Saturday, September 15, 2012


DER SCHATZGRÄBER      New Production
The Treasure Hunter
De Nederlandse Oper    Amsterdam
9 September 2012
musical direction
Marc Albrecht
Ivo van Hove
stage/lighting design
Jan Versweyveld
costume design
An D’Huys
Tal Yarden
Janine Brogt
Klaus Bertisch

Der König
Tijl Faveyts
Die Königin
Basja Chanowski
Der Kanzler/Der Schreiber
Alasdair Elliott
Herold / Der Graf
André Morsch
Der Magister/Der Schultheiss
Kurt Gysen
Der Narr
Graham Clark
Der Vogt
Kay Stiefermann
Der Junker
Mattijs van de Woerd
Raymond Very
Der Wirt
Andrew Greenan
Manuela Uhl
Gordon Gietz
Ein Landsknecht
Peter Arink
Erster Bürger
Cato Fordham
Zweiter Bürger
Richard Meijer
Mezzo Sopran Solo
Marieke Reuten
Alt Solo
Inez Hafkamp
Alt Solo
Hiroko Mogaki

Tableau Video Projections: Tal Yarden, Set: Jan Versweyveld
A query occurred to me after hearing a new production of Franz Schrecker’s rarely performed Der Schatzgräber (The Treasure Hunter 1920) last weekend at de Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam:  What single factor do revived “forgotten” operas have in common?  A simplistic but simple answer:  First and foremost, someone, maybe a group, has both the will and resources to carry the enterprise through to presention.  In Holland this month, stage director Ivo van Hove and de Nederlandse Opera are collaborating to give Schrecker’s now seldom performed stage composition the Full Monty.
Manuela Uhl
Der Schatzgräber was a huge success for Schrecker at its Frankfurt premiere in 1920.  About 400 performances of the opera were heard before the Nazis banned Schrecker's works after they came to power in 1933.   He died in Berlin the following year at the age of 56.
Above/Below: De Nederlandse Opera

While the ins and outs of the mise en scène are hardly child's play to follow and even harder to remember than the plot of Total Recall, van Hove views the work as an “adult fairy tale,” in which an abstract narrative governs the action that he, at least, finds more menacing than found in most children’s bedtime stories.  (So Snow White and Cinderella are paragons of benignity?)  Anyway, van Hove's production, designed by Jan Versweyveld with modern day costumes by An D’Huys has a brightly lit, pop-out children’s book feel and look. Within that framework, a search for the stolen, magic jewels belonging to a fairy-tale queen, which dominates the action, takes on the semblance of a bad dream.  The jewels precipitate murder, false accusations and a love story involving a miserably married innkeeper’s daughter and a minstrel, whose enchanted lute leads him to the missing treasures.  Ultimately, all’s well that ends on an unearthly plane.
Ivo van Hove
Musically, Der Schatzgräber is even more complex than its plot, but for me, its luxurious score is ultimately less distinctive than distinctly reminiscent of several late romantic composers.  It also contains vast stretches of incidental music that may strike some as soporific rather than absorbing.   But thanks to the palpable commitment of the cast, conductor Marc Albrecht and the orchestra and chorus, as well as Tal Yarden’s effective video sequences, van Hove’s chimera-like production induces attention, if not fascination.  
Uhl, Raymond Very
The singing, though, kindles both.  First among equals: Manuela Uhl as Els, the Inkeeper’s daughter and the only prominent female singer in the testosterone-heavy cast.  Her voice continues to develop focus, soaring in the upper register and becoming ever more solid in the middle and lower regions as the performance proceeds.  At the same time, her unusually incisive instrument is becoming more voluminous with each hearing.  

Tenor Raymond Very as the minstrel Elis held his own with a flexible, beefy dramatic timbre. If he can get rid of the flab around his midriff, he will have a stage presence as imposing as his voice.  
Left: Kay Stiefermann Right: Graham Clark
Kay Stiefermann makes the most of the Bailiff, whose jealousy railroads the Minstrel to the gallows.  It is a thankless role, but he makes it elicit gratitude from the listener.  Following his towering Dutchman in Wuppertal last season, though, Stiefermann is now wasting his talents on third-string villains.  

After lo these many years, Graham Clark in the part of the Court Jester still manages to double the value of every syllable he utters and triple the valence of every note he sings.  But the spectacles he wears should be 86ed.  They make him look like an unkind caricature of Woody Allen, and it doesn’t work.  

If it takes conviction and money to bring operatic rarities back to the stage, some operas may be hindered from being revived because their casts are simply too large and competent comprimarios are too expensive.  De Nederlandse Opera is to be lauded in engaging singers of quality down to the smallest roles -- several of them from Holland. They include Andrew Greenan as the Inkeeper, Mattijs van de Woerd as the nasty young nobleman, and a trio of soloists: Marieke Reutan, Inez Hafkamp and Hiroko Mogaki.
Marc Albrecht

Keeping the instrumental and choral pots well stirred,  Marc Albrecht serves up his enthusiasm for the opera by drawing some fabulous playing from the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and finely articulated ensemble work from the Chorus of de Nederlandse Opera under the supervision of Alan Woodbridge. 

Incidentally, you already may know, that Amsterdam is as interesting during the day as it is at night, especially when the weather is clement.  The people are friendly, and the thoroughfares are largely safe and surprising at every turn.  You never know where they can lead...

Bar Lempicka

Foreground: Bridge across Nieuwe Herengraacht; Background: Magere Bridge
Available for duets and ensembles

Production Fotos; Monika Rittershaus
Amsterdam Fotos & Grafix:  Sam H. Shirakawa

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