|Images: Tom Schulze|
Igor Durlovski (Fairy King)
Fairy King, Voice of Groma – Igor DurlovskiAda – Christiane Libor
Zemina – Viktoria Kaminskaite
Farzana – Jean Broiekhuizen
Arindal – Arnold Bezuyen
Lora – Eun Yee You
Morald – Detlef Roth
Drolla – Jennifer Porto
Gernot – Milcho Borovinov
Gunther – Guy Mannheim
Harald – Roland Schubert
Messenger – Tae Hee Kwon
Children of Ada and Arindal – Lukas Gosch, Leon Heilmann
Renaud Doucet (director)André Barbe (designs)
Guy Simard (lighting)
Marita Müller (dramaturgy)
Chorus of Oper Leipzig (chorus master: Alessandro Zuppardo)Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Ulf Schirmer (conductor)
What is it about London buses or, in this case, buses in London and Leipzig? Hot on the heels of the Chelsea Opera Group’s concert performance of Die Feen last month, a fully-staged production has followed from Oper Leipzig. (In fact, its premiere took place in February, but this was my opportunity to see it.) The COG’s performance was a valiant effort, and boasted some fine singing, but was sadly let down by an apparently under-rehearsed orchestra. Leipzig did its greatest son proud, in a production and performance that made the case beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, that Die Feen deserves a regular place in the repertory. It is not Parsifal, of course, yet what is? The Bayreuth ‘canon’ has done a great deal of harm, yet there is no reason why reparations should not be made, and in this of all years.
While I had written [the incomplete, preceding] Die Hochzeit without operatic embellishments and treated the material in the darkest vein, this time I festooned the subject with the most manifold variety: beside the principal pair of lovers I depicted a more ordinary couple and even introduced a coarse and comical third pair, which belonged to the operatic convention of servants and ladies’ maids. As to the poetic diction and the verses themselves, I was almost intentionally careless about them. I was not nourishing my former hopes of making a name as a poet; I had really become a ‘musician’ and a ‘composer’ and wanted simply to write a decent libretto, for I now realised nobody else could do this for me, inasmuch as an opera book is something unique unto itself and cannot be easily brought off by poets and literati.
|Ada (Christiane Libor), Arindal (Arnold Bezuyen)|
Renaud Doucet has a background in dance, though by now he has directed a good number of opera productions too. On this basis, I should happily see more, metatheatricality worn lightly, humorously, yet tellingly. Following a Saturday evening family meal, a father tunes in to a live broadcast of Die Feen from Oper Leipzig. The rest of the family departs, leaving him in peace to listen. (A nice touch is his turning up the volume for the Overture as the conductor does similarly in the pit.) Music becomes the key to the work as a whole; it enlists his emotions, transforms his understanding. In something of a modern fairy-tale, his living room becomes the performance space, not entirely unlike The Nutcracker, or indeed, closer to home, the tales of ETA Hoffmann. Romantic, pseudo-Nazarene mediævalism, Wagner’s (relative) youth, and our own time come together, in a (Midsummer Night’s?) dream-like mélange that prompts rather than answers our questions. What might seem a counterpart to all-too-comfortable Biedermeier home life soon has its tensions exposed: though the paterfamilias – and he is at best a weak example of the type – welcomes back his wife at the end of the broadcast, and leaves Ada to the fairies, beret-clad Wagner included, will he tire of his quotidian existence and hanker again after the immortality of that other world, that to which, as Arindal, he had exceptionally been admitted?
The cast was strong too. Early Wagner, like early Mozart or early Beethoven, does not take kindly to condescension; there was not a hint of that here. First among equals was Christiane Libor’s stunning Ada, her insane, Abscheulicher-squared aria fully realising Wagner’s Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient-inspired vision. Arnold Bezuyen, quite understandably, tired a little at one point as Arindal, but otherwise impressed with a fine combination of heft and tone. Detlef Roth was everyone one might have hoped for as Morald, words and vocal line in properly Wagnerian, even musico-dramatic, tandem. Jennifer Porto and Milcho Borovinov delighted as Drolla and Gunther, their buffa duet cut in the COG concert performance yet triumphantly vindicated by its inclusion here, even though one could readily tell that it marked for Wagner more or less the end of a line, give or take a Liebesverbot. Only Eun Yee You’s Lora was a little disappointed, outclassed by COG’s wonderful Elisabeth Meister; the voice simply did not seem big enough and tuning was more than occasionally awry. Choral singing was of a consistently high standard throughout, as was direction of the chorus on stage.