was always going to be a controversial production. Peter Sellars,
the enfant terrible of stage directors, always elicits an extreme
response from audiences. It is a love/hate thing.
can always be relied upon to present a very high level of musical
preparation. This production was no exception. Mozart's score is
one of his most innovative; it blends intense periods of accompanied
recitative with deeply moving arias. The choral writing is some
of the most dramatic in all of Mozart's operas - the chorus were
particularly impressive in their control and power.
the stars of the evening were Peter Bronder in the title role and
Marie Arnet as Ilia. Bronder was able to convey the torment his
character faced whilst maintaining a near perfect technique. His
pianissimo singing at the very end of the opera was one of the most
involving moments I have experienced in an opera house.
was in very fine voice - delicate, lyrical and precise. She coped
excellently with the physical demands placed on her by the stage
directions and never let it interfere with her vocal production.
Clearly a voice to watch for the future.
to admit to being a little disappointed in Julianne de Villiers
as Idamante. She has a good instrument but she found it difficult
to project over the orchestra when using the lower part of her range.
Hopefully this is something that will improve with further experience
as most of her performance was excellent.
Sellars, as previously mentioned, is a challenging director. I would
have welcomed some clearer indication as to what he was trying to
achieve with his production. There were elements of the recent Balkan
conflict, intimations of 80s power politics and hints of the ongoing
differences between Christian and Islamic cultures - but nothing
was made explicit.
the production was rich in colour and gesture (one of Sellars' trademarks).
The lighting was both subtle and bold - constantly shifting to reflect
both mood and emotion. However I was left somewhat underwhelmed
by the over-literal use of movement to reinforce the libretto. To
my mind, it is not necessary to mime a snake when reference is made
to one in the text. From time to time, laughs could be heard to
spread round the auditorium when such examples were played out on
said this, it is still an impressive piece of theatre but one that
works almost inspite of the efforts of the director.