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Sunday 26 February 2012

Ariadne Auf Naxos with Renée Fleming, take 3


Last night. (See first night for the main review, and second night here). UPDATE last two paragraphs.

Even more things in the production irked this time - ineptitudes, infelicities, clumsyness everywhere. There's just absolutely no attempt on Arlaud's part to engage with the opera artistically, emotionally or intellectually - there's no exploration of what it might be about. I also really dislike the fact that everyone regularly comes out of character in the "opera" act in such clumsy, obvious ways - there might be something in this idea, but it certainly didn't work here. And again, the seria characters are left floundering acting wise - they just have to stand and do their best with the text in terms of hand movements and facial expressions - no attempt whatsoever at creating characters here, either symbollic or realistic.

Compared to both previous nights, the Vorspiel seemed a bit tentative from everyone this time, not least Thielemann and the orchestral players. Was it the fact that it was being broadcast live? Sophie Koch was not on quite as good form as on the second night, though her Musik ist eine heilige Kunst was the best yet. Hopefully for the DVD they will properly edit the different nights together, rather than just use one night and patch with the other nights.

Renée was more positive than before in the opening scena, though there was a bit of a grainyness in the sound this time. The melismatic phrase Ein Schoenes War was done in two breaths as most sopranos do it, rather than in one breath as she managed so beautifully on the first and second nights (and on her previous excerpt recording). Minor, but an indicator of things to come. The final duet was not quite as beautiful as the second night, and she seemed to be carrying more tension in the sound which meant the lines were a little more broken up and there were even a few yelps at the end of phrases. I enjoyed it, but think the second night was her best performance vocally.

Robert Dean Smith did well, but again felt his best night was the second night - grainyness in his sound too, and some of the top notes didn't come off quite so sweetly here.

You can watch it here for another 89 days, you lucky things. I haven't yet listened but will be interested to hear what it all sounded like up close.

UPDATE 27/02/12: just watched it on the internet. The production comes across better here because of all the close ups - the monotony is broken up in the slow scenes, all the extraneous action is diminished in the over busy scenes, and things can be framed to look more beautiful (whereas on stage of course we see the whole thing all the time). Very interesting seeing a performance live and then on DVD - makes you realise how different the experiences are. Some productions will undoubtedly be better on DVD than in the theatre...

What's also better is that you can see Fleming's characterisation in her face - much more convincing up close than in the theatre. Actually she is pretty amazing - it is still most magnificent and controlled Strauss singing of our age, she has the finest legato of anyone for this repertoire, the verbal acuity also unparalleled and one just wishes she had done this earlier so that the ravishing sound was still there. The low notes are still beautiful, but the top is etiolated. Still I'm glad that it's more convincing/moving up close for the sake of the DVD.

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