It was my first premiere performance of 2019 – and the next one after premiere performance of “Otello” which I almost missed on November 23rd last year.
I love Puccini, but somehow “La Fanciulla” is not on the top of my list, nevertheless, with the right cast and staging it should come on par with “Manon Lescaut” at least. This Puccini masterpiece has not been staged in Munich after WW2, thus it is quite a rarity at this outstanding opera house.
There were several components that made this performance really great night at the opera: the production concept and staging was easily conveying the concept of Andreas Dresen about life of people who are working in the mining industry nowadays (and in fact, any physically demanding occupation, frequently far away from home and family), the cast was very strong and demonstrated great stage chemistry, and the orchestra was led masterfully by James Gaffigan.
The main protagonist Minnie was performed by Anja Kampe, and the role was surprisingly good fit for her voice and personality. Even if a few top notes came a bit shrieky, it could have been interpreted as expression of overwhelming emotion. She acted and collaborated with her stage partners easily, being just natural in the setting.
Dick Johnson was sung by Brandon Jovanovich, and I believe it is his best role up to now – have seen him recently in Queen of Spades, Lady Macbeth of Mzensk and some more – but this role is really fitting him like a glove. It is hard to imagine who else from current top tenors could deliver this role as good. I have seen also recent Kaufmann interpretation at the Met, – his character is a tad different, his husky, baritonal timbre makes Johnson more of a villain, while bright, youthful sound of Jovanovich pictures the story of inherited gangster business as involuntary choice – similar to those miners, he has decided to support his family undertaking calculated risks.
John Lundgren as Jack Rance delivered impressive performance, strong both vocally and dramatically.
Another collective protagonist in this opera is chorus of miners – and their performed marvelously, the sound the group created was so polished – either in lyrical or combative scenes – important to mention contribution of the chorus master Stellario Fagone.
The orchestra was extremely responsive to the cue of James Gaffigan, some nuances came out I have never noticed before, the only minor complaint was just a bit too loud volume, as in several episodes the lead singers were overtaken by orchestral force. At the same time, according to some audience members on higher Rangs, the sound was well balanced – those are just minor details depending on the seating arrangement.
The audience greeted creative team and the cast enthusiastically, and demanded the cast to appear for several curtain calls, – no disappointed viewers that night. For me – reassessment of Puccini list, and addition of Jovanovich to “must-see” list for the future! As great conclusion to this opera weekend, the announcement of new BSO season came out on Sunday, with many productions of high interest, so new season calendar is already fillign up with new opportunities for exploration and discovery!
Performance on March 16th, 2019
Conductor James Gaffigan
Inszenierung Andreas Dresen
Bühne Mathias Fischer-Dieskau
Kostüme Sabine Greunig
Licht Michael Bauer
Chor Stellario Fagone
Minnie Anja Kampe
Jack Rance John Lundgren
Dick Johnson Brandon Jovanovich
Nick Kevin Conners
Ashby Bálint Szabó
Sonora Tim Kuypers
Trin Manuel Günther
Sid Alexander Milev
Bello Justin Austin
Harry Galeano Salas
Happy Christian Rieger
Larkens Norman Garrett
Billy Jackrabbit Oleg Davydov
Wowkle Noa Beinart
Jake Wallace Sean Michael Plumb
José Castro Oğulcan Yilmaz
Ein PostillonUlrich Reß
Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper