Monday, September 23, 2013

My favourite opera performance of the year. Fullstop.

I didn’t want to go out tonight. Two late concerts in two evenings ... but my friend Frank had fixed me a ticket ... my favourite barber and pedicurist sparked me up with a do-over  ... and I went.

Thank goodness.

I don’t know how many operas and operettes I’ve seen this season, but the Tischlerei version of Les Contes d’Hoffman will definitely be nominated for a 2013 Kurt  award.

I’ve never much liked this attempt of Offenbach et al to be ‘grand’. I saw it at Covent Garden in the way back, when I didn’t know P Domingo and A Baltsa were going to be famous, and found the whole thing rather dull.

Well, it wasn’t dull tonight!

Normally, I am a staunch supporter of ‘do it as she was writ’. I hate the word ‘bearbeitet’. Not tonight. I enjoyed this slimmed down, unpretending version of Hoffman way better than the gloomy, boring version I have always known. And that’s what its about, isn’t it?  Grabbing the public and making us cheer (we did).

The bearbeitung involved cutting off all the 19th century fat. Reducing the story to its essentials, and the orchestra to four (much better), flinging out the large stage spectacle (hurrah!), and replacing them all with wit, fun and imagination. If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed that anyone in this day and age could and would do that. But they did.

I don’t know who was responsible for what: but Dorothea Hartmann and Anne Oppermann are credited with dramaturgie, Anne Champert with the musical makeover and extra bits, and Jakop Ahlborn (of whom we will surely hear much, much more) with the direction. How fabulous to find a modern, young (?) opera director who doesn’t depend on stupid ‘concepts’ and tricks to get himself noticed. I loved almost (couple of notes, Jakop!) everything he did. It was fun, and it was relevant, not just a pasted on bit of nonsense.

I mustn’t rattle on. It’s nearly midnight again. But I’m bubbling over with this one ..

You can be the cleverest director around, but if you haven’t got the performers to carry your ideas out…
Tonight’s young cast … beautifully reduced to three principals (with the ghastly Niklaus turned into a proto-Mephisto), a superb ensemble of boyos, and two splendid extra ladies ... was top to bottom pure gold. They know I think that, because I sat in the front row, and waved my cheering walking stick at them madly.

I’d like to quote all their names, but my cripply hand would die: so I’ll stick to the three stars. And they were stars.

I like having the three ladies played by one actress. Whoops, I said actress. Well, tonight that’s what we had. A quadruple threat. Got to be American, I thought. Wrong! Alexandra Hutton is yayyyy! Australian. And what a talent! She sang Olympia to perfection (much better than Luciana Serra) and slayed me with her sensitivity as Giulietta … she danced … and, oh boy, she acted. I know it’s easier to shine as an actress in a small auditorium, but it’s also easier to fail. Miss Hutton was superb. I don’t know where she will fit in to the operatic world, but she will fit somewhere. Quadruple threat: actress, singer. dancer and … potential star.

Her two male colleagues were by no means outshone. Paul Kaufmann (Hoffman) and Seth Carico (the remake of Niklaus) were both absolutely first class.  But … here’s the nitty gritty ... they were excellently cast. The fall guy and the devil. Faust and Mephistopheles. And they sang their music to perfection. Tenor and bass-baritone. Casting director, take a bow.

I can’t stop without a word for the great bunch of  guys, Hoffmann’s drinking buddies, who launched the show – in a splendidly imaginative opening 15 minutes – with such vigour, or for the two girls, Our Heroine’s alter egos … I still don’t know when they switched the doll for girl one .. brilliantly done!

And now I will stop. And go to my bed with memories of a truly grand evening in the theatre…

Nice, when it happens, like that, unexpectedly ..

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