Wiener Staatsoper, 27/11/2011
Robert Dean Smith | Florestan
Waltraud Meier | Leonore
Albert Dohmen | Don Pizarro
Markus Marquardt | Don Fernando
Lars Woldt | Rocco
Anita Hartig | Marzelline
Benjamin Bruns | Jaquino
Bertrand de Billy | Conductor
Otto Schenk | Director
The one word to sum up this Schenk Fidelio is vacuity. Some would argue that the term applies equally well to all his productions, but this staging is lacking in more than just ideas. Take the blocking: has Schenk ever been more static than this? It’s a good nine-tenths park and bark for the singing and there’s astonishingly little movement to accompany the spoken action. Stage entrances/exits, the digging of the grave (though not the actual grave-digging duet), and some wincingly awful high-fiving of the prisoners at the end is about it. To cap off the snoozefest there’s no variety in the sets and costumes beyond brown, beige and grey.
Singing was disappointing. Anita Hartig sang Marzelline with bright and clear tone which faltered in the upper reaches. The final chorus saw some improvement in control, and though she didn’t make much of an effort to blend with Waltraud Meier there was the brief ‘verlässt uns nicht’ moment where Marzelline follows Leonore up to the B flat, which was simply lovely (Meier also great here, and orchestra unexpectedly supportive). Lars Woldt’s Rocco was the same coarsely-played figure as his Waldner in Arabella, the too-knowing-by-half Del Boy act he put on when singing about money in that opera reprised here, to no better effect. He wasn’t so loud, but there was a roughness to the tone and anything above D4 was bellowed. Markus Marquardt’s Don Fernando was exactly the same and loud, so you can imagine what I thought of that. Albert Dohmen was on solid form; I would even say as good as I’ve ever heard him, though that impression is probably coloured by the company he was in. Robert Dean Smith gave a rocky performance: top notes swung between squeezed and strained, though he wasn’t helped by Bertrand de Billy (doesn’t this man understand that singers have to breathe!?). ‘O namenlose Freude!’ was pushed until both Smith and Meier were quite breathless, but not because de Billy was revelling in the speed – too little crispness for that. The maddeningly inscrutable tempo choices also spoiled the overture: an inexpressive acceleration to the dominant followed by a haltingly inept reduction in speed for the horns (incidentally, not great, or even accurate, but they were Wiener horns, which is a schwere Prüfung indeed).
ted some electricity through the otherwise lacklustre musical proceedings.
Image credit Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn