Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Grossmächtige Ariadne in Athens

Ariadne Auf Naxos
GNO, Athens, 25 & 28 November 2009

After a long tour that began in Genova in February 2009 followed by Oviedo in September '09, finally the co-production of Ariadne Auf Naxos, a collaboration of the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, el Teatro Campoamor de Oviedo and the Greek National Opera, landed in Athens and opened on the 21st of November.

The Athenian reprise (first cast) featured Hui He in her debut as Ariadne (as a matter of fact in her German debut). Her Ariadne was next to perfect, a stunning interpretation that most Strauss/Wagnerian sopranos of today would envy, a performance full of pathos, amazing dynamics (her ffff could leave you deaf and her pianissimi could melt your heart), a shattered Ariadne who drowned you in her own world for as long she was on stage.

From Es gibt ein Reich, listen to her sensational Du wirst mich befreien
(that last night, even received an applause).

Next to Hui He, Gerhard Siegel as Bacchus/Tenor, let us down in both performances. In a role of "Tristanic" difficulty (not length though), Siegel looked clumsy, sounded wooden, uncomfortable, his high notes were strained and some even cracked.

Vassiliki Karayanni might have been disappointing in the performance of 25/11, her singing being approximate,
inaudible in the middle and low register, the high notes being squeeky, etc. however she shone bright at the performance of the 28/11. A sexy, witty, enchanting Zerbinetta, and -guess what!- all the notes were there. Her Grossmächtige Prinzessin brought the house down.

We had first heard Jennifer Borghi at the 2009 Maria Callas Grand Prix -singing a notable Air des lettres- and it was then when the people of the GNO noted her for the first time. The italian-american mezzo looked and sounded at home as the Komponist (a role that she also debuted in Athens)
and gave us some good thrills (and chills) with her fearless approach of the stratospheric high mezzo of der Komponist.

Haris Andrianos was an amusing Harlequin (and possessed the best stage presence among the cast),
Dimitris Kasioumis an enjoyable and correct Musiklehrer, same for Aris Prospathopoulos (Scaramuccio), George Matheakakis (Wigmaker) Costas Mavrogenis (Truffaldin),Vassilis Kavayas (Brighella), Petros Magoulas (Lakai), Christos Kechris (Tanzmeister), Philippos Dellatolas (Offizier) and the idiomatic Haushofmeister (with a french accent) of Phillipe Arlaud.

Kudos to Ingrid Kaiserfeld (Najade), Eleni Voudouraki (Dryade), Maria Kostraki (Echo) - and to Mina Polichronou, the Najade of 28/11, who were all exceptional.

Giovanni Pacor, Artistic Director of the GNO, undertook the conduction of the Orchestra and led his musicians on safe paths at the performance of the 25/11, preferring slowish tempi, securing any unfortunate slips and not letting much of the straussian spirit breathe- the orchestra sounded fine, the singers must have had a hard time- but things were different in the performance of the 28/11, as the sound of the Orchestra was more focused, clear and engaged to the score, one more among the achievements of this Orchestra in the last couple of years.

Not sure what could be said about the overall production. For the sake of clarity, I watched the first performance from the 1st row of the platea and the 2nd one from a central palco, and if the Prologue gave me a headache on the 25/11, it managed to amuse me on the 28/11.
A matter of perspective? As a purist -but not a conservative one- I would rather stay focused in the music and the voice, than have a bunch of technicians moving the set on stage while Ariadne is singing her lungs out or watch giants lips falling onto Ariadne and Bacchus "interrupting" the glorious Strauss music. Who really cared about all these when Hui He was on stage?

Prima la musica e poi la regia...

A photo-album:

Curtain Calls:

The whole cast with Phillipe Arlaud (regia/sets/lights) in a tux,
Andrea Uhlmann (costumes-left) and Giovanni Pacor

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