Fidelio: Two Operas in One

14/06/2015

  Beethoven: Fidelio, Chorus of the Geneva Grand Théâtre (Chorus Master: Alan Woodbridge) and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Pinchas Steinberg (conductor), Grand Théâtre de Genève, 10.6.2015 (AL)

Fidelio: Photo Credit Carole Parodi

Fidelio: Photo Credit Carole Parodi

Soloists:
Leonore: Elena Pankratova
Florestan: Christian Elsner
Rocco: Albert Dohmen
Don Pizzaro: Detlef Roth
Don Fernando: Günes Gürle
Marzelliine: Siobhan Stagg
Jaquino: Manuel Günther
First prisoner: José Pazos
Second prisoner: Romaric Braun

Production:
Director: Matthias Hartmann
Sets: Raimund Orfeo Voigt
Costumes: Tina Kloempken
Lighting: Tamás Bány

Fidelio is an amazing masterpiece that creates tremendous challenges for musicians: it is basically two operas in one. Act I is a quasi-Mozartean ensemble piece, whereas Act II anticipates Wagner. The ending is pure “undramatic” music as powerful as the Missa Solemnis or the 9th Symphony’s closing pages.

Few productions can meet the multiple requirements of the work, and even fewer can manage successfully the transitions between the different parts. This Geneva production was no exception. The lighter Act I was musically and dramatically done with talent and conviction, but when the work required more weight, the forces in place did not quite manage to meet the challenge.

The production team used the potential of the Grand Theâtre setting imaginatively. The work began in a pale, clinical, greyish light, but panels opened to reveal Jaquino’s control room full of modern computers and monitors, or the canteen of the jail with a kitsch Austrian Stübe feeling. The start of Act II, where Beethoven’s evocation of the pit in which Florestan lies was made palpable by slowly raising the stage and reducing the light, was a very impressive theatrical coup.

Mathias Hartmann was a generally capable director. Marzelline was effective in her rebuttal of Jaquino, and Rocco’s torn father figure was done well, but the director’s insistence on presenting Pizzaro as a cartoonish, maniacal figure was not at all appropriate and particularly confusing in the second act. The prayer ending before the finale was nicely done, but the glorious music was somewhat ruined by the director’s decision to have Florestan angrily throw Pizzaro’s speaking booth into the prison’s pit. Nothing in the words or the music called for such a gratuitous act, which surprised and, for many, ruined the atmosphere of the ending.

Musical matters were on a par with the staging. The dramatic characters were disappointing. Detlef Roth was having a very off day and was totally under-powered as Pizzaro. Christian Elsner was ill-at-ease in the demanding role of Florestan. His voice lost color whenever he was under pressure and was often off-pitch, reminding us too frequently how difficult this part is.

This, Elena Pankratova’s first Fidelio, was a promising one. Surprisingly, she was not fully comfortable in some places with the high notes, but she showed dramatic ability in the big moments and was careful and musical in the ensembles. It will be interesting to follow the Russian soprano as she increases her familiarity with the role.

Albert Dohmen’s sonorous and musical Rocco reflected the singer’s experience. Manuel Gunther’s Jacqino was pleasant and had a clear tenorial projection. Günes Gürle‘s Don Fernando was underwhelming. This is too often the case with this small role, but it is a real pity given the deep humanity of the music. Marzelline’s Siobhan Stagg was delightful: the Australian soprano has easy flowing notes and nice phrasing. It shows once again the Grand Theâtre’s ability to spot promising singers.

The Swiss Romande Orchestra was under the baton of veteran Pinchas Steinberg who was their music director in 2002. He was careful in the phrasing and drew strong playing from the woodwinds, but the orchestra, which is more attuned to the subtle colors of French music, was often caught losing power and color in the tuttis. The ensembles, however, were delivered with poise, and the support of the singers in the sublime quartet showed the musicians at their best.

So all in all, this was an unbalanced Fidelio, frustrating in its mistakes but with genuine moments of brilliance.

 

Antoine Lévy-Leboyer

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Some Forthcoming London Events from Temple Music __________________________________
  • NEW! Royal Opera House Cinema Festival Begins Monday 3 December in State-of-the-Art Linbury Theatre __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet at the London Coliseum 13 December 2018 – 20 January 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Sándor Végh Memorial Concerts 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Perform Amahl and the Night Visitors in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ELIM CHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Iain Farrington’s Mahler Piano Series was an Extraordinary Marathon __________________________________
  • NEW! Vancouver New Music’s Quartetti Festival: Recharging the Contemporary String Quartet __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST ANGELA HEWITT IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Montserrat Caballé (1933 – 2018): A Personal Tribute by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month