It is undisputably great initiative undertaken by Deutsche Oper Berlin in reviving grand operas of Giacomo Meyerbeer – the success of Les Huguenots last year put very high expectation for this year continuation in Le Prophete. Highly anticipated, previously unseen by me, – and great cast assembled to tell the story.
The opera addresses challenges of power, beliefs, values and human choices in unexpected turns of their destiny. The opera is set in the century of reformation, similarly like Les Huguenots. LE PROPHETE explains us the rise and fall of the Protestant Anabaptist sect in the Westphalian city of Münster in 1535. The main protagonist, Jean de Leyde, an innkeeper, leads the group of fundamentalists raising against the despotic Catholic rule. However, he soon realises that the revolutionaries are as corrupt as the oppressors overturned.
Jean de Leyde – by Gregory Kunde – has risen unexpectedly from ordinary inn-keeper to crowned emperor, his only merit being a resemblance to the picture of the saint. He strongly beliefs in his predicament and is ready to sacrifice his private happiness to the societal good, at the end perishing with everything he ever held dear – life, mother, bride, compatriots.
Impressive performance by Gregory Kunde, he actually lives the role. His tenor is well suited for the role requirements, and provides opportunity to demonstrate both vocal and dramatic capabilities at its best.
Complex relationship between son and mother, confronting personal core values and reiterating the question what is price of love and loyalty. Gregory Kunde as an excellent actor tells as about the torment and pain involved – and his partner, unexpectedly in the role of mother, is Clementine Margaine, who excellently embodies the character and delivers heart-wrenching performance.
Clementine Margaine as mother was incredibly good – her voice has matured, rounded and lower register resonates with heart throbbing intensity. Very convincing acting, highly believable character built for a lady triple her age, reliving emotional rollercoaster of a mother who lost and found her presumable dead son, just to lose him again by joining in death.
Elena Tsallagova as Berthe, pure and faithful bride of Jean – her voice is well suited to the role, light and easy top, turning into dramatic colours in the last scene filled with revenge and hatred.
Seth Carico as Graf Oberthal delivers strong performance both musically and dramatically, and was a pleasure to see again on stage.
The staging was based on the rotating house and building blocks consistently grey and depressing. The red of leader’s cape was of high contrast to the overall bleak and grey graphical background and costumes. The spinning of the stage was a bit dizzying, especially when rotation speed was increased and the dancers joined the stage for intermezzos and ballet scene. That part was probably less successful as was extended demonstration of nudity in various forms, – in some moments a bit in excess.
The opera of Meyerbeer certainly is a great example of grand opera. It has 5 acts and extensive ballet in Act 3, which in this particular production did not fit the overall story very well, and was probably the only cause of the booing both after it as well as for director at the curtain call. In general it felt that a bit shortened version might be better suited for contemporary staging, nevertheless, the work of the production team renewing full version of the opera is highly appreciated.
Giacomo Meyerbeer. Le Prophéte
A grand opéra in five acts
Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps
World premiere: 16th February 1849 at the Opéra de Paris
Premiere (revised version, based on the history of the opera’s development) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin: 26th November 2017
Performance at Deutsche Oper Berlin on December 3rd, 2017
Conductor Enrique Mazzola
Director Olivier Py
Sets and costumes Pierre-André Weitz
Lights Bertrand Killy
Choir Jeremy Bines
Jean de Leyde Gregory Kunde
Fidès Clémentine Margaine
Berthe Elena Tsallagova
Zacharie Derek Welton
Jonas Andrew Dickinson
Mathisen Noel Bouley
Graf Oberthal Seth Carico
1. Bäuerin Sandra Hamaoui
2. Bäuerin Davia Bouley
1. Bauer / 1. Wiedertäufer / 1. Bürger / Soldat Ya-Chung Huang
2. Bauer / 2. Wiedertäufer Taras Berezhansky
2. Bürger / Offizier Jörg Schörner
3. Bürger Dean Murphy
4. Bürger Byung Gil Kim
Orchestra Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin