Il barbiere di Siviglia (2000), Don Giovanni (2000), Nabucco (1998)
This was another exciting performance in Munich. May I suggest that David Gockley comes here to learn something? The production (Ferruccio Soleri), the sets (Carlo Tommasi), and costumes (Ute Frühling) were all outstanding and in style with the work. Surtitles were banned that evening thank God. The production was full of amusing gags. In short, the evening was over too quickly. It was refreshing to witness a performance where you can actually see the proper sets and costumes and recognize that it was Il barbiere di Siviglia being played that evening and not some strange work set in a strange place. There was no attempt to rethink the work. Robert Saccà, Almaviva, displayed a fine voice, a strong presence, agility, and acting talent. It was too bad that his last act aria was cut. Enric Serra (Bartolo) displayed also a strong presence, fine comic abilities and a good voice. Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Basilio) was in much better vocal shape than the previous evening, displaying a strong firm tone and acting ability. Dmitri Hvorostovsky showed a strong presence, fine acting abilities and a powerful voice. Julie Kaufman was a pert Rosina with a strong even voice with no thinning at the top, excellent coloratura, and good acting capabilities. The veterans Ferry Gruber (Ambrogio) and Hans Wilbrink (Fiorello) provided an excellent vignette portrayal of the servant for Gruber and a strong vocal portrayal of this normally weakly cast role for Wilbrink, who is after all a Kammersänger. Ralf Weikert competently led the orchestra. A fine evening altogether.
Finally after all those dispiriting performances in Houston, this performance of Don Giovanni was very enjoyable. The production by Nicholas Hytner was straightforward and mostly not disturbing in any way as it should be. Why Hytner introduced four children, carrying a cross after the death of the Commendatore and appearing from time to time during the performance and for the last time during the descent into hell of Don Giovanni, remains a mystery. Bob Crowley designed both the costumes and sets. While the costumes were excellent, in style with the work and not Martian outfits of some kind, the sets were very simple, not in style with the work, mostly red, monotonous and ugly. The opening set was a simple red drop curtain with a small yellow window in the upper left corner. Don Giovanni appears with Donna Anna crashing through the drop curtain. During all evening, the basic red set remained in place. From time to time, other things appeared in the middle of the set, such a line of arcades when Donna Elvira appears for the first time, or a castle (Don Giovanni's, I presume) during Là ci darem la mano, or ugly green plants when Masetto and Zerlina appear, etc. A curiosity is the fact that the (almost) final supper is taken on the floor as no table has been provided. Crowley seems to have a hand fetish as a large hand was displayed preeminently in the middle of the set during some scenes for no clear reason. The fact that Peter Jonas allowed surtitles for this production is another unnecessary English influence, and really completely unnecessary in Munich. We are not in London. However, a great tradition still remains in Munich: curtain calls. It is very snobbish and elitist not to have any.
All the singers displayed great theatrical abilities. The vocal performance was on a high level, with the men coming on top. William Shimell (Don Giovanni) displayed great dramatic intensity and vocal power. Manfred Hemm was a first rate Leporello, strong in voice and humor. Rainer Trost (a new face & voice to me) was outstanding as Ottavio. Too bad the version played was the Prague version. This version does not contain the first aria of Ottavio, and it was a pity. The Masetto of Maurizio Muraro was very strong vocally. Muraro has Leporello in his repertory at other houses and it shows. Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Commendatore) seems to have lost some of his vocal bloom. He was adequate but not very menacing. The three ladies Hillevi Martinpelto (Anna), Amanda Roocroft (Elvira) and Alison Hagley (Zerlina) proved to be a very homogenous and reliable trio but without great vocal distinction. Martinpelto had the best voice of the trio, but needs to use it to better dramatic effect. The two English ladies were very musical and adequate to the task. Ivor Bolton conducted a strong, dramatic and exciting performance.
Exactly two weeks after Tokyo, I was in Munich and decided to hear Nabucco. It was the first time that I visited the Nationaltheater after an
absence of six years. If I thought that the production of Nitzan in Tokyo was quite strange, I was in for a shock with the production,
costume and set design by Pet Halmen, dating from 1990. I am not surprised, as Pet Halmen is a mental case. He produces regularly thrash in
the different opera houses around the world and is getting away with it thanks to the morons that are nowadays managing opera houses. In
Munich's case, it is Peter Jonas, the ex ENO director.