Komische Oper Berlin

Die Entführung at Komische Oper

Entfuehrungko * Notes *
Calixto Bieito's production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Komische Oper was absolutely the worst opera experience I have ever had. Perhaps I am just hopelessly prudish, but watching 135 minutes of violence, which for the most part was directed against females, was not what I had in mind. Things started off humorously enough, the set revolved and consisted of a few glass boxes covered with advertising targeted at women. There were two boxes downstage left and right that looked just like they had come from Amsterdam's red light district, and scrolling signs with various messages about services offered. Above these particular boxes were four television screens showing a video of a woman at her toilette, and this turned out to be what I watched the most, as it was the least offensive.

The nature of Bassa Selim was entirely changed for this production. Instead of turning out to be an enlightened leader, he is merely a monster who has been living a life beyond consequence. We were treated to rape and torture scenes. Constanze is put in a cage and also lead by leash. Before "Marten Alle Arten," Osmin cuts one of the women and kills her in front of Constanze. It would be one thing if these disturbing images seemed like they were being critical, but their graphic sadism was simply gratuitous. Sure, at the end, the "good" guys kill the "bad" guys, but they also kill all the women in the harem except Blonde and Constanze. It was a simplification message, eye for an eye rather than turn the other cheek.

After watching about half of the opera, I just became utterly bored. The singing wasn't that great, the half-naked girls were cute but not exciting, people yelled a lot and were mean to one another, and the second-rate trapeze artist only performed during the overture. After I had read all the messages on the scrolling signs (with choice statements like "I just turned 18!"), I was reduced to watching Rebecca Ringst's video-film of Jeanette Höldtke putting on her makeup, painting her toe-nails, and trying to open a package of pantyhose.

Jens Larsen (Osmin) began singing stark naked in the shower in Act I, he proceeded to come out of the shower and dry off, but still managed to jump up and down on the bed without putting any clothes on. Larsen's voice was strongest of the cast, full and resonant, but he was off from the orchestra when he sang "Erst geköpft, dann gehangen." Christoph Späth was weak as Pedrillo, this was particularly evident when Larsen and Späth sang together in "Vivat Bacchus, Bacchus Lebe" in Act II. Likewise, tenor Edgaras Montvidas (Belmonte) lacked volume. He did look fairly good in a dress though. Karolina Andersson was still recovering from illness, so her Blonde was rather quiet, but her intonation was good. Brigitte Geller replaced an indisposed Brigitte Christensen, and Geller was audible but also shrill and occasionally off key. She also did not look like much competition for all the tall skinny supernumeraries who were part of Bassa Selim's harem, as she was rather short and squat.

* Tattling *
The audience was very sparse and booed during the performance and also at the end. There was no intermission, as many people would have left, one imagines. The performance was recommended for those over 18, but there was no warning about how many shots were fired. There were several during the second half, and they were deafeningly loud.

Pinocchio at Komische Oper Berlin

Pinocchioko* Notes *
The last performance this season of Pierangelo Valtinoni's Pinocchio at Komische Oper Berlin was last Tuesday morning. This hour-long opera for children was given in German, and Jetske Mijnssen's production is adorable.  The set, designed by Benita Roth, was an over-sized blue cabinet with two doors and three drawers. Christine Mayer's costumes were delightful and creative, although all on the traditional side. Overall, this has been the most traditional looking opera I have seen in Berlin, and it is somewhat ironic given that the music dates from 2001. There was much percussion, but the sound was more on the jazz or pop spectrum of contemporary music.

The cast included many children, who sounded like they were using microphones. They acted well and were sweet. I was especially enamored of the four gravedigger bunnies. As for the grown-ups, Karen Rettinghaus sang well in the title role and was convincing as a boy. Hans Gröning was slightly quiet as Geppetto. Susanne Kreusch stood out as the Blue Fairy, her voice was otherworldly and had good volume.

* Tattling *
The Komische Oper building is a bit odd, it looks like a sandstone box on the outside and rather rococo on the inside. They also played a recording of a ring in lieu of having an announcement about mobile phones, but a different ring than over at Unter den Linden.

My favorite part of the opera was the Pleasure Island scene when enormous fruits and pastries appeared. The underwater scene, after Pinocchio gets thrown in the sea, was fairly wonderful as well. All the oceanic creatures were fantastic, it was almost painfully cute.

There were tons of school groups at this particular opera, as one would expect. The children were quite excited and could not stop talking, and they particularly became noisy when someone on stage wrote that 1+1=3 on a chalkboard. At the end they clapped enthusiastically and chanted for an encore.

The Opera Tattler in Berlin

So far I've only gone to hear Don Carlo at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, which was not as amusing as it could have been, despite featuring quite a lot of nudity during the auto da fé scene. One cannot complain too much, as René Pape is singing Filippo II. I also took several photographs of Deutsche Oper Berlin, as I am convinced it is the least beautiful of all opera houses. I've walked past Komische Oper Berlin, but was more impressed by their current ad campaign, which I saw on a bus. It claimed to be the opera house of the year and also featured two men with their trousers around their ankles. I cannot wait to see what they've done with Die Entführung. Can the production rival the one on sofas from Munich? The photographs indicate some nudity and bad makeup, but at least there is no intermission, so it will be over quickly at any rate. I am also terribly curious about the Oper in der U-Bahn, apparently they are performing Die Zauberflöte from April 26-May 25.