Friday, 24 January 2014

Venice in two different operas, La Gioconda and I Due Foscari.

The music in both La Gioconda and I Due Foscari is just wonderful. The productions could not be more different. In Deustche Oper Berlin's La Gioconda the scenography and costumes was just breathtakingly beautiful. The beauty of the original scenography from the very first premiere of La Gioconda was so beautiful it was difficult to get inside opera the opera. Theater an der Wien's I Due Foscari had another problem, the ugliness of torture was all too much to handle as it was right in your face.

The solution was in both cases to have the best singers that sung and acted superbly. What ever the beauty or cruelty that was to be seen we had in both cases directors who knew what they were doing. The director managed to create with these excellent singers the web of relations between individuals that create the feeling of truth. 

Hui He was La Gioconda, she was truely La Gioconda, and a great La Gioconda, too. Very unlike Violeta Urmana's La Gioconda from Paris Bastille, but the was a completely different production. Hui He was the right choice in this production. As her mother, La Cieca, we had Dana Beth Miller and she owned her role. Like in Paris Marcelo Alvarez was Enzo Grimaldi. I found him even better in Berlin. He was marvellous in Paris, but in Berlin better. Lado Ataneli was a great Barnaba. Ante Jerkunica was a young and splendid Alvise. Marianne Cornetti was Laura, wife of Alvise and rivale to Gioconda for the love of Enzo.

La Gioconda is a street singer who profoundly loves two persons, her mother and Enzo. La Cieca is Gioconda's blind mother, a devoute woman who loves her child, La Gioconda. Enzo Grimaldi is a Prince that Alvise has outlawed. He loved Laura but Laura was then married to Alvise, against her will. Now he is the lover of La Gioconda. But he stills loves Laura and La Gioconda believes him just to be a young sea captain. Barnaba and Alvise are the villains. Barnaba is the spy for the inquisition and works for Alvise but mostly for himself. He fancies himself in love with La Gioconda. This "love" does not care that La Gioconda loaths him and he is willing to kill La Cieca because she is in his way, or so he thinks. An obsession to possess La Gioconda is driving him. There are no layers in him. He is simply evil. Alvise is one of the leaders of the Inquisition in Venice. He thinks that killing his wife when it is believed and almost proven that she has been adulterous will cleanse the stain to his honor. Alvise is in many ways just like Barnaba just richer and more powerful. Laura Adorno is married to Alvise, she does not love him. Finding out Enzo is there, in Venice, makes her reckless when she should know how dangerous Alvise can be. 

Enzo Grimaldi is no hero. He is faithless to La Gioconda. He creates dangers for Laura Adorno. There are no reason here, only feelings. He almost kills La Gioconda in a rage that is all about Laura, and then when Laura is heard and then seen and he understands La Gioconda has saved Laura, then it is "fanciulla santa". The change seem to take just seconds. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Love Tosca, love Puccini and I am in Berlin (2014-01-18)

Saturday January 18th, 2014.
It is Winter now. Cold and sometimes safer to travel by air than to travel on ground when part of the road goes by mountains. White road, white snow falling making the road sometimes hard to see. Then add into that the cold, hurling winds,  and slippery road, it can be dangerous. The bus has chaffeurs that understand how to get forward quickly and safely. 

I arrived Gardermoen airport at the appointed time and the flight with Norwegian Air Shuttle was on time and so I was in hotel room by 1130. I was a bit sloppy with finding out how to get from my hotel to the opera house and restaurant so that was a bit harder to come directly to the Deutsche Oper Berlin. So that is not a mistake I will do again, I hope. I got my tickets and then straight to restaurant Don Giovanni where I ate a Pizza Don Ottavio. It was OK, it was better last time I was here. I think I saw Daniela Dessi in the restaurant but I could be totally wrong. Then off to the opera and Puccinis Tosca.

There is this idea that one can see too many performance of one opera. Then there is perfection like on Saturday January 18, 2014 in Deutsche Oper Berlin. This is on of the classic productions that will never be tired, especially when it has been rehearsed so well that it seem to be real here and now. Marcello Giordani was a wonderful Mario Cavaradossi, perfectly sung and acted. Tatjana Serjan was just so right in this role, Tosca was in her bones and airs. Sergey Murzaev was just the perfect Scarpia. 

Sergey Murzaev was the perfect Scarpia. Only hardened Thomas Hampson fans would be disappointed by Murzaev. This was a smooth, good-looking Scarpia who just occationally let the inner demon out. His minions looked more intimidating than Scarpia himself. But Roma knew of his reputation. Marcello Giordani made his Mario Cavaradossi a much more noble, politically savvy and screwd mind than most tenors give the role. Tatjana Serjan's Floria Tosca had also a wider pallette to paint than most sopranos. Then add upp a production and regie that takes everything in and draws the right picture all the way. Best Tosca ever!!

2014-01-18 Tosca (Puccini), Deutsche Oper Berlin

Floria Tosca = Tatjana Serjan
Mario Cavaradossi Marcello Giordani
Baron Scarpia = Sergey Murzaev
Cesare Angelotti = Ben Wager
Der Mesner = Seth Carico
Spoletta = Jörg Schörner
Sciarrone = Andrew Harris
Ein Schließer = Noel Bouley

Matthias Foremny, conductor
Kinderchor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin

Director - Boleslaw Barlog
Stage-design, Costume-design  - Filippo Sanjust
ChöreThomas Richter
KinderchorChristian Lindhorst

Monday, 13 January 2014

And so 2014 has begun, Andrea Chenier in Stockholm 2014-01-10

What could possibly go wrong when one is travelling to Stockholm, Sweden? Well, nothing did go wrong, it was more that it could have been planned better. 

Night bus to Oslo. Cheaper than a flight and a hotel stay, that is for sure. I was going to Stockholm but I never thought my bus would be filled with a few Swedish people and at least one with seriously talkity mouth. That person even had to phone someone in the middle of the night. Not enjoying that. The Swedish group left when we came to Oslo Gardermoen Airport. I continued on my journey to Oslo Central Station as I had booked a train ticket. There I found out that my train was almost 2 hours delayed and then I decided to go to Gardermoen to book a flight to Stockholm Arlanda Airport. The delay meant that I could just phone in and get my train tickets deleted and a refund of the money. It is usually easy to get quite cheap tickets to Stockholm Arlanda, almost as cheap as the train. 

Arlanda Airport, and then the airport bus to Stockholm Central station and soon I was at my hotel, Rica Stockholm. There I also found a Pizza Hut restaurant on the other side of the street. Luck. Loved the hotel. Loved the opera.

It was Friday January 10th, 2014, it was winterly cold without snow. The snowing started on Sunday. I was going to see a traditional Regie of Andrea Chenier, or so I thought. At first I was disappointed but then I started to understand it. I hated the fakesness of the Contessa and her ilk in act 1. I thought in the beginning it meant that the Regie was wrong-headed and just vulgar. Later I understood it as a critique, and a just one, of the high society. A world where the fake has substitued the real. They might say the word love (Amore) but love is nowhere to be seen in here. They might flirt with sex, to be vogue as they lust, but real, pure love or simple affection that is true and not just affected does not live here. 

Carlo Gerard looks at it all, sees the wrongness, and loves the still pure Maddalena. Maddalena di Coigny who is a few years from being corrupted by this society, is still pure at heart. Her play with Bersi, her chamber maid, is still that of a child. Then the entertainment enters. Andrea Chenier is the only one that is not playing a role. Chenier is clad in dark cloths and no whig. No one of the gray hairs on his head can make him old and cynic. Jose Cura's Andrea Chenier is very much young at heart. A dreamer and a poet. He does not belong in the cold and fake world. La Contessa of Marianne Ekløf is angered by his refusal simply to bough and recite a poem on the fly. Maddalena of Maria Jose Siri is taken by the first appearance of Andrea Chenier, so taken is she that she has to make him talk of love. She insults him by saying that they all have spoken of Love, and without his precious Muse. L'Improvviso. Great singing. And very much a tipping point, Maddalena understands  something new, feels love. Carlo Gerard opens the door for la Miseria to visit the high society. As Carlo Gerard of Alberto Gazale leaves, the high society will meet death. 

Often I get bored with the first act of Andrea Chenier and it is only when Chenier himself arrives that I get into it. In Stockholm there was no hesitation, I went inside the opera and stayed there. Alberto Gazale is the best Carlo Gerard I have ever seen. Maria Jose Siri was just amazing as Maddalena di Coigny. Jose Cura is the best Andrea Chenier today, and in Stockholm he just did one of his fiest intepretation. Marianne Ekløf was La Contessa. She was putting layers to her role, just as she could be totally fake and play with crowd, there was also a deep love for her daughter. Foolish and yet profond.

Act 2 was really great. It was really well thought out. Gazale, Siri and Cura was just astounding. Marianne Ekløf came again, this time as La Vecchia Madelon. Wow, this is how it should be done. I mean WOW!!! Of course, the love duet between Siri and Cura was wonderful!! But really Marianne Ekløf!!!! Viva!!

Interval. The Royal Opera House in Stockholm. It is old, it is lovely, it seem like an intimate venue.

Act 3. Alberto Gazale was looking so well in his red tuxedo. He looked like the handsomest Mefistofele. Carlo Gerard is no longer an innocent servant and he still lusts after Maddalena and now he has power. Maria Jose Siri is a powerhouse as Maddalena di Coigny. She is also an excellent actress. La mamma morta, wonderful, feeling every second of it. Then it is the court scene. Not just four condemned people but four people whose lives are connected now. Andrea Chenier is a source of comfort and strenght for them all. Chenier defense, Si, fui soldato, ended on a high note that I deem did not belong there. And really that it the only minus in the whole evening, that I still haven't accepted.

Act 4. Wonderful act 4. I have never seen any production of Andrea Chenier where the 4 prisoners are interacting. I loved how much love and care that they had towards each other, only when the soldier was not looking. Idia Legray, the young, pregnant woman. When the soldier let her out the door was he really letting her go? Chenier was a source of goodness and comfort. Wonderful love duet!! Of course, Stockholm got one of the best ever Come un bel di di Maggion from Jose Cura, too.

Death cage with the former high socity members to carry them to Death. Viva la morte insieme!

2014-01-10 Andrea Chenier (Giordano),Kungliga Operan (Stockholm)

Andrea Chénier - José Cura
Carlo Gérard - Alberto Gazale
Maddalena di Coigny - María José Siri
Bersi, her maid - Susann Végh
The Countess of Coigny - Marianne Eklöf
Madelon - Marianne Eklöf
Roucher  - Linus Börjesson
Mathieu, a sans-culotte - Johan Edholm
The Incredible - Magnus Kyhle
The Abbot - Magnus Kyhle
The novelist Pietro Fléville - Kristian Flor
Fouquier Tinville, the Public Prosecutor  - 
Kristian Flor
Schmidt - Michael Schmidberger
Dumas - Michael Schmidberger
Master of the Household - Michael Schmidberger
Father of Gerard - Lars Ekholm
Pier Giorgio Morandi, conductor

DIRECTOR Dmitri Bertman
SETS Hartmut Schörghofer
COSTUME Corinna Crome
LIGHTING Hans-Åke Sjöquist
CHOREOGRAPHY Edvald Smirnoff

The Royal Opera Chorus 
Chorus master: Folke Alin and Christina Hornell 
Royal Opera Orchestra

And so it is over!! Lots of applause, standing ovation!! And then it is time to go! Home, to the hotel! It is cold out there. I just had to go to the stage door just for a few minutes. Then I met two other Cura fan and then we talked and waited. I think Marianne Ekløf just went by me, and she was talking to someone else, she did not look as she did on stage and by the time I possibly recognised her she was gone. I also think I saw and heard Birgitta Svenden, the Swedish mezzo who is the boss of Stockholm Opera, and Helena Døse, the Swedish soprano. They were just so happy, conductor Morandi even sings with the singers and how one needs 3 great singers as we had tonigt to pull of this opera. Personally I hate conductors that sing or hum while conducting, I wanted to hear Siri, Gazale and Cura without Morandi singing beside them!!! But I wholeheartedly agree that the trio of this day was GREAT,

When Maria Jose Siri came out I had the chance to congratulate her on this wonderful Maddalena di Coigny. When Alberto Gazale came out, he was still talking to friends and then he was on the phone so I had no chance to tell him what an extraordinary Carlo Gerard he was. Then, finally Jose Cura. I just asked if I could take his photo and he promptly decided that it should be a selfie, me and Cura. My phone, his finger on the trigger. He left with Alberto Gazale and with Maria Jose Siri, I think. Then finally I could also be on my way to my hotel room, I was freezing.

Saturday January 11, 2014. Train from Stockholm, and then while I was on my way back home, a visit to my dad. Love my father and he still remembers me so all is good. Then dinner in my birth town with an old friend who had known me since I was weeks old. I could have visit my aunt too, but she was not feeling to well. Then off to Oslo and night bus home.

Sunday January 12, 2014. TIRED!!