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September 1999 - Vienna State Opera Page 2


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Vienna State Opera in September 1999, Part 2

Premieren der Saison 1999/2000 - Ernani - Guillaume Tell - Fidelio - I vespri siciliani - Ariadne auf Naxos

Text: Birgit Popp, Photos: Axel Zeininger

The third opera of this season was at September 3, 1999, Beethoven's so called 'freedom-opera' Fidelio, with which the Vienna State Opera had been reopened on November 5, 1955. The current Otto-Schenk-production, which had its premiere not in the Vienna State Opera but in the 'Theater an der Wien' in 1970, was performed that evening already for the 164th time. This production reflects in an excellent way the change from a 'Singspiel' (songplay) to an heroic opera. From the singing and acting aspect positive remarks have to get Franz Hawlata as the prison master Rocco pulling all register from a 'Spiel-Baß' to a serious bass. Also the soprano Elizabeth Connell managed very well the change from the lyrical to the heroic in the role of Fidelio/Leonore. Roland Wagenführer, who had this evening his role debut for the Vienna State Opera House as Florestan, stayed a bit colorless. This made have been due to his interpretation of the role, since finally he interprets a for two years in a prison in chains pining, almost starved man.

Two debuts at the Vienna State Opera it had that evening: Ricarda Merbeth as Marzelline and Pavlo Hunka as Pizarro. The at Chemnitz (former East-Germany) born singer , who had studied at Leipzig and had been engaged at the 'Städtische Bühnen Magdeburg', has received several awards. To the roles of the lyric soprano belong Margarete, Mimi, Antonia, Tannhäuser-Elisabeth, Eva, Tatjana and Donna Anna. In summer 2000 she will sing in a new production of 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' at Bayreuth the roles of Freia, Gerhilde and Gutrune. In these roles Ricarda Merbeth will also be heard at Vienna. Further roles at Vienna will be Giulietta, the Fourth Maiden (Elektra) and Isaure (Jérusalem). As naive, but charming daughter of Rocco she gave with her clear, youthful soprano a successful debut as member of the Vienna State Opera ensemble. Pavlo Hunka, a son of an Ukrainian father and a British mother, had first been working as a lawyer and word trainer before he decided to concentrate professionally fully on singing. Since 1990 roles like Scarpia, Dulcamara, Leporello, Bartolo, Rangoni, Tomski, Wozzeck or Macbeth belong to his repertory. In the '94 and '95 Salzburg Festival he sang Tschernakowskij in 'Boris Godunow'. In the '99 Bregenz Festival he was Renato in 'Un ballo in maschera', before he had sung in the same site Pizarro in 'Fiedelio'. In his debut at the Vienna State Opera he showed much talent for the funny passages of his part, but in the more dramatic parts the baritone could have had a bit more striking force. To Hunka's future plans belong Kaspar, Dikoj (Katja Kabanova) and Pizarro at the Munich State Opera.

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Anthony Michaels-Moore

A brilliant Monforte.

In the Vienna State Opera he can be also heard in Stiffelio in January 2000 and in Rigoletto in March 2000.

Vocally and musically the strongest impression of the first ten days of the 999/2000-season left Verdi's I vespri siciliani. Unfortunately, this cannot be said from the staging. In the three-year-old production by Herbert Wernicke, who was responsible for directing, settings, costumes and lightning, the scenery of all four acts is dominated by an outsized staircase, which takes the whole width of the stage and goes almost up till the stage's heaven. In spite of the few props it came to an accident, when a part of the props fell into the orchestra pit during the overture on September 4. Obviously only a double bass was destroyed and had to be replaced, while its player stayed unhurt. A bit of an information for the shocked audience would have been appropriate. After a short interruption the performance was continued. A deep impression left Anthony Michaels-Moore as Monforte with his noble presence in voice and appearance. His marvelous baritone poured out well-shaped tones full of emotional pain and in awareness of his power in the interplay of his feelings between exercise of power and paternal love. The by the British baritone in all nuances in heights and depths unfold sound carpet carried the souls and hearts of the listeners upwards and caused long-lasting applause after his aria at the beginning of the third act. .

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Johan Botha
as Arrigo:

His voice shiens at the tenor sky.

Not less moving was the following father-son-duet with Arrigo, whose role was sung by Johan Botha as excellently. This outstanding master piece of Verdi was indeed masterly performed by both singers. Johan Botha with his shining and at the same time moving tenor and Kurt Rydl as the supposed peace for the attack using Procida with sonorous, disaster announcing bass knew to convince and met like Michaels-Moore great enthusiasm. As already usual the Vienna State Opera audience was of divided opionion about the performance of Mara Zampieri, who gave her role debut at the Vienna State Opera as Elena. The quality of her performance was not consistent over the whole time, but nevertheless the 'Boos' were quite hard. Also their role debuts at the Vienna State Opera had Anthony Michaels-Moore as Monforte and Kurt Rydl as Procida. To their high-altitude flights the singers, choir and orchestra were guided by Fabio Luisi at the conductor's desk.

To celebrate the 50th day of death of Richard Strauss on September 8, 1999, his Ariadne auf Naxos was performed in the Vienna State Opera House - like for his 85th birthday on June 11, 1949. Despite a broken foot Marcel Prawy insisted on speaking some introducing phrases and to report his memories of a time when Richard Strauss was still conducting his own operas. The production of Filippo Sanjust from the year 1976, which had its 131st performance on September 8, 1999, has written itself State Opera history with guest performances at Hamburg, Prague, Washington, Ludwigshafen, Dresden and during the '80-tour to Japan. To celebrate the 50th day of death this production was staged again for the first time since 1991. However the quality of the performance could have been higher to suit the occasion. This started with the play of the orchestra under the baton of Jun Märkl and continued with the singers. Vocally not totally convinced the as Wagner singer celebrated Deborah Polaski in her role debut as Ariadne at the Vienna State Opera and even less Ildiko Komlosi as frustrated composer. The bright spot was Edita Gruberova, whose career received a tremendous push with the role of Zerbinetta in this production's premiere at Vienna in 1976. Still today, 23 years after, it is worth to hear her in the acrobatic coloratura soprano role.

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Peter Weber as music teacher and Ildiko Komlosi as composer

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