2 of Act 2  should be taught to every young and aspiring director. Amazing! He captured all elements without being messy at all! [A real mine-field  for an opera director is actually Act 4]It's all superbly acted and you could read Alban Berg all over this scene ;)

  • Intermission: Loving the show so far but the tricky and big things are coming in teh second part.  This is VERY generous of the BSO and their sponsors to let us see their major new production for free. THANK YOU!
  • Part Deux 
  • And it goes on... It's theatrically impeccable so far (but I'll be patiently waiting for Act 4!)

  • Daniel Brenna, where have you been 'hiding'?! A superbly talented opera singer/actor!

  • Nicola Beller Carbone is on a roll too [The Countess de la Roche] -- and finally in a role that is not Salomé :) 

  • Ach, ihr Wünsche junger Jahre  is definitely a dodecaphonic response to  Hab' mir's gelobt ...

  • ... which can appear as strange after knowing all the trashing Richard Strauss received for Der Rosenkavalier from the progressive musicians and critics of his time. What was actually Zimmermann doing by this aria? 'Rectifying' Hab' mir's gelobt or it's simply a homage to Strauss?
  • On to Act 4 -- probably the trickiest  Act of all operas...
  • Kriegenburg on a roll: 

  • Eisenhardt is back... 

  • Superb last pictures: 

  •  Why is Charlotte perforating her sister with the knitting needles? Is she that judgmental? Women are harsh... 
This was a much MUCH better production of this opera than the one we were able to see in Salzburg 2 years ago -- especially the final act. I liked the Petrenko's melodic reading of the score. Barbara Hannigan is born to sing and act in opera. She really understand the 20th century music like no one else (except for Christine Schaffer). She received huge ovations as well as Kirill Petrenko.

Loved the show and I feel almost sorry for not having seen the show live in Munich.
You might wish to see their next new production which will also be live webcast on June 26 -- I won't: Guillaume Tell has bits and pieces that are fun to listen to, but enduring the entire opera with that impossible libretto -- no, no, no! :)


  1. I completely agree about your thoughts regarding this opera. This was the best production of Die Soldaten I've seen, definitely SUPERIOR than the Hermanis staging from Salzburg. Hannigan was superb and also the rest of the cast. Unlike Hermanis, this production is appropriately shocking, without falling in over-sexualization. A DVD of this would be great. Let's hope it happen.

    By the way, I didn't imagined that Hanna Schwarz was singing the role of Marie's grandmother. A far cry from the role of Hanna Glawari, in The Merry Widow, hahaha, which is the only recording of her that I had listened. Greetings from Barranquilla, Colombia.

  2. Oh, what a mistake! Schwarz has never sang an operetta. She sang in Pierre Boulez' recordng of Lulu. Sorry for the mistake.

  3. Yes, it was spectacular, especially in person. Spatial depth that doesn't translate onto video.

    Nice to read you again--where have you been?