Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Salzburg Festival: Der Schauspieldirektor/Bastien und Bastienne, 12 August 2007

Mozart: Der Schauspieldirektor/Bastien und Bastienne

12 August 2007, Salzburger Marionettentheater

Alfred Kleinhenz - Frank, der Schauspieldirektor
Radu Cojocariu - Buff, sein Assistent/Colas
Christiane Karg - Mlle Silberklang/Bastienne 1
Ina Schlingensiepen - Mme Herz/Bastienne 2
Bernhard Berchtold - M. Vogelsang/Bastien

Junge Philharmonie Salzburg
Elisabeth Fuchs (conductor)
Thomas Reichert (director)
Puppenspieler des Salzburger Marionettentheaters

The conceit of this charming production was to have the play being produced in Der Schauspieldirektor as Bastien und Bastienne, the former framing the latter. This resulted in two Bastiennes, who each sang half of the opera, by way of their Schauspieldirektor auditions. By programming live music at the Marionette Theater, this was a reversion to the theatre's former customary practice, before recordings took over. There was a good number of children at the performance, some quieter than others. Doubtless many enjoyed it, but I wondered whether the proceedings - without interval - might have been a bit long for some.

The spoken dialogue was all well done: clearly enunciated and acted well. The young singing cast complemented Alfred Kleinhenz in the only all-speaking role. Radu Cojocariu is clearly both an accomplished actor and a fine singer, as he showed in his dual role as the assistant Buff and the ersatz-magician, Colas. (He played himself on stage, rather than being represented by a puppet, adding an amusing element of physical interaction between humans and marionettes.) All parts were well taken, making reasonable allowances for the very occasional slip in the ladies' coloratura. They worked well in ensemble too, which is far from always the case with soloists; here there was a real sense of give and take, of listening to each other and responding.

The young Salzburg orchestra acquitted itself well too, under Elisabeth Fuchs. I rather feared the worst when, following a punchy Schauspieldirektor overture, its Bastien and Bastienne counterpart sounded somewhat emaciated. It need not actually sound 'like' the first movement of the Eroica, whatever the identity of their themes, but it should have sweetness and a certain dramatic drive at least. Thankfully, this was a rare exception, and particular highpoints came with Colas's nonsense aria, 'Diggi, daggi...' - singer and orchestra having fun and furthering the action in tandem - and with the later Schaupsieldirektor numbers.

The ultimate emphasis of the latter work is of course upon collaboration, not competition. Not forgetting the intricate, flawless manipulation of the puppets, this relatively modest production proved a fine example of how art, or indeed anything else, is thus best served. It is not always the most magnificent spectacles that proffer the finer result.