Werther and Così fan Tutte at the Wiener Staatsoper, 28/01/2011 and 29/01/2011
After seeing Werther with Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch on DVD from Paris Opera du Bastille, I decided that I had to see this opera with these singers at the first opportunity. After checking every day for about a month or so on the Wiener Staatsoper website, I was able to get tickets for Werther. To make the trip worth it, got ticket for Così fan tutte as well for the following day.
Werther was conducted by Frederic Chaslin, directed by Andrei Serban, set design Peter Pabst, costume design Peter Pabst and Petra Reinhardt, chorus master Thomas Lang. Werther – Jonas Kaufmann, Albert – Adrian Eröd, Charlotte- Sophie Koch
A massive, thick, with long and stretchy branches tree dominated the stage for this production of Werther. The tree’s leaves changed colour from green for act one, to golden brown for act two and the tree stood emtpy with no leaves for the rest of the opera, like one big massive obstacle. You simply can not avoid it! It is there! For all eternity! Period! Deal with it! Action took place around it, on it, behind it. People hid behind it, used to eavesdropp, couples kissed near it, danced on the built in platform on it, greeted each other from it. It stood there to be in between Charlotte and Werther. The patio tables and chairs in act two also served as obstacles and inhibitors of the about to explode passion between Charlotte (who almost forgot in act one that she is to marry someone else) and Werther. There is a danger that Charlotte may have become a bored (she can’t even watch the telly), not satisfied by her husband, who possibly does not even fancy her, probably alcoholic housewife, reading and rereading Werther’s letters. Would he return on Christmas day?
He does and oh my god, Massenet lets rip. Stage heats up to fusion like temperatures in the middle of the sun! Kaufmann sings Pourquoi me revellier with superbly controlled crescendi on top a sharp, pouring his heart out 120 % , every word is phrased to perfection, with Kaufmann-can-only-do-it decresendi to pianissimo on f sharp (bang in the centre of the passaggio of a tenor voice!!!) that was just too much for me to hold myself. And then 5 min applause on an open stage. Conductor and Kaufmann nod to each other discretely and he sings the aria again! Do you think he sang it with less conviction, less drama, less emotions? The answer is NO! Everything was even more, even better! In order to avoid one more interruption in the drama, Koch immediately utters her words N’achevez pas! …Hellas!
The moments when Charlotte runs for Werther after she suspects he will take his own life, the sound of the flutes and the piccolos in the orchestra I will never forget! It felt like someone has opened the door and an extreme cold wind has flushed your face and it feels like someone is cutting your cheeks with razors!The final scene with Werther about to die with the blood still pouring out of his wounds from the gun shot is an emotional roller coaster. Wounded, laying down on his side, hugged by Charlotte in his last moments, he asks for forgiveness in the most tender pianissimo. Contrary to Werther’s about to explode passion, young full of spunk so to say youth, who always lives on the edge, Charlotte is a character who undergoes phenomenal transformation throughout the opera. She looks cold, distant, on the surface not interested. Is it because she had to take care and mother all those kids? They must drive her senseless! But then after the breef time she spends with Werther she is a different person, woken up, almost driven to extremes. And she stays in control of her emotions, she is constantly pulled back, she chases Werther away with one utterance! Then she suffers, badly…driven to the glass and then she is alive again with Werther’s return even to admit to herself that she loves him not her husband…
What happend to Charlotte after the death of Werther? Is she back to her old self? Cold!? Like those flutes and piccolos?
A video of the curtain call:
Cosi fan tutte, 29th January, Staatsoper Wien
Contrary to the night before, I was not crying and sobbing and shaking like a mad man, but laughed while watching this performance of Mozart’s Così. Quite traditional production. Conducted by the young Jeremie Rhorer, whos energy at moments were a bit too much. I am convinced that the singers could not follow him at some points and the ensembles were rocky. The director of this production Roberto de Simone sticks to “tradition” (please observe the quotation marks). The colourfull sets were designed by Mauro Carosi and the quite interesting costumes by Odette Nicoletti. The chamber sized opera chorus was in top form. Did like them a lot. Caroline Wenborne replaced Miah Persson in the role of Fiordiligi (Fior di diabolo, hahaahahha). She was the weekest link in this performance. Not a very suitable voice for this part. Too thin, at moments shreeky not very secure top and some shaky vibrato that I didn’t like. Stephanie Houtzeel was excellent Dorabella. Would like to see her live in other operas.Topi Lehtipuu was either in not very good form that evening, or just simply can’t sing Ferrando well as he can sing Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Rameau. He was barely audible in the lower register and also suffered from some strange vibrato, which I have not heard from him live previosly (his singing in Ottone in Villa at the Barbican was amazing!) Un aura amorosa was just not good enough. Anita Hartig was excellent Despina! Quite superb actually. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo‘s Guglielmo was the best. In top form, resonating from top to bottom with ease (which was not the case when I saw him as Escamiglio in Royal Opera in Covent Garden production of Carmen a couple of years ago, when he was quite bad). I am not going to write more about the opera, everyone knows scene by scene what is going on. Quite ludicrous plot really, but the music is just sublime. Alessandro Corbelli as Don Alfonso was great. This is a singer whom I have seen in many things and is never below his best.
Here is a video of the curtain call. It’s a bit on the short side