Serse at Bayerische Staatsoper
January 06, 2003
The production of Serse at the Bavarian State Opera was hideous. When one is staging an opera, which does, in fact, involve music, and thus, sound, perhaps one should think about how the sounds that various parts of the production may distract from the music at hand. All sorts of supernumeraries stomped here and there on stage, and there was also Atalanta and her dancers wearing dresses that had extremely noisy plastic beads. The choreography was poor, especially in the case of Atalanta and her dancers who were dressed with a nod toward cabaret styled belly dance costumes. No one quite owned the movements, as it were.
Speaking of which, the costumes were garish in general, lots of sequins, it looked like some sort of cheap 80s prom dress nightmare. Though the supernumeraries were dressed in white t-shirts and gray trousers as they moved various parts of the stage to and fro. There was also a part of Act II in which a gaggle of supernumeraries, both male and female, wearing black gowns with a cut outs for prosthetic breasts to jut out of. Thankfully, they also had modest head scarves in place as well.
Among the various atrocities in the set were huge frames that were hoisted by supernumeraries on stage, complete with obnoxious comments in German on them; various flashing lights onstage; Arsamene undressing onstage, always a crowd-pleaser, even if he wore a body stocking; persons being hoisted on swings while discussing diplomacy; and persons being carried about in boats with bubbles encased in plastic in the background. Mind you, this is what I could see from my standing area that had an obscured view. I cannot detail for you a complete list, unfortunately. But I'm rather glad I did not pay the 97 Euros for a seat with a view of the stage, which was all that was left.
Mezzo-soprano Ann Murray as the Persian prince Serse was a bit uneven. Her voice was nice in her middle range, but her intonation was off in her higher register. Her voice in the lower range did not always carry, even though the acoustics in the Nationaltheater are quite good. In her mid-range I preferred her voice to Christopher Robson's countertenor (Arsamene), although his is like a muffled bell, very pretty. The best of the lot was Susan Gritton, the soprano who sang the part of Romilda. Her voice was damp and sweet, if a bit thin. Veronica Cangemi as Atalanta had a raw edge, a little lack of control, but not bad. Nathalie Stutzmann as scorned Amastris also lacked a bit of control of her upper range, her intonation was flat.