Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie

La Finta Giardiniera at De Munt

La-finta-giardiniera * Notes * 
De Munt has revived a production of La Finta Giardiniera from the National Theatre, Prague, but based on one originally from De Munt that premiered in 1986. Directed by Karl-Ernst Herrmann and Ursel Herrmann, the production featured a little person, one Mireille Mossé, who seemed to be the ringmaster of this circus of an opera. She gave monologues in German before each act, some silent commentary throughout the scenes, and seemed to direct the rather absurd plot, which worked well. It made the motivations of the characters clearer. Given that there are 7 principal singers, and over 3.5 hours of music, any insight was welcome. The set consisted of a grove of trees upstage, a narrow pond downstage, and a strip of stage around the orchestra pit. From the front orchestra level, it almost felt as if the audience was in the performance.

John Nelson conducted De Munt's orchestra, which sounded jaunty and spirited. All the principals suited their roles, both vocally and dramatically. Adam Plachetka was strong as Roberto (Nardo). Katerina Knežíková was funny as Serpetta, her voice bird-like and pleasant. Stella Doufexis was a boyish Ramiro, clear voiced and beautifully icy. On the other hand, it took me a bit to warm up to Henriette Bonde-Hansen (Arminda). Perhaps I was overwhelmed by her cow print ensemble, complete with hat and purse. Her first aria was fine though a little dull, but her second aria was impetuous and had more fire. Jeffrey Francis (Podestà) acted convincingly, but his voice was a bit underpowered. Jeremy Ovenden sounded both warm and sweet as Belfiore, and his comic timing was precise. In the title role, Sandrine Piau impressed. Her singing was delightful, rich but with the appropriate lightness and grace for Mozart.

* Tattling * 
There was light whispering, especially for the first overture. The audience attrition for this 4 hour and 15 minute performance was marked.

La Monnaie's 2010-2011 Season

September 9-21 2010: Yvonne, Princess de Bourgogne
September 21 2010: Così fan tutte (Concert Version)
October 26- November 11 2010: Kát'a Kabanová 
December 10-31 2010: La Bohème
January 27- February 20 2011: Parsifal 
March 13-30 2011: La Finta Giardiniera
April 10-16 2011: Hanjo
April 26-30 2011: Nabucco
April 27-29 2011: Intolleranza 1960
May 3-11 2011: Matsukaze
June 11-30 2011: Les Huguenots

De Munt (La Monnaie) has quite an eclectic season in store, with 3 contemporary operas, some rarities, and some standard fare. One can read more about De Munt's season on Summer is Coming In.

Official Site | 2010-2011 Season

Semele at De Munt

Semele * Notes * 
Last night the new season at De Munt opened with a rather bizarre production of Semele. Zhang Huan's production featured a 450 year old Ming temple, which was very lovely and worked perfectly well as a stage device. However, other elements did not integrate as gracefully, such as the Mongolian song that followed "Endless Pleasure," which though beautiful, was intentionally jarring. The huge mirror that appeared for "Myself I shall adore" was painfully obvious, and the sumo wrestling match at the end of Act II was simply outrageous. The Chinese dragon puppet at the end entertained, and it was tied to Jupiter because of associations with rain and weather. One was not sure what to make of the obvious Orientalism at hand, and wonders if Zhang is trying to reassure his Western audience or perhaps poking a bit of fun at it.

The Baroque ensemble Les Talens Lyriques sounded gorgeously clean and clear under the direction of Christophe Rousset. They were perfectly together and played absolutely splendidly. On the other hand, the chorus of De Munt were less than exact. Likewise, the singing from the principals was a hodgepodge, no one was particularly great, nor were they horrible.

Sarah Tynan sounded bird-like as Iris, though her upper register was shrill. Nathan Berg subsituted for Kurt Gysen as Somnus, and sang Cadmus, both roles sounded fine but not distinguished. David Hansen sounded reedy as Athamas, fairly bright but not very warm. I could not stop thinking of The Bonesetter's Daughter when I heard Ning Liang singing either Juno or Ino, her accent in English is unmistakeable. Her singing for Juno was quite jagged, she did get a feel for the character's vindictiveness in her voice. Jeremy Ovenden had some pretty moments as Jupiter, though his voice was underpowered. Though lacking in precision, Ying Huang too had some brilliance to her voice. Both the top and the bottom of her voice are not smooth, and have a tinselly quality. Her English diction was comprehensible.

* Tattling * 
The two people at the head of the dragon puppet moved too early, before Jupiter had finished his last aria. The end of the work was cut by two scenes, and finished with Semele's death.

Members of the audience talked whenever there was no singing, sometimes at full volume. Thank goodness my host was good enough to hush the chief offenders near us. Not to be outdone by music or speech, people checked their emails and took photographs with cameras that made beeping sounds. The ovation was enthused but not prolonged.

La Monnaie's 2009-2010 Season

September 8-27 2009: Semele
October 20- November 3 2009: The Rake's Progress
December 1-22 2009: Iphigénie en Aulide 
December 1-22 2009: Iphigénie en Tauride 
January 19- February 4 2010: Elektra
March 15-20 2010: Ismène
March 16- April 3 2010: Idomeneo
April 11-13 2010: Medea
May 4-16 2010: Don Quichotte
June 11-30 2010: Macbeth

De Munt (La Monnaie) seems have a bit of an Ancient Greek theme next season, at least for seven of ten operas. One cannot help but be jealous that they will have not one but two Gluck works. The Rake's Progress is the Lepage production seen here in San Francisco last season. One can read more about De Munt's season on Summer is Coming In.

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season