Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catharsis: Tannhäuser opens in Athens

One of the highlights of the Greek opera history of the last 2 decades.
This is how I would describe the opening of Tannhäuser in Athens, on the night of January the 24th, at the Athens Megaron.

A triumph for:

-Graham Vick and his magnificent staging

-The Greek National Opera - with it's usually mediocre means and funding can work such marvels

-Meastro Philippe Auguin who made the Orchestra of the Greek National Opera find a totally different sound and balance

-The wonderful cast of singers and among them, Lise Lindstrom who received a totally deserved storm of applause and bravos at the curtain call.

Special kudos to Martin Snell as Herrmann,
Landgrave of Thuringia
Rolf Haunstein as Bitterolf
Ashley Holland for a somewhat "rough" and idiomatic but nevertheless very interesting Wolfram.

John Treleaven
had some good moments even if his overall vocal approach of the part of Tannhäuser wasn't my cup of tea.

Lise Lindstrom, undertook and learnt the part of Elizabeth on very short notice as originally announced Angela Marambio "got indisposed" leaving the production Elizabeth-less. Lise Lindstrom not only managed to sing both Venus and Elizabeth but, in my opinion, her Elizabeth was better than her Venus, that seemed to be lying a bit low for her. Displaying an incredibly powerful top register, a most welcome bigggg volume, a round, healthy voice, she was the undisputed star of the night. Her ovation was therefore expected to be tremendous and the truth is that the Greeks produced a petit earthquake when she stepped on stage leaving her speechless and stunned.

I don't think I could describe with words my feelings throughout the performance.
I can only say that the last 10 minutes were the justification of why people love opera with such passion and fanaticism, why people travel all around the world to listen and to feel, to experience the catharsis, to have those short, astral moments of unification with the Universe
(OK, enough).

Photos (C) Akriviadis


Anonymous said...

Wonderful pics, I d also wanna read about other members of the cast and no just the soprano. (please)

Anonymous said...

H paidikh xorwdia "Rosarte" pws sas fanhke?

Parsifal said...

Poly kalh! Pei8arxhmenh, fanhke na exoun empeiro ka8odhghth k synevalan k autoi sthn ka8arsh gia thn opoia kanw logo...

daddy said...

i sigkekrimeni paidiki horodia exi pari gold metal stin katigoria tis stin olibiada horodion 2008. ontos exi ebiri kai ebnevsmeni kathodigitria tin k. Rozi Mastrosavva.

maria teresa said...

Coincido plenamente con lo que dices, hay momentos mágicos, en esta y en otras óperas que si eres capaz de sentirlos se siente una emoción inexplicable, que hace que todo tu ser vibre con la música, y te emocionas hasta las lágrimas y no lo sabes explicar....¡es ópera!

Orfeas said...

I loved the production! Vick's finest. He found a beautiful balance between traditional and modern staging without affecting the opera.
I was first dissapointed Lise Lindstrom was also doing Elisabeth because I thought her Venus was good but not outstanding but she sounded like a different singer! Her Elisabeth was truly magnificient. Brilliant singing! Tannhauser sounded tired but lower male voices were very fine!

derwanderer said...

Hello everybody: If I may add: I agree with almost all that dear Parsi has written in his review, except the stage direction: I found it insipid, silly and dull (I will expain myself) BUT with one major and redeeming quality: IT WAS NOT INTRUSIVE, so anyone not interested in the visual part could just concentrate in other things.
To start with: Yes the Greek Opera Orchestra, rised to the occasion, and this is not a small victory: Some coordination problems, especially in the begining (Vorspiel Act I), some unpoetic sounds in the 3rd Act, some ugly noises here and there, BUT in general, a more than decent excecution. It would be too long to cite this and that solo, but the musicians were GOOD, belive it or not. If they want, they can!
A very warm kudos to Maestro Philippe Auguin who tamed the shrew and got from the ELS forces the very best I have heard from them in ages. This is already a triumph.
The cast: Lindstrom was amazing, not a very beautiful voice maybe, but big, luscius, irradiating: A totally convincing Elisabeth and a less so Venus (put the blame on Vick, I believe, more than on her range). I will not start to play the old maid, finding this and that slight slip here and thete. She was magnificent. If I may say only one thing, I would have liked the two caracters to be interpreted in a more (vocally) contrasted way, I though her Venus was not lurid and sexy enough. But this is personnal taste.
Treleaven was OK vocally, but dramatically and visualy a much less credible Tanhauser: Yelling and unpoetic in the more drammatic parts, dull in the softer. But all in all, he did it and he can be lauded for his "athletic" performance, that could have been utterly memorable had it been less deficient in poetry and nuance.
I liked Snell and did't care much about Holland, but overall, there was nothing realy bad or misplaced in the cast.
Chorus and children chorus very good, even when they were singing off stage. The ballet, well, the ballet, lets forget it!
Now to the stage direction: To start with nothing realy new: The floor with the mud and the ring of fire was like a pale copy of Weiland Wagner's stagings some 50 years ago. The lunar landscape, with a tree in the middle was encapsulated in a simple vaulted gothic room with big windows that the chorus was using as doors (Open the window and jump in action!) The most RIDICULUS MOMENT arrived early in the play, in Act one, where the windows broke open and from there pourred in the pilgrims on roure to Rome: bare chested, the body covered with beedind auto-inflicted scars and wounds dripping blood (supposed to be devotionnal wouds?), yes, a bloody precession breaking in from the windows in SLOW MOTION and syncopated inarticulate movments: remind you of something? To me it looked like a high school parody of ROMERO'S "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD"! But again, more ridiculus it was that disturbing.
The opening ballet was also ridiculus, not at all bacchic nor orgiastic, just insipid and this is not the feat of the mediocre soloists...
Mr Vich has reserved another "bright" invention to the chorus: The singers arriving for the contest in Act 2, break in from the door while the female members of the chorus use also the door but DRESSED AS MADONNAS (the Virgin, not the other one!)in identical Stroumpffy bleu-roi veil and silver crown: Each Madonna (about 30 of them in all) was following a knight/singer, standing behind him like a soviet Inturist interpreter whispering in the ear. What the fuck? The singers looted a souvenir shop in Lourdes, before attending the Wartburg contest, in order to have their private talisman? Then, the Madonnas, always good listeners, took a seat and enjoyed the festival. BRIGHT INDEED! In the same act there was also a kindergarden scene where the chairs, disposed in circle for the contest, wereused like something in betwwen the "musical chair" game and a "magic circle" : But why the fuck the chairs were falling and coming up again? And why the knights didn't put their asses firmly on them to prevent them from moving?
A special mention to another "fabulus" idea, the silver glitty/kitschy MODERN ORCHESTRA HAPR that was lying somewhere in the middle of the set, sometimes in erection, some times flaccid and fallen down, I even saw it (YES, THE HARP!) doggy-style, mounting a chorus member! Also used as a stool but NEVER as an instrument. Stupid.
Could have added more insipid details, the magical ceremony of the tree, the LAUGHABLE "sexy" scenes in act I, where Venus was opening the sheet she used as a pareo in front of Tanhauser who, galantly, used it to dry his lover's back, as he would have done with a bath towel, before pushing her down in the muddy earth, to lift her meaty legs on his elbows. Given Treleaven sex-appeal and Lindstrom acting charms this was as hot as an asian soft-porn (for those who have seen asian soft-porn, you know how sexy this can become LOL!)
Check now Parsifal's second pick in this post to have an idea of how Tanhauser looked back from Rome: Like a gorilla or a Cro-Magnon dressed in rugs (the effect was multiplied by Trelaven's ungracefull face and physique).
Insipid "reaistic" costumes (if not dull and graceless). The lighting, though, was almost perfect, a study in understatement and efficiency.
Anyhow , again, I repeat: All this "findongs" in the direction were stupid and silly but not at all intusive, so there is no reason to insist: I did it in order to defend my opinion.
And again a precison: I am not AT ALL one of those Wagner worshipers that want the Master's works to be produced as Wagner wanted, on the contrary. I think that the only decent way with Wagner productions is to find a key mood and drammatic frame to unleash the impact of the music, MUCH MUCH MUCH more interesting than the elemnts put by wagner in his verbalistic and pretentious (wannabe) poetic librettos (GODS, wagnerians will lynch me!!!)
Anyhow, I will be glad to discuss impressions with you dear Parsi and with the other friends around!

Αστάλη said...

greetings to all fellow parsi's readers! likewise i went on the 27th to watch tannhauser, having already read parsi's reviews, therefore waiting to see a truly magnificent staging.
Parsi excuse me, but i didn't find the production so exquisite as you did, and it seems most of the audience were of my opinion, as in the end there was a frugality of praises, quite unlike what you described.
the staging was so-so, in my opinion ofcourse.. i liked the tree and white hall, found the costumes uninspired-a safe and traditional choice, though i liked the contrast of elisabeth's blue dress in the empty hall in act 2. However, i agree with derwanderer regarding those stupid chairs, and the whole mount of aphrodite thing. And what is it with this harp that men took and placed upon themselves??
Curious as it may seem, i have almost concluded that special effects shouldn't be used in opera. Every time i have seen a production using them i have been gravely disappointed. the ring of fire was rather out of tune as an element with the rest of the stage, and it was noisy.

i have to agree however with what you say of elisabeth/venus. her elisabeth was indeed better, and she was very good, with a biiig voice. Tannhauser had a something i disliked, but i was reminded that just to *sing* this part is a feat of skill, so i stop whining and give him kudos for doing exactly that. What he lacked however i found at Snell's Herrman, a voice warm and full that i wanted it to just keep going!

Watching wagner's operas is a rare treat in greece and besides,a mediocre show continues to be music, perhaps that being the only thing that matters. so, im glad i went, even if i didn't find it a perfect production!

Parsifal said...

Good day!

It was already commented at the chat box that the Tuesday performance had some problems and especially the orchestra's performance was mediocre.

So at least we agree for Lindstrom and Snell! Both wonderful!

I would agree with Orfeo who wrote above that "He found a beautiful balance between traditional and modern staging without affecting the opera."

What was wrong with the chairs? I don't get it...

derwanderer said...

I repeat myself, but the only trully great thing about the staging was its unintrusivness. But all the key "findings" were dull, seen before (and better) or just ridiculus: About the chairs: Ok they went on creating a magic circle, with the swords interpolated between the chairs. The rope made the whole thing look like a boxing ring. Why not, after all? Then, almost ASAP the contest begun some of the chairs fell down, and some swords too (i was at the opening night..was this an accident only?) The contestants went on sitting on the fallen chairs, whithout lifting them up. Same taste with the erected/flaccid/copulating harp: USELESS AND UNCONCLUSIVE. Why take 5 minutes to built this "circle" that was not really used drammaticaly? Why let the chairs fall minutes only after they have been put in place? Why the IMO ungracefull rope all around the swords and chairs? Ok, Ok, it looks mystical and buys time (as far as mise en scene is concearned. But then? )
" Ιδεαι υψηλαι, πτωχα ενδεδυμεναι, δεν ειναι δι αιωνιον ζωην προορισμεναι!"
Anyway, for me the whole scene in act II was ruined by the multiple Madonnas arriving in blue veils and crown, just to sit "cote cour" and follow the contest like good girls. This, I just can't get it: It was supposed to be drammaticaly connected with the plot? Was it a joke, in a quite first degree staging?
Mind you, I am not protesting against Elisabeth's mercy (or was it envy) strangling. This was a true finding, that could have been controvertial but VALID, had it not been drowned in the production's clumsy package of "ideas".