Fidelio

Fidelio at SFS

Nina-stemme* Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony are concluding a three-week Beethoven Festival with a semi-staged Fidelio. The opening performance last night featured grand singing and an austere, but effective staging.

The opera boasts a stunning cast. Nina Stemme is a searing Leonore, her sound is luminous and clear. She pierces to the core but is not harsh. Brandon Jovanovich is a robust Florestan. His first notes in Act II had much vibrato but he seemed to settle in and his performance was strong. Alan Held is a gripping villain and he sang Don Pizarro with power.

Kevin Langan is a believable Rocco, he has a tendency to creak, but it works for this role. Nicolas Phan (Jaquino) has a warm sound and Joelle Harvey (Marzelline) is bright and pure. Luca Pisaroni sings Don Fernando with authority.

The orchestra played with enthusiasm as the production unfolded around them. The staging makes cunning use of upstage platforms, the terraces, and the small portion of the downstage area available. The chorus sounded together and did a wonderful job with the choreography, filing in with a great deal of intention and opening scores in a well-timed and deliberate fashion.

Dialogue from Tatjana Gürbaca was included, and thus begins with Nina Stemme's Leonore speaking rather than the duet between Jaquino and Marzelline. Stemme's speaking voice is resounding and rather deep. The spoken parts do help tell the story, given the lack of set or elaborate costuming. The supertitles also spelled out locations and other relevant information. The humanity of this opera came through in the simplicity of the production and the beauty of the singing.

* Tattling *
The person next to me in Row A Seat 112 was an avid and excited viewer, so much so he would occasionally lean over me to try to see what was going on upstage.


Paris Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 6-11 2008: Eugene Onegin
September 24- November 2 2008: Rigoletto
October 11- November 2 2008: The Bartered Bride
October 13- November 12 2008: Cunning Little Vixen
October 30- December 3 2008: Tristan und Isolde
November 17- December 23 2008: Die Zauberflöte
November 25- December 21 2008: Fidelio
January 17-30 2009: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
January 24- February 8 2009: Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne
January 29- March 4 2009: Madama Butterfly
February 27- March 22 2009: Idomeneo
February 28- March 26 2009: Werther
April 4- May 8 2009: Macbeth
April 10- May 23 2009: Un ballo in maschera
May 4-18 2009: The Makropulos Affair
May 20- June 5 2009: Tosca
June 13-21 2009: Demofoonte
June 18- July 2009: King Roger

Riccardo Muti conducts Demofoonte. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde opposite of Clifton Forbis. Paul Groves sings the title role of Idomeneo, with Joyce DiDonato as Idamante and Camilla Tilling as Ilia. Rolando Villazon shares the role of Werther with Marcus Haddock. Deborah Voigt shares the role of Amelia with Angela Brown and Ulrica Elena Manistina.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site


Gran Teatre del Liceu's 2008-2009 Season

October 4-20 2008: Tiefland
November 11-30 2008: Le nozze di Figaro
December 23 2008- January 14 2009: Simon Boccanegra
January 3-10 2009: El retablo de Maese Pedro
February 3-15 2009: L'incoronazione di Poppea
March 17- April 18 2009: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
April 20- May 2 2009: La cabeza del Bautista
May 18- June 2 2009: Fidelio
June 19- July 7 2009: Salome
July 21-31 2009: Turandot

Barcelona's opera season was announced in January. Karita Mattila sings Fidelio, Nina Stemme sings Salome, and Bo Skovhus sings in Die Meistersinger. The one Baroque offering is a production by David Alden.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site


Opera Company of Philadelphia's 2008-2009 Season

October 10-24 2008: Fidelio
November 14-23 2008: L'Italiana in Algeri
February 20- March 6 2009: Turandot
April 24- May 3 2009: L'enfant et les sortilèges/Gianni Schicchi
June 5-14 2009: The Rape of Lucretia

Nathan Gunn and William Burden will be singing in The Rape of Lucretia.

Press Release | Official Site


Portland Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 26- October 4 2008: La Traviata
November 7-15 2008: Fidelio
February 6-14 2009: The Turn of the Screw
March 13-21 2009:
La Calisto
May 8-16 2009: Rigoletto

Francesco Cavalli's La Calisto looks like one of the only Baroque options for opera on the West Coast next season.

2008-2009 Portland Opera Site


Fidelio at Bayerische Staatsoper

Fidelio* Notes *
Peter Mussbach's production of Fidelio, which premiered at Bayerische Staatsoper in 1999, is infuriating and yet strangely dull. The set is boring, despite the many scene changes. It was also rather loud, the scrims made all sorts of sounds as they banged against the stage and a certain metal door squealed when opened or closed. There were bizarre choices of when have the curtain down, as in the middle "O welche Lust" and during the Overture to Leonore No. 3, which was placed, as it sometimes is, between Florestan and Leonore's duet and "Heil sei dem Tag!" The choreography was simply stupid, why have Marzelline spin around in joy and then grab the wall or have everyone space themselves neatly like sculptures on a staircase?

The costumes, by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer, are likewise unexciting, lots of white and grey, though at some point Jaquino wore a skirt for just one scene. Certainly the most annoying part of the production is Konrad Lindenberg's lighting, or rather, lack thereof. The faces of the singers were perpetually in shadow, which dampened their dramatic force. Ridiculously, the rest of the stage was lit well, so one could see a staircase, or a heater, or a pile of dirt perfectly clearly.

Christof Prick's conducting was not inspired, the horns sounded off in the overture of Act I, and generally it seemed somewhat slow. The chorus sounded rather strange in the last scene, for they were placed in rows beneath the principal singers. Waltraud Meier was at least reasonable visually in the title role, but vocally she was brittle and out of tune. Robert Dean Smith was somewhat reedy as Florestan. The rest of the cast was fine, certainly best was René Pape's Rocco. His voice has good volume but is also nuanced. Martin Gantner sang the small role of Don Fernando, and as usual was not unpleasant.

* Tattling *
The audience distinctly less well-behaved than at Parsifal, though, at least, there was no late seating. There was whispering throughout, a chief offender on the orchestra level was in Row 17 Seat 696. This white-haired fellow also turned some sort of device on during the overture, for his face was bathed in a blue light for a few seconds. A person to his left peered over at him, confused by the visual disturbance. There were also two beeps during Act I, at least one was during an interlude in which Florestan and Leonore's voices are heard, but there is no music.


Namelose Freude

FidelioSan Francisco Opera's revival of Fidelio opened last night. The production is directed by Michael Hampe and designed by John Gunter. The set is clever, with floors that lift up, and walls that can be moved aside. This facilitates scene changes, which went seamlessly throughout. The contrast of the openness in the final scene and the rest of the opera was rather deft. The set and costumes were both kept in 19th century style, no fedoras, no trench coats. The only noticeable flaw in the staging was the timing of the curtain, which came down before the music ended in both acts, causing the audience to clap before the music was finished.

The singing was solid with the exception of tenor Thomas Moser as Florestan. Moser's voice is a bit thin and reedy, especially in his upper range. At the end of his sole aria in the beginning of Act II he was simply shrieking. Soprano Christine Brewer was not visually convincing as Leonora, but when she sang, her lovely warm voice fit the role very well. The other roles were cast appropriately: Mathias Zachariassen (Jacquino), Greta Feeney (Marzelline), and Arthur Woodley (Rocco) all sang and acted well.

John Pearson played the Trompetenfanfare in Act II beautifully, it was the very sound of salvation.


Fidelio in a Small Electronic Box

So in the last week of December, I finally watched a television program in its entirety for the first time in seven years. It was a broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Fidelio. I suspect that part of the reason I do not watch television is because I have no idea what is on and at what time. Some solicitor for the Met called me on a rare day where I actually answered the phone and asked for a donation for the television broadcast, and I was, of course, compelled to actually send them money. But I decided that it might be nice to see this program, if I could figure out the channel and time. After much deliberation, it was possible.

Leonora was sung by Karita Mattila, who I saw recently as the lead in Kat'a Kabanova. Her voice is beautiful, and it had a damp sweetness in Janacek, but it is surprisingly strong, and she was able to sing Beethoven well also. Florestan was sung by Ben Heppner, who is supposed to be one of the greatest tenors at the moment, and he was quite good, a nice rich voice, but I would like to hear him in person. Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Marzelline was still birdlike sweet, and her acting is not bad and her German diction is pretty good. René Pape was good as Rocco, I had heard him before as an Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila, but he didn’t make much of an impression then, since Olga Borodina was so incredible as Dalila. Falk Struckmann was an adequately evil Pizarro.

The production had its good points, the choreography was pretty good, though I was disoriented with how the camera moved around, as it was a television broadcast, so I’m not sure I could experience the staging exactly properly. As an aside, I found it strange to be looking at James Levine conducting from what would be an orchestra member's point of view. The set was ugly, very modern, but convincing.

The music was wonderful, and I must remember to look for a good recording of it.