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Posts Tagged ‘Krassimira Stoyanova’

The late Götz Friedrich is a director of almost legendary status in Berlin, and I wonder when the Deutsche Oper is going to show him respect by avoiding substandard revivals of his productions. A director of his reputation would never allow an old production to be shown to an audience only to be laughed at, as it often happens – and it certainly did today. If I had taken someone who had never been to an opera house before this evening, I would have apologize at the end. The sets are depressingly provincial; costumes are banal and nonsensical; the Spielleitung is so bad that you feel sorry for these people on stage trying to deal with props that they don’t know how to work or not to knock each other out in their poorly blocked interaction scenes; and I still wonder why someone would use some funny commedia dell’arte stage-hands who jump and flaunter on stage in the middle of Verdi’s Luisa Miller – a story in which an innocent girl and a decent old man are abused before she is finally killed by someone who was supposed to love her. Acting is, but for two singers, not this cast’s strong suit, but the Spielleiter just let them embarrass themselves without caring to know if this was working or not. Lamentable.

I understand that Verdi’s score is not of great help when one needs inspiration here, but the singers playing the roles in the Miller family have proved that true artistry transcends even the most hopeless circumstances. I don’t believe that the title role is meant for purely lyric sopranos, but Krassimira Stoyanova’s emotional sincerity, excellent technique, sense of style and commitment triumphed over her limitations in volume and cutting edge (especially in her high register). In the last act, she really transported me away from the prevailing shabbiness into the predicaments of poor Luisa Miller. She interacted beautifully with Gabriele Viviani, who replaced Leo Nucci, as Miller. He has a rather steely, slightly rough voice à la Paolo Coni, but his singing is so authentically Italian, his diction clear, his involvement so palpable that their last duet couldn’t help being hundreds of levels above the rest of this performance. Clémentine Margaine’s rich contralto is always a pleasure to the ears, but she had no direction to speak of and couldn’t find her way into the role of Federica. It is an ingrate part, often too low-lying, but I would say nonetheless that a mezzo with a solid low register is probably better suited to it. As it is, although one could still hear this French singer’s high notes, they did not have much color. Belonging to an ensemble is always a safe choice, but Margaine has true potential for a free-standing career in bel canto and baroque music, in which many a more famous contralto lack volume and heroic quality.

Zurab Zurabishvili was almost a late-minute replacement for Marcelo Álvarez. The Georgian tenor is not a beginner, but the voice is still fresh, spontaneous and resonant. Unfortunately, his sounds turn around different degrees of nasality and his high notes, if big, are tense and pushed, what made him more and more tired during the evening. More disturbing is his cupo phrasing, without much flowing quality and variety. Arutjun Kochinian voice might be large, but it is distressingly throaty. Orlin Anastassov’s bass is warm and dark enough, if distinctively Slavic. My neighbour this evening asked me why he does not have a bigger name – I guess there some lack of imagination, but mainly the voice lacks bulk for the great bass roles in operas like Don Carlo or Simon Boccanegra.

If I had not seen yesterday’s Macbeth, I would probably say that Paolo Arrivabeni’s conducting was all right, but I did hear the same orchestra under Ivan Repusic and, good as it was tonight, it was only a shadow of it was the night before. It is true that Macbeth had bigger-voiced singers (and a far superior score, one cannot forget), but one wants a nobler tonal quality here. Justice be made, the maestro did not linger and strove for excitement, but things often sounded just brisk. Not in the beautiful closing act, when the orchestra seemed gradually to plug in and, by the last scene, the effect was quite colourful and vibrant.

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The Nederlandse Opera’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Evgeny Onegin cannot help being a must-see: it features only Mariss Jansons and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the pit and the controversial Stefan Herheim as stage director. Before I write further, I will say straightaway that it is worthwhile the trip.

Although I was disappointed to see Herheim repeating his historic approach as in his Bayreuth Parsifal (it would be sad if he, of all people, turns out to be predictable), the formula does work. Onegin is a man in search of identity – and Russia has faced a similar problem as a nation. When we first meet both in this staging, the shadow of the Romantic world still haunts them. Revolution makes its appearance with the end of innocence, when Lensky challenges Onegin to a duel before revolutionary soldiers. The ball in Moscow is a parade of Sovietic icons – ballet dancers, athletes, astronauts – a collective self-affirmation that does not provide answers to Onegin’s individual questions. In this ball, Tatiana and Gremin are just idealized visions. Their real appearance, in Putin’s Russia, finally proves to be more violent in their new money/old habits-milieu. Even if you disagree with the analogy, Pushkin’s storyline is given an interesting twist when told in flashback. Onegin is in a kitsch-glamour hall when he sees Tatiana as a socialite. Suddenly, the glass-and-metal room centerstage becomes Larina’s house by virtue of a revolving structure. Past and present intertwine: Tatiana and Onegin write their letters simultaneously while Gremin sleeps in his bed. Sets and costumes are ingeniously and beautifully conceived (I only dislike the cheap computer-made projections – and maybe the guy in a bear costume borrowed from Herheim’s Lohengrin at the Lindenoper) and make the complex shiftings in time and in scope (social/private) coherent.

Mariss Jansons offers a subtle and elegant view of the score. It does not sound typically “Russian” in its transparent textures, clear strings and avoidance of emotionalism, but is somehow faithful to the melancholic atmosphere of the work. His sense of balance between stage and pit is exemplary, not to mention his ability to increase volume without saturating the aural picture with excessive loudness.

Crowning the performance, Krassimira Stoyanova’s immaculate Tatiana. The voice is exquisite and expressive, the technique is solid and she inhabits the role musically and scenically. Elena Maximova too has the perfect voice and attitude for Olga, but her sense of pitch leaves something to be desired. Olga Savova and Nina Romanova are ideally cast as Larina’s and Filipevna. Andrei Dunaev is a reliable Lenski – the voice is spontaneous, but his big aria was not really thrilling (or maybe I’ve been spoiled by Piotr Beczala in New York and Rolando Villazón in Berlin). Mikhail Petrenko offered a sensitive account of his aria – a little bit more body in his high register would have been helpful. As for Boje Skovhus, although he sang better than in Berlin in 2009, his pleasant and well-focused baritone still lacks some depth in this role, but the truth is his overacting is always hard to overlook – even when relatively tamed by a strong-handed director

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