Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Agrippina at Unter den Linden

Agrippina-unter-den-linden * Notes *
The final performance this season of Agrippina at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was last Sunday. Vincent Boussard's production was Regietheater at its silliest, involving layers of iridescent beaded curtains, bowler hats, umbrellas, and a pair of giant beach balls filled with helium. Guido Levi's lighting did look wonderful with all the beads and other reflective surfaces on the ground. The Christian Lacroix costumes were elegant and flattering. For the most part it was all very entertaining, though the simulated oral sex in Act II was not particularly tasteful.

René Jacobs had the orchestra sounding lively, perhaps a bit hazy at first, but otherwise fairly crisp. The singing was satisfactory, no one stood out except for Bejun Mehta as Ottone. His volume and control are admirable. Jennifer Rivera (Nerone) did some impressive acrobatics on the floor as others sang, she too as a pretty voice. Marcos Fink sounded warm and hearty as Claudio. Alexandrina Pendatchanska was a bit shrill and piercing in the title role, but perhaps this suits the ruthlessness of this character.

* Tattling * 
The audience this evening had a higher percentage of Germans than foreigners than the night before. They did not live up to the stereotypes we hold of Prussians as being efficient and proper. For one thing, some of them had trouble being on time to this sold-out show, and were not discrete about entering the hall. Secondly, they could not stop talking, even though they were repeatedly hushed. They even seemed somewhat sheepish when asked to be quiet, but nonetheless, this would wear off and they would start talking again.

Le Nozze di Figaro at Unter den Linden

Figaro-unter-den-linden * Notes *
The Saturday performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was utterly delightful. The production was simple, but cunning, and the scene changes happened fluidly. Herbert Kapplmüller's set was descriptive without being too elaborate, and Yoshi'o Yabara's costumes were in keeping with it.

The orchestra sounded pleasant under Frank Beermann, though there were some synchronization problems between the playing and singing. There were more than a few horn mistakes, but most of these were drowned out by the strings. The cast was very even, and the singing lovely. The weakest was Ulrike Helzel (Cherubino), who looked the role, but lacked sweetness, especially in her higher range. Alexander Vinogradov was funny and sympathetic as Figaro, and Sylvia Schwartz (Susanna) was likewise. Arttu Kataja was a brash, swaggering Count, and Anna Samuil also did well as the Countess, her intonation was fine and she had some very pretty moments.

* Tattling * 
The audience spoke during much of the performance, and watch alarms rang at each hour. I was overwhelmed by the heavily perfumed woman who sat next to me in Tier 3, Right Middle Row 4 Seat 19. After the intermission, her date switched seats with her, and perhaps he did not enjoy her fragrance either, as he angled himself toward me.

After the show, we were convinced to go on a tour of the opera house with our Belgian friends. The hour-long tour gave us a bit of history about the opera house and took us from the Königsloge, past the dressing rooms, back stage, into the Dienstloge, and all the way back to the Apollo-Saal. It was impressive to be able to stand on the stage and to preview the set for Agrippina, which we saw the next day.

Unter den Linden's 2009-2010 Season

August 29 2009- April 5 2010: Tristan und Isolde
September 6- October 10 2009: La Traviata

September 5- November 14 2009: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
September 7-22 2009: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
September 15-17 2009: Così fan Tutte
September 23- October 25 2009 : Der Rosenkavalier
October 1- April 23 2010: Salome
October 24 2009- March 30 2010: Simon Boccanegra 
November 1-15 2009: Lohengrin
November 19 2009- February 20 2010: La Bohème
November 21- December 6 2009: Die Fledermaus
December 7-22 2009: Il Turco in Italia
December 9 2009- January 9 2010: Die Zauberflöte
January 8-16 2010: Madama Butterfly
January 17-23 2010: Die Ferne Klang
February 4-14 2009: Agrippina
February 11- May 7 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
February 21- March 7 2010: Faust
March 10- May 15 2010: Carmen
March 26- June 5 2010: Eugene Onegin 
April 9-25 2010: Tosca
May 16-30 2010: L'etoile
May 18-28 2010: L'elisir d'amore

René Pape sings Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Méphistophélès in Faust. Domingo sings the title role in Boccanegra. Magdalena Kožená is Lazuli in L'etoile, conducted by Simon Rattle.

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season [PDF]

Eugene Onegin at Unter den Linden

Here is the Opernphrenologe's review of the new Eugene Onegin production at the Berliner Staatsoper. I admit I did some heavy editing to get it closer to the style of the Opera Tattler, but there was only so much I could do. We'll get to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

   * Notes *
After seeing this opera, it can only be concluded that the director Achim Freyer is a gay man with a fetish for mimes. You, dear reader, need not read any further. The rest is only some boring details about the singers and the set and so on. The only important thing to know is that Mr. Freyer loves mimes A Bit Too Much.

On to the boring details for those of you who like pain. Yes, the entire cast was composed of mimes.  These mimes did various things. One mime simulated giving birth three times, and pulled the same baby out of her unmentionables three times. In fact, everything happened three times, except for a yellow man and a red man. The mimes went through the same routine.

Most of the mimes were of average size, but there was one mime that was quite round. That was my favorite. What else did the mimes do? There was the regular mime stuff like spinning chairs and moving around quite slowly. They also did mime yoga (downward dog, triangle, half shoulder stand, and warrior). I also liked the part where all of the mimes bounce up and down quite lewdly when Tatjana (and others) sang about love.

The opera was broken up into two parts, with the cut right after Lenski and Onegin challenge each other to a duel. During the first part, the entire stage is white with black "distance lines" on the ground. When Tatjana was weeping over Onegin's rejection, a bunch of little red balls were released to roll down the stage, but they kept on hitting mimes and getting stuck along the way, so it took around 5 minutes for all of the little balls to disappear. Monsieur Trinquet was yellow, and he had to sing his entire solo while doing a complicated shuffling step. He did his part quite well. There were lighted happy face balls at the dance party. At one point, the entire stage was lit in a rainbow, which I believe means that Mr. Freyer is gay.

During the second part, Lenski is shot and the stage turns black. Before he's shot, some man in red stands behind Onegin, a profound statement about something or another I'm sure. Lenski is lit in red, which I'm sure also means something very deep. Then there is a lovely music interlude which is supposed to be Prince Gremin's ball. During most of this time, Lenski is slowly dying. At least, he stands there lit in red as mimes do things. It took a long time. Finally, he keeled over with a loud plop and that was the end of him thank goodness. The mimes went through the third revolution of their yoga, chairs, whatever. Yawn.

I would have been satisfied with this if the singing had been better. Tatjana (Anna Samuil) had too much vibrato. Olga (Maria Gortsevskaya) was quite good, except she was somewhat hesitant on higher notes. Lenski (Rolando Villazón) was nice, except that he was quite nasal (which I wouldn't have noticed if I didn't speak any Russian). He was good for a few chuckles, since I repeated the "I love you" in Russian for the rest of the evening, except through my nose. It sounded just like him! Onegin (Roman Trekel) had absolutely awful pronunciation of Russian and he wasn't very noteworthy one way or the other. Monsieur Trinquet (Stephan Ruegamer) did an excellent job, in fact I think I found his solo the most beautiful out of the entire thing.

* Tattling * 
My my, what laughs I had! When the red balls appeared, a man in front of me said very loudly, "Schweine Sinn." Normally I don't like it when people talk, but it was so funny! Unfortunately, the German couple next to me kept on talking until I shushed them. The male half of the couple also kept on squirming, and he made me uncomfortable. Fortunately, he switched places with his (very talkative) female half during the second part.

And there was so much booing! It made me so happy! The Schweinesinn Mann booed quite loudly at the start of the second half, and the conductor responded to the booers by saying something which I didn't understand. Unfortunately, my lovely Schweinesinn Mann left with his Frau five minutes after the start of the second part.

Tosca at Unter den Linden

The Opernphrenologe was recently in Berlin and what follows is her rather entertaining review of Tosca. A review of Eugene Onegin is forthcoming.

   * Notes *
The set was boring, so boring. Are these people on a budget or something?  I can't even describe it, it was so dull.

As for the cast, Tosca (Micaele Carosi) was flat on the high notes and sometimes had too much trill.  Cavaradossi (Burkhard Fritz) was a weak, quiet singer. He also was raspy at the start of words (except when he sang a duet with Tosca, in which he was decent). It sounded like over-enunciation. Scarpia (Gerd Grochowski) was pretty good, but sometimes he was drowned out by the orchestra.  But my favorite was der Mesner der Kirche (Bernd Zettisch), who was just the cutest little hunchback with such adorable comic facial expressions!

During Act I, a bunch of little kids fell down when Scarpia entered. The kids were dressed as choirboys. Then at the end of Act I, there's some weird Catholic ceremony scene as Scarpia sang his solo about how he's lecherous. I think we've all heard enough about paedophilia in the Catholic church, do we really have to see it represented in opera?

During the second act, the set became much more exciting because of the addition of a bowl of fruit. I sincerely hoped that Scarpia would be stabbed to death with a fruit, but alas the director did not share my views on what makes good opera. I liked Tosca's dress, which was some red velvet thing.

Finally in the third act, the opera improved. Cavardossi was severely beaten and they evidently stuck red tape on his face to show this. It was so absurd! Scarpia died so badly, it was funny! I laughed so much. He squirmed around quite a bit before finally dying properly. The best part of the opera came when Cavardossi died and we didn't have to hear him sing anymore.

* Tattling * 
Lots to tell, dear readers. An opera coot in the second tier was glued to her binoculars in the pauses immediately before the opera resumed. I've never seen anyone stare so blatantly at other opera patrons! It was so bad that I felt compelled to photograph her, she was such a novelty! During the pause between the second and third acts, this coot evidently found something titillating in the center of the second tier, because she became quite agitated and then tried to hide her binocularitis behind a giant black fan. Her attempts were totally pointless though, since it was still obvious what she was doing.

I sat behind six French people, and I'm sorry to report that I have a very bad impression of French opera-goers. These people talked and talked and talked! My goodness. On my left was a German mother-daughter pair. The daughter dressed up for the opera by wearing some powder blue fur thing around her neck and fancy white gloves, which I liked quite a bit. Unfortunately, they talked too.

I saw an abnormally large amount of what I will politely refer to as "sucky-face" at the opera.  Fortunately it was mostly during the intermission, but I have to wonder, is Tosca the sucky-face opera?

Staatsoper Unter den Linden's 2008-2009 Season

August 16-17 2008: Medea
August 30- September 18 2008: Fidelio
September 5-19 2008: The Gambler
September 7-21 2008: Tristan und Isolde
September 16 2008- February 20 2009: Il barbiere di Siviglia
September 27- October 25 2008: Eugene Onegin
October 3 2008- January 25 2009: Tosca
October 7- December 4 2008: La Traviata
October 31- November 4 2008: Dido & Aeneas
November 7- December 11 2008: Così fan tutte
November 16 2008- July 4 2009: Hölderlin
November 20- December 21 2008: L'Italiana in Algeri
December 10 2008- February 14 2009: Turandot
December 19 2008- July 6 2009: Die Zauberflöte
January 10-30 2009: Carmen
January 16-20 2009: Phaedra
February 15-28 2009: Faust
February 21- March 7 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
March 6-9 2009: Parsifal
March 15-31 2009: Don Giovanni
April 8-12 2009: Lohengrin
April 15-24 2009: Macbeth
March 14- April 2 2009: Aida
May 8-17 2009: Orlando Paladino
May 22-June 6 2009: Un ballo in maschera
May 25- June 2 2009: Elektra
June 7-29 2009: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
June 12-19 2009: Salome

René Pape sings Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, in Méphistophélès in Faust, Gurnemanz in Parsifal, and Heinrich der Vogler in Lohengrin. Waltraud Meier sings Leonore in the first performances of Fidelio and returns for Kundry in Parsifal. Lawrence Brownlee sings Count Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Gustavo Dudamel conducts Don Giovanni. Haydn's Orlando Paladino replaces the Armida that was to be directed by Peter Mussbach.

2008-2009 Season | Official Site

Don Giovanni at Unter den Linden

Dongiovannisoudl1* Notes *
Intendant Peter Mussbach's production of Don Giovanni currently at Staatsoper Unter den Linden is muddled. It is difficult to believe Mussbach is a neurologist, given how brainless this co-production with La Scala was. There was quite a lot of ineffectual choreography, every person on stage falls to the ground at some point, usually for no particular reason. There was also a lot of spinning around and staggering, sometimes this was well motivated, and sometimes seemed random. People exited at strange times, in the middle of the other singers' arias, or in many different directions. The set is much too loud, the three walls that were pushed all around the stage creaked, and since they were moving during the music, it was often distracting. The set changed even when scene changes were not necessary. There were at least a hundred pieces of tape on the stage to mark where walls or people needed to be, all clearly visible from the balconies. Perhaps if one requires that much tape, the staging is too complicated. It was reminiscent of a monolithic rat maze, and I'm sure that was intentional. There were only a few props, these included two swords, one knife, a white Vespa, an umbrella, a revolver, a pheasant leg, a bottle, and one chair. Absurdly, Masetto is made to mime having a musket in Act II, but produces the revolver from his pocket. Andrea Schmidt-Futterer's costumes were nice to look at, but the female dancers wore high heels and sounded like a herd of elephants. This was absolutely horrible during "Fin ch'han dal vino" and at the end of Act I, as these dancers ran around and drowned the singing. Also, the Commendatore looked like one of those living statue buskers one sees at Fisherman's Wharf, as he had his face painted silver and donned silver clothing.

Asher Fisch seemed to have gotten a handle of the orchestra by the third performance I saw last night. The musicians rarely overwhelmed the singers and many of the synchronization issues were corrected. Sylvia Schwartz twittered as Zerlina, she was somewhat quieter than the other two sopranos, but still much louder than her Masetto, Arttu Kataja. The pair looked very nice together and they acted well. Bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann also acted well as Leporello, he was funny and lascivious. His voice was strong, but he was ever so slightly late in his arias. Annette Dasch looked stunning as Donna Elvira and though her voice is somewhat fluttery, it was always in tune and very pretty. Christof Fischesser made a bigger impression on me as the Commendatore than as the Landgraf in Tannhäuser. His volume was strong and his tone full. Jeremy Ovenden was quiet as Don Ottavio, and the orchestra was sensitive to this, they played quietly in his arias. He was completely overwhelmed by his Donna Anna, Anna Samuil. Samuil had some poor intonation, she was flat in "Non mi dir" last Friday, but was closer to being in tune yesterday. Ironically, just after that aria, two of the walls seem to flatten her. In the title role, René Pape sang beautifully, especially "Deh vieni alla finestra." The stage is unlit at this point, as he is supposed to be serenading Donna Elvira's maid at night, and this confused the audience. Pape's Don is more lovable than most, he isn't quite as slimy or mean as he could have been.

* Tattling *
The audience for Don Giovanni was consistently worse than for the other performances at the Staatsoper. People spoke aloud during arias, such as Don Ottavio's "Dalla sua pace." The young German-speaking women in Tier 3, Right Middle Row 4 Seats 16 and 17 were very annoyed that they could not see the supertitles because of the chandelier, and expressed this at full volume during Don Ottavio and Donna Anna's duet "Fuggi, crudele fuggi" in Act I. One of them also had a coughing fit during "Deh vieni alla finestra," which they were compelled to discuss out loud.

Again someone on the left side of the third tier was wearing a watch with an alarm on the hour, which was audible at each hour, though at least at 9pm it was intermission. The school group from Majorca returned, and they must have been exhausted, for they were also at the Röschmann | Kozená | Barenboim concert earlier that day. They did not take flash photographs this time.

Tannhäuser at Unter den Linden

Tannhaeusersoudl* Notes *
Yesterday Tannhäuser had its final performance this season at Staatsoper Unter den Linden. To my great surprise, Harry Kupfer's production was fairly simple and worked well. The lines were clean and Buki Shiff's costumes for the principals were inoffensive, and some of her evening gowns for the chorus were stunning. This is consistent with her work in the David Alden production of Rodelinda in Munich and San Francisco. There was a particular red number with one feathered sleeve that was fetching. The staging was amusing, the bacchanalia ballet was conducted on top of an over-sized white piano. The nude dancers were painted white in most cases, but one was also gold, and for the most part they just held various modern dance poses. The piano reappeared in a black guise for Act II, and the hall was not unlike an opera house. Part of the staging had a supernumerary arriving late and trying to find her seat, which she had great difficulty with, naturally. Another recurrent theme was having Tannhäuser supine on ground, which was where he started the opera and where he was found by the hunting party. Best of all, he threw himself into this position before the Pope after singing "Nach Rom!" at the end of Act II.

Musically there were a few rough starts, the hunting horns at the end of Act I Scene 3 were clearly flat at times and Anne Schwanewilms (Elisabeth) was not great in her first aria, "Dich, teure Halle." For the most part the orchestra sounded good, Philippe Jordan kept the musicians together and reigned them in so that the singers were never completely overwhelmed. Soprano Schwanewilms sounded quite beautiful after she was warmed up, she only cracked slightly on the word auch when she protected Tannhäuser after the song contest. Michaela Schuster sang well as Venus, her dark tones in fine contrast with Schwanewilms' brilliance. Robert Dean Smith was convincing as Tannhäuser, his pretty voice did sound heroic and tragic when necessary. He was a bit quiet, though not as weak as Roman Trekel (Wolfram). Trekel lacked resonance and volume, and his "O du, mein holder Abendstern" was the only moment in the opera that was truly disappointing. Nonetheless, this performance was the best I have witnessed at the Staatsoper in Berlin, the end was absolutely transcendent.

* Tattling *
There was a small fire somewhere in the opera house during Act II Scene 3 and one could smell the smoke in the third tier. As the Landgraf and Elisabeth sang, the audience stood up and some people started to exit. The singers looked rather confused, and someone came out to explain that the fire had been extinguished and that there was no danger. Then we stood around for a bit, and someone else came out and said we would take a 15 minute intermission to wait for the smoke to clear.

Someone on the left side of the third tier was wearing a watch with an alarm on the hour, which I heard at least three times. Additionally, somehow I sat amidst a school group from Majorca, pianists from the ages of 12-20. They did not understand German terribly well, and the three on the right of center made us get up about 10 times during the intermissions so that they could get from one side of the theater to another. These children had to be hushed multiple times, which they found entertaining. However, they did quiet down, and whispered instead of speaking aloud. They also took a half dozen flash photographs during the performance. I believe they will also be at the performance of Don Giovanni tonight.

Pelléas et Mélisande at Unter den Linden

Pelleas* Notes *
This season's final performance of Pelléas et Mélisande at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was last Wednesday. The 1991 production, the work of one Ruth Berghaus, is truly absurd. Hartmut Meyer's set and costumes were both contributed to the folly. The set consists of a downstage mound with a hole in it, which served as both the fountain Mélisande is found at, and the well in which she loses her ring in later. Upstage the sets could be changed, and this worked well for the different scenes. One of the sets included a steep staircase with rather small steps, instead of having Mélisande in a window at the top of a tower, she simply sat at the top of the stairs. None of the singers sounded as good on this staircase as they did down below, I am not sure if it was because of the acoustics, as the staircase had walls and was more upstage, or because of the steep incline which looked difficult to stay on. The costumes were quite silly: Golaud and Pelléas both looked like button mushrooms in their wide caps and long coats, Mélisande wore her petticoat with the waistline just beneath the breasts, so also looked like a mushroom of a different sort. Mélisande's hair was not long, which worried me a great deal, as she has that window scene in which Pelléas is supposedly wrapped in her tresses.

However, the sets and costumes were not nearly as ludicrous as the staging. For instance, when Mélisande play with her wedding ring at the well, she just throws it in, and puts her hands behind her back. This got the biggest laugh all evening. Or in the aforementioned hair combing in the window scene, Mélisande takes off her wig and Pelléas rubs it on himself. Basically he brings the wig to crotch-level and humps it. It was extremely hilarious. Golaud was made to flap his arms as he walked, and when he kills Pelléas, he casually walks by, sees his brother kissing his wife beneath him, and stabs downward but once and flaps on away. The worst might have been the scene before Pelléas dies in which Golaud and Pelléas' grandfather Arkel asks to kiss Mélisande on the cheek or brow. Instead of being innocent, Arkel molests Mélisande, and the scene is extremely disturbing.

The orchestra sounded wonderful under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, the musicians were very much together. However, at times, they were much too loud, and they overwhelmed every single singer at one point or another. Andreas Mörwald, a soloist from the Tölzer Knabenchor, sang beautifully as Yniold. Hanno Müller-Brachmann was better as Leporello in the concurrent production of Don Giovanni than here. He was fine as Golaud, but his singing did not betray much emotion. Robert Lloyd sounded strong as Arkel, and his singing at the end was especially grand. It was difficult to hear how lovely Willam Burden's voice is, he was quiet as Pelléas, and was the most often overwhelmed by the orchestra. Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená was most impressive in the role of Mélisande, her volume and tone were both excellent. 

* Tattling *
The second tier is not quite as warm as the third, but still not all that comfortable. For the most part, the audience was quiet, though there was a mobile phone ring during Arkel's aria at the end. This was the first performance I sat off to one side, to the left in this case. One is closer to the stage and can make out the faces well, but some of the stage is certainly obscured, due to the shape of the building. I sat next to a young man possibly from the French-speaking part of Switzerland or Belgium, which I learned from a conversation in German between him and a German woman who took the empty seat next to him at intermission. They discussed the performance, and it was said that the production was rather artificial. At one point the German woman asked if he knew that a "Berliner" is a sort of pastry.

Don Carlo at Unter den Linden

Doncarlorp1* Notes *
The penultimate performance this season of Don Carlo at Staatsoper Unter den Linden was last Monday. The opera was presented in Italian as four acts, which does not start off with Don Carlo and Elisabetta meeting in Fontainebleau. Philipp Himmelmann's production included many scrims and walls, designed by Johannes Leiacker. The set made the scene changes smooth and simple, but the set changed more than strictly necessary and the constant movement was distracting. However, this was nothing compared to the ridiculous stage directions. When Elisabetta ironically suggests patricide to Carlo with the words "Compi l'opra a svenar corri il padre," she started aggressively ironing napkins. The auto de fé scene at the end of Act II was terrifying, but the condemned did not need to be ducted taped as the orchestra played, it was much too loud. The scene was shocking, as the five being executed were completely naked and vulnerable. Having them drawn by the feet upwards with ropes was in keeping with the plot, but once the penitents started spinning themselves around like aerialists, it just became absurd rather than horrifying. But the most egregious part of the staging was when Rodrigo sang his last aria in Act III, "O Carlo, ascolta." As he is dying, he begs Carlo to take his hand, and in this production, Carlo sits in a chair and turns away. It is utterly inhuman, given that Rodrigo is his best friend, who has sacrificed himself for Carlo.

I saw this opera last week with a somewhat different cast, René Pape as Filippo and Andrew Richards as Don Carlo. Peter Rose was certainly loud enough as Filippo this time around, his tone is rich and warm. However, his performance was fairly bland until Act III Scene 1, when he sang about how Elisabetta never loved him. Tenor Franco Farina likewise was not as strong as Richards, there was something not quite right with the famous duet "Dio, che nell' alma infondere." Farina was both flat and sharp and his voice lacks heft. Alfredo Daza was fine as Rodrigo, though he too was overwhelmed by the orchestra at times. Kurt Rydl was a shaky as the Inquisitore and difficult to hear. In the absence of René Pape, Norma Fantini (Elisabetta) was the strongest of the cast, she sounded in tune, though her vibrato is a bit wide.  She had some lovely moments, especially in "Toi qui sus le néant" at the end. Mezzo Ildiko Komlosi was tiresome as Eboli, she gasped with every breath and was entirely out of tune in her last aria "O don fatale," as she curses her fatal beauty.

* Tattling *
Instead of having an announcement about turning off cellular phones, the Staatsoper Berlin just plays a recording of a ring. It is convincingly real if one has not heard it before and simple, not needing any translation. On this particular evening the audience was embarrassingly sparse, though there was a fair amount of whispering. The third tier was still incredibly warm, despite not being stuffed with that many bodies.

7th Performance of Don Giovanni at Unter den Linden

* Notes *
The April performances of Don Giovanni at Staatsoper Unter den Linden began last night, conducted by Asher Fisch. There were a few times that the orchestra and singers were not quite together, but worse was all the banging coming from backstage. Doubtless this will improve over time, but it was not particularly impressive.

I think I may have heard Mariusz Kwiecien sing the title role a few too many times (I believe it was eight times in the last year), for I found René Pape a bit strange in the role, though he is one of my favorite singers. Pape lacks a certain unctuousness that Kwiecien absolutely embodies. Pape also sounded a slightly quiet, his Champagne aria was distracted, perhaps because of all the dancing happening behind him. However, his "Deh vieni alla finestra" was wonderful.

Much of the cast seemed quiet to me, Jeremy Ovenden was a muffled Don Ottavio and Arttu Kataja (Masetto) was all but inaudible. As Zerlina, Sylvia Schwartz's voice was perfectly bird-like and small, and showed a bit of strain at the beginning. She sang "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" well. Anna Samuil was fairly good as Donna Anna, though she sounded a bit out of tune during "Or sai chi l'onore."

Hanno Müller-Brachmann was very funny as Leporello and he sang "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" especially nicely. Annette Dasch was the first Donna Elvira I have heard in the last year that did not have an exceedingly wide vibrato and was actually in tune.

Overall, I was slightly disappointed with the performance. There was one moment when everything came together in the finale of Act I, suddenly everything came into focus, at least musically, in the last 3 minutes. That quality was not sustained in Act II. I will save my various snide comments about the production for my more definitive review of this opera, next week, after a few more viewings.

* Tattling *
The British people next to me were utterly boggled by the cast of characters and could not figure out who was who. Needless to say, the production did not help them, and of course, they did not read German. It was almost cute, how they couldn't figure out if Donna Elvira was the blonde or who was engaged to Don Ottavio. To be fair, there seemed to be an error in the English synopsis. Personally, I thought it was quite obvious that Donna Elvira was the one with the impressive décolleté, but refrained from saying anything to them.