Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kaufmann and Harteros Impress on Bayerische Staatsoper.tv

 Tézier and Kaufmann at the end of Act III

Thanks to Bayerische Staatsoper.tv for an HD broadcast of La Forza del Destino from Munich that was part of their second season of live streams.

This performance was centered on Jonas Kaufmann who impressed in the challenging role of Alvaro, but also in a memorable effort by German soprano Anja Harteros (known to Met-goers from her 2003 Countess in Figaro, Donna Anna in 2004, and Violetta in 2008). Ludovic Tézier (Enrico in the Met's 2011 Live-in-HD Lucia) also excelled in the often overlooked role of Carlo.

The modernized staging seemed promising at first. A family prayed around a table, and as the overture moved through its sonic tableaux the actions onstage darkened and developed. Throughout the first act the drama intensified, and the infamous drop of the gun that led to the accidental death of the Marchese was done effectively, without appearing as operatic parody.

The first scene of the second act took place around the same table near which the Marchese was shot, and his body remained in place on the floor. The music was like a nightmare hallucination.

But things took a turn in the second scene of Act II, which was too brightly lit. The Verdi style at the time of La Forza experimented with ways of injecting humor into otherwise serious operas. The humor in this production was too often set as sarcasm. For example, Melitone was never funny. The scene felt long, and the music, as evidenced in passages like the rising sequences after the violin solo in B minor during the finale, lacked the edge that Met fans have come to expect from the Levine sound. The Escher-like set of Act III was distracting.

But accompaniments improved after intermission, with strong support in Act III (though there were several cuts that were distracting) and stunning sound throughout the second scene of Act IV.

Vitalij Kowaljow was double cast as both the Marchese and Padre Guardiano. This was effective because the shock of seeing him in Act II scene 2 (after his "first character" had been shot) added to the ghostly nightmare impact, but it also put him onstage during the close of the opera, where his double role helped tie together both the guilt of murder (as a ghost of the dead father) and the hope of redemption (as the padre).

Things came together in the final scene. A stage filled with leaning white crosses made a visually striking impact, and Kaufmann and Harteros lit it large.
The camera work was effective and one could opt to watch this transmission with English subtitles. It was an amazing gift to see this broadcast for free. The rest of the season includes six more live transmissions. I will be tuning in to each of them, and am already looking forward to Clemenza in February and especially to Die Soldaten in May!

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