Germany Janáček: Věc Makropulos, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Chorus, Tomáš Hanus (conductor), Nationaltheater, Munich, 24.5.2016 (JMI)
Production: Bayerische Staatsoper
Direction: Árpád Schilling
Sets and Costumes: Márton Ágh
Lighting: Tamás Bányai
Emilia Marty: Angela Denoke
Jaroslav Prus: John Lundgren
Albert Gregor: Pavel Černoch
Dr. Kolenatý: Gustáv Beláček
Krista: Rachael Wilson
Janek: Aleš Briscein
Vítek: Kevin Conners
Hauk-Šendorf: Reiner Goldberg
Árpád Schilling’s production had its premiere in the Nationaltheater two years ago. This is its first revival since a performance at the Munich Festival in July 2015.
The story is well narrated on a revolving stage that allows for quick scene changes in the different acts, so the opera is performed without interruption. The action takes place in the 1920s (the time of the opera’s premiere), and the sets are quite simple and effective. The costumes are suitable, and only the protagonist, Emilia Marty, wears a very modern outfit: no wonder, since at the age of 337 she is an almost timeless being. The stage direction works well in general, but the final scene is somewhat surprising: Emilia Marty is treated in a sadomasochistic way that is hard to understand. Perhaps it makes reference to the letters that she had written to her lover, to which Jaroslav Prus refers at one point.
Czech director Tomáš Hanus has always conducted this opera in Munich, and he showed a great knowledge of the score, providing a brilliant and lively reading. Today he is probably the best choice in this repertoire, along with his compatriot Jiří Bělohlávek. The orchestra offered a fine performance and a superb sound under his batoš Hanus has always conducted this opera in Munich, and he showed a great knowledge of the score, providing a brilliant and lively reading. Today he is probably the best choice in this repertoire, along with his compatriot Jiří Bělohlávek. The orchestra offered a fine performance and a superb sound under his baton.
The protagonist ̶ Elina Makropulos, Emilia Marty, or any other of the names she used throughout her 337 years of life ̶ was interpreted by German soprano Angela Denoke, and she triumphed in the role. Angela Denoke has always exhibited great intensity in the characters she has sung, which has taken some toll in vocal terms, but she is still a wonderful artist. She also had the handicap of following Nadja Michael, who played Emilia Marty at the premiere, and for whom the production was obviously intended. But Ms. Denoke could not be more convincing on stage. Her voice may be tighter than a few years ago, but she remains an exceptional singer.
The other characters in the opera are much less important than the protagonist, who is on stage virtually from beginning to end. Jaroslav Prus had a well-suited interpreter in baritone John Lundgren, who offered a wide and attractive voice. Albert Gregor was sung by Czech tenor Pavel Černoch, whose voice is well-managed if not totally convincing. Good too was baritone Gustáv Beláček as Dr. Kolenatý. Soprano Rachael Wilson did well in the part of Krista, as did tenor Aleš Briscein as Janek. Kevin Conners as Vítek was excellent, as usual. The part of the elderly Hauk-Šendorf was covered by veteran Reiner Goldberg, who in his day was a renowned Wagnerian tenor, and who is in fine shape at 76.
José M. Irurzun