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Subject: Re: The Arrogance of Bieito
From: Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 25 Oct 2013 22:56:48 -0700

text/plain (213 lines)

I saw this production of Fidelio when it premiered in Munich. Here's what I
reported then. It was unconventional but I didn't think it was too
outrageous for Bieito.




Fidelio in Munich 7/4/11



Conductor : Adam Fischer
Staging : Calixto Bieito
Leonore : Anja Kampe
Florestan : Jonas Kaufmann
Pizarro : Wolfgang Koch
Rocco : Franz-Josef Selig
Marzelline : Laura Tatulescu
With all this talk of Fidelio I thought I'd report on the opening of the new
production of Fidelio in Munich I attended Monday evening. 
Anja Kampe who sang Sieglinde in the frst 2 cycles of the Ring in San
Francisco a couple of weeks ago is back here in Germany singing Leonore
(probably the reason why she did not sing cycle 3 Sieglinde). Jona Kaufmann
who seems to always end up here in July (Birthday in hometown?) sang
When the season was first announced last year the conductor was supposed to
be Fabio Luisi but the program had Adam Fischer on the podium. Maybe Luisi
is mad at JK for canceling Japan or perhaps Luisi covering for Levine in
Japan didn`t allow him enough rehearsal time?
Singing was overall excellent to superb and the staging was pretty mild for
Bieito although having the acrobats dangling from the static trapeze at the
beginning of Act II  before "Gott! Welch Dunkel hier" accompanied by some
primeval sound and squeaky birds (it may have been the sqeaky sets as well -
a sort of metallic maze slowly rising, kind of a German-Catalan answer to
LePage's "The Machine") made some audience to clap sarcastically followed by
booes, loud yelling among audience, one yelling "Passen Sie auf" to the
acrobats, some more booing, audience yelling at each other, whistling and
finally someone yelling in English "shut up!" I guess Bieito brings out
inner Italian in all of us. The lady next to me thought the dangling random
people looked like Marionettes but to me they looked more like calamari on
the hooks.
I am not familiar with all the different versions of Fidelio but this
performance was 1814 version with Leonore overture III. What I thought
strange was after "namenlose Freude" and before the chorus of "Heil sei dem
Tag" they played an abridged version of Beethoven's string quartet op.132
A-Minor ("molto adagio" only). The string quartet was staged in a very
original way.(made me think of Max's suggestions on audience suspending from
the Chandelier to get the best acoustics in San Francisco Opera) Three metal
cages containing 4 string players (2 violins, viola and cello)  were
gradually suspended from the stage ceiling hovering above the "prison"and
they played like that suspended up in the air. 
Another rather unusual thing was several recitatives given to Leonore,
Rocco, Pizzaro and Florestan, most extensive one before the overture recited
by Leonore, text from Labyrinth by Jorge Luis Borges (translated and spoken
of course in German)
There'll never be a door. You're inside
and the keep encompasses the world
and has neither obverse nor reverse
nor circling wall nor secret center.
Hope not that the straightness of your path
that stubbornly branches off in two,
that stubbornly branches off in two,
will have an end. Your fate is ironbound,
as is your judge. Forget the onslaught
of the bull that is a man and whose
strange and plural form haunts the tangle
of unending interwoven stone.
He does not exist. In the black dusk,
hope not even for the savage beast.
Rocco also has a short recitative before his first aria, from Borge's "the
writing of the gods".
"I have lost count of the years I have lain in the darkness,
I who was young once and could move about this prison, and incapable
of more than awaiting, in the posture of my death, the end destined to me by
the gods. With the deep obsidian knife I have cut open the breasts of
and now I could not, without magic, lift myself from the dust."
Florestan gets a short liner "It's here. There is nothing left to talk
about." from Cormac McCarthy's "the Road" before the trio "Euch werde Lohn
in bessern Welten".
So Bieito like Borges. So do I. I don't know what Beethoven would have said
but at least the text from the Labyrinths stayed within context and IMHO
more beautiful than Sonnleithner.
I have heard Laura Tatulescu in several soubrettish roles of Mozart
(Zerlina) and Puccini(Lauretta) but here surprisingly her voice was in full
bloom and had impressive volume. She had to sing while wearing body harness,
climbing the ladder built on to the metallic maze and rappelling down
wearing about 6 inch high heels, constantly hooking and unhooking her safety
chain to the nearest wire or metal bar. Jaquino, sung by athletic Finnish
tenor Jussi Myllys also had to sing while performing rigorous rock, I mean
metallic maze climbing up and down (without the high heels). Both sang
superbly all the more impressive because of the physical demands and the
timing of the movements. This was the best singing I heard from Tatulescu
and I was surprised to read that she was American (for some reason I thought
she was Romanian).
Anja Kampe sang with careful phrasing, had very attractive middle chest
voice but the high notes sounded a bit effortful. I noticed during her
"Abscheulicher" her first "erreichen" made me a bit nervous that it may not
quite do justice to the word. Besides her Sieglinde in San Francisco 3 weeks
ago I heard her as Georgietta in Tabarro several years ago and was quite
impressed with the way she produced large sound without screaming. Overall a
great singing actress, quite not Christine Brewer in vocal capacity but she
made up with her convincing acting.
I didn't care for Franz-Josef Selig's Rocco. I found his voice unfocused and
not menacing enough. Would it be too much to wish for Pape for this role? I
guess that would be too expensive.
For me the pleasant surprise was Pizzaro sung by Wolfgang Koch. I heard his
as Telramund in the past and thought he was a total barker. Here he sang
with clear voice, intimidating but not ugly and his stage presence was truly
magnificent. At one point Leonore smashes a bottle on his head and he took
it bravely and sang on after quickly smearing some blood over his head.
Kaufmann continues to be impressive. He started "Gott" in the manner that
makes us constantly argue it's falsetto/pianissimo and then the voice
develops an evenly increasing crescendo into a fantastic volumn of "...OTT".
He had no problem with the high tessitura so early on stage and within
minutes I hear those clear pings in "schwere Pruefung", "Meine Pflicht", a
completely delicious stuff! His acting was marvelous as well, he had a very
dorky hair, parted sideways and he kept nervously pulling out a comb from
his prison uniform pocket and kept combing his hair which crawling on the
floor about to wretch.
Some words on staging, the set is a giant vertical maze built with harsh
metal, plexiglass sheets and florescent light frames. This florescent
lighting frames at times seem to be activated by the loudness of the
orchestral sound. During the overture some random people in street clothes
meander about the maze then started banging themselves on the wall. This
made some unnecessary noise during the overture because of the plexiglass
floor. I was thinking maybe these are supposed to lab mice in the confined
space (i.e. prisoners).
During overture, after her recit, Leonore takes her shirt off and binds her
breast with bandages. Quite literal. During namelose freude, both Leonore
and Florestan strip down into their underwears and change into more decent
O one more slap on the face, Don Fernado shoots Florestan and he falls as if
dying. Then he gets and sings the final scene happily.
Bieito did not take the curtain call. Compared to the "Regie" that I endured
on the following day during "Saint Francois d'Assise" this Fidelio came
across as rather harmless.




On Fri, 25 Oct 2013 14:45:53 -0400, Nicholas Lederer <
<mailto:[log in to unmask]> [log in to unmask]> WROTE:


>I carry no torch for Fidelio: it's not an opera I love, and I certainly 

>wouldn't want to direct it because I'm not sure it works.

>But that's the issue. If you don't believe in a piece you shouldn't do 



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