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Subject: Dallas Opera Februry 9
From: LANE WHITESELL <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:LANE WHITESELL <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 10 Feb 2018 12:03:59 -0500

text/plain (24 lines)

            Last night the Dallas Opera performed an evening of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a double bill consisting of his post-Hollywood Violin Concerto and his first opera, premiered forty years earlier when he was still a teenager. The two works made for an interesting contrast, but underlined the fact that his mastery of orchestral writing made few changes over his lifetime. Augustin Dumay was the violinist, and Emmanuel Villaume conducted the concerto without a baton. Dumay looked rather frail when coming onstage, but played with all the energy he has always had. Watching his face as he played was quite interesting. He occasionally gave a small smile, as if he was pleased with the way a phrase had come out, or at his own tone color. More often, he looked as if he were concentrating very hard on what was coming next. It made for an interesting take on the performance. The orchestra gave a good rendering of this colorful score.

            It took a 25-minute intermission to clear the stage of the orchestra and mount the set, the interior of a large apartment. There was a timelessness in the set and the costumes, more representative of Korngold’s Vienna than the libretto’s 1793. The opera was an attempt to renew the German comic opera and was a huge hit in 1916, paired with Korngold’s second opera, Violanta, a tragedy. (I left the theater wondering if Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi was put last in Il Trittico because of the Korngold pairing, tragedy first and comedy last.) The libretto was adapted from a play about a lucky man and a jealous unlucky man who uses the excuse of the story from Schiller’s Ballad of Polykrates to break up the lucky man’s happy marriage, and fails.

            The cast has two pair of lovers and the unlucky man. The lucky man, Wilhelm Arndt, has just been named the Court composer. He has daughter “in the cradle.” Tenor Paul Groves was fresh from singing Count Danilo in The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera, and has successfully added another character to his list of over 100 roles. It was obvious he was enjoying himself on the stage. As his wife, Laura Arndt, we heard Laura Wilde, this year’s McCasland Young Artist with the Dallas Opera, sang a role which has Korngold’s first serious opera aria, sometimes called the diary aria. Her approach to the music suggests to me that she may be a major Strauss singer in the next few years.

            The second pair of lovers is Florian Doeblinger, the composer’s assistant, copyist, and timpanist, sung by Brenton Ryan (Spoletta in the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Tosca), and Susannah Biller as Lieschen, Laura’s maid. Both sang their music well. If Florian wants too much to copy his master’s life, Lieschen is much more down to earth. Their blooming romance set off the more settled marriage of the Arndts. Baritone Craig Colclough rounded out the cast as the jealous trouble-maker and comic character Peter Vogel, singing and acting the short role well.

            The orchestra played the youthful score well, with Maestro Villaume using a baton for the second half. All in all, I would rate this as an enjoyable performance of a historically-important work which was quite deserving of being performed.

Lane A. Whitesell

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