The announcement of the 2017/2018 season at Wiener Staatsoper immediately defined two must- see performances for my schedule, and both promised unforgettable experiences. First one was “Adriana Lecouvreur” with Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala, and another one “Samson et Dalila” featuring Elīna Garanča in the title role – November and May respectively. On the morning of season sales opening, the tickets were gone, and my hope for waitlist proved to be waste of time already before. Thus it left two options – either join the stehplatz line on the day of the performance or search for available tickets through numerous Vienna ticket agencies. The latter strategy works almost always, even if the price tag might be heftier then planned. With confirmation and invoice in the email, I set towards the discovery of the Cilèa’s opera, which, ironically, was another first-time experience for me.
The night at the opera to remember – that would be the shortest summary of the experience. It is of utmost difficulty to write the review for the performance which made you happy just for being there and absorbing both art of performers and energy and excitement of the audience. One of the most impeccable performances I have experienced in my relatively short opera going history – loved the score, the libretto is believable and dynamic, the orchestra sounded glorious under baton of charismatic and energetic Evelino Pido, all four main protagonists delivered above expectations, the audience went into lengthy standing ovation – as this was the last performance in the run, the cast was generous for repeat curtain calls until the cheers subsided.
Anna Netrebko embodies the passion and devotion as an actress and a woman in the role of Adriana Lecouvreur, making us believe that she is dedicating her life for art, and her love and jealousy is as passionate as her stage heroines’. There is not enough praise for her acting talent, every gesture, and every note is exactly in the place to send shivers down the spine of an attentive audience member.
Her voice has grown even rounder and deeper, the role requires quite a lot of chest voice through recitatives and declamations, and that part comes across as utterly dramatic and admirable, especially when combined with an immediate climb into exultantly high notes, delivered with confidence and clarity. As I have noted before, even if her highest notes are not so silvery bright anymore, the tone has acquired more dramatic colour and still has that soul penetrating effect.
Her stage presence is breathtaking, and the role suites Netrebko also visually – in this traditional production her appearance in those great period dresses is pure pleasure to watch – royal posture, graceful movement.
Probably, this is the role where I have seen Beczala at his best both vocally and dramatically. He was very good as Werther, excelled as Prince in Rusalka at the Met and as Faust in Salzburg, loved his Rodolfo and Riccardo, – so now eager to hear his Rodolfo in Luisa Miller later next spring at The Met.
The role fits his voice like a glove, and the blend with Netrebko is admirable. They both have very good stage chemistry, and for this opera, it is a dream team to wish for. Loved his clear tone, mellifluous sound with easy top notes, no hint of strain or effort. Beautiful – bravo!
There was almost an accident on the stage during Act 3 when Beczala joined the crowd at the theatre performance arranged by Prince Bouillion – he slipped on the stairs but managed to stay on his feet and delivered his aria without any hint of stress from the mishap. It was fun to learn that Maurizio, the prince of Saxony, had participated in the war in Courland, and was fighting under Mitau (Jelgava) -side benefit of glancing to the surtitles.
Elena Zhidkova as Princess Bouillon was a great match to the duo of main protagonists both vocally and dramatically. Her aria in Act 2 “Acerba voluttà… O vagabonda stella” was filled with raw jealousy, love and promise for revenge. Her mezzo has surprisingly rich lower register, and she is capable of conveying urgency and dramatism of her heroine at the best.
Surprisingly, I have not had a chance to see Roberto Frontali before, thus he came as an interesting discovery of the night – his generous, mellow baritone was a perfect addition to the ensemble, and interpretation of Michonnet was admirable.
There are not so many nights at the opera when you can say that the performance was perfect. This one certainly was – impeccable musically and dramatically, and thus demonstrating the unique impact of the most complex form of the art – opera. Looking forward to Tosca and Luisa Miller at The Met, and Samson and Dalila in Vienna – and many more during this exciting season, every time with hopes to come out from the performance saying – it was outstanding experience!
Francesco Cilèa, “Adriana Lecouvreur”
Performance on November 18th, 2017
Maurizio, Conte di Sassonia Piotr Beczala
Michonnet Roberto Frontali
Adriana Lecouvreur Anna Netrebko
La Principessa di Bouillon Elena Zhidkova
Conductor Evelino Pidò
Director David McVicar
Set design Charles Edwards
Costumes Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Light Adam Silverman
Choreography Andrew George