Ugly and brilliant: Wozzeck at Dutch National Opera

Berg: Wozzeck

Dutch National Opera, 18th March 2017

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Johann Christian Woyzeck, excecuted in 1824 for the murder of Johanna Woost

This new Wozzeck at Dutch National Opera is ugly, and disturbingly brilliant. Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging distills the desperation of trying to scramble up from the lowest rung of society. Changing certain details of the plot, Warlikowski nevertheless stays true to the grimy realism of Georg Büchner’s play.

Full review on Bachtrack.

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Total theatre: Don Giovanni at Dutch National Opera

Mozart: Don Govanni

Dutch National Opera & Ballet, 7th May 2016

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The Hunt in the Forest by Paolo Uccello (circa 1470)

An hour before curtain-up to Don Giovanni, Dutch National Opera and its principal orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic, proudly announced chief conductor Marc Albrecht’s contract renewal at both institutions until the 2019/20 season. This première performance by NedPhO’s partner, the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, confirmed that this continuing three-way alliance is, indeed, very good news. With a sound cast in Claus Guth’s staging, created for the Salzburg Festival, Albrecht did full justice to the dramatic span of the work, from its wry wit to the momentous events that start and end the plot.

View full review on Bachtrack.

The Sneering Cavalier

Eva von der Osten 1911

Eva von der Osten, the first Octavian

The Dutch National Opera is celebrating its fiftieth season, which opened with Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. This opera also opened their first season in 1965, with a cast that included two great Dutch divas­—fifty-year old Gré Brouwenstijn debuting in the role of the Feldmarschallin and a young Cristina Deutekom as the duenna, Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin. Fifty years on, everything comes together in this new production. Marc Albrecht, the conductor, and Jan Philipp Gloger, the director, have conceived a Rosenkavalier for our cynical times. With a tear-streaked smile that curls into a sneer at one corner, it shows how timeless and sophisticated the score and libretto are.

Jan Philipp Gloger possess a great eye for detail, and he’s probably a zealous micromanager. Witness the social distance between the aristocratic Marschallin and the parvenu Faninal summed up in their respective major-domos: Mark Omvlee with polished voice and tip-top grooming versus Morschi Franz done up as a wedding planner in a fondant suit.

On opening night, I sat between two gentlemen. The one on my right could not help shadow-conducting half the score, while the one on my left tried to stem his tears in vain. I found their reactions both touching and pertinent. They sum up why this production is so terrific: it is a musical delight and a theatrical bull’s eye. I felt privileged to be reviewing it for Backtrack. Anyone who has ever declared that opera is irrelevant/dying/dead/embalmed should have been sitting in my place.

Der Rosenkavalier has a big cast and this one is smashing. I was taken to task on Twitter for ignoring Irmgard Vilsmaier as Jungfer Marianne, whose voice was as large as her stage presence. Indeed, because of space limits I also left out Michael Laurenz’s slippery-snakey, well-sung Valzacchi and several others. But never mind my shortcomings. If you can make it to Amsterdam this month, and love Strauss, theatre, good singing, virtuosic playing, or all of the above, try not to miss this.