Monday, February 11, 2013

KARNEVAL IN COLOGNE

DER CARNEVAL IN ROM      Concert Form 
Dresden State Operetta 
Cologne Philharmonie 
6 February 2013 

© SAM H. SHIRAKAWA 

Jana Büchner Sopran (Marie, ein Mädchen vom Lande) 
Michael Heim Tenor (Arthur Bryk, Kunstmaler) 
Manfred Equiluz Tenor (Graf Falconi) 
Jessica Glatte Sopran (Gräfin Falconi) 
Marcus Günzel Bariton (Hesse, Kunstmaler, Arthurs Freund) 
Bernd Könnes Tenor (Rafaeli, Kunstmaler, Arthurs Freund) 
Jeannette Oswald Sopran (Therese, Braut) 
Jens-Uwe Mürner Tenor (Toni) 
Chor der Staatsoperette Dresden 
Thomas Runge Einstudierung 
Orchester der Staatsoperette Dresden 
Ernst Theis Dirigent 
Désirée Nick Präsentation 
From the  Dresden State Operetta production of Der Carneval in Rom

In case you don’t know it, Der Carneval in Rom (1873-1874) is the second operetta that Johann Strauss completed. It is noteworthy primarily for being the unnoteworthy forerunner to the Waltz King’s best-known stage work Die Fledermaus (1875). The Dresden State Operetta mounted a new production of Carneval nearly a decade ago and recorded it live for CPO. This past week, the company brought a concert version of its production to Cologne, just in time for the city’s annual celebration of Karneval or Mardi Gras, a week of motley merry-making, parades and inebriation prior to Ash Wednesday. With hardly any exceptions the cast and conductor were identical with the recording. 

What was unusual about the performance was the presence of Desirée Nick, who presented the narrative continuity, which freed the singers of having to act out the dialogue without the benefit of scenery and props. With wit and charm, she told the story of Marie (Jana Büchner), a naive Alpine country girl, who follows her errant beloved painter Arthur Bryk (Michael Heim) all the way to Rome at Carneval time where she is determined to snatch him from the snares of temptation, including the wiles of the seductive Countess Falconi (Jessica Glatte). 

As entertaining as Nick’s interpolations were, though, the performance still ran close to three hours. Duration in presenting seldom-performed operettas like Carneval becomes significant, because most such works deserve their obscurity. You smile at premonitions of A Night in Venice and nod at a hint of The Gypsy Baron, but you also grow a bit impatient with the cadences that don’t modulate into the magic of Fledermaus. Strauss was a master of melody, but the inspirations in Carneval fall far short of the heights he scaled in that masterpiece. 

The performance was also prevented from bubbling up to full sparkle by Jana Büchner as Marie, who was having difficulties with notes above the staff -- hopefully evidence of a misfortunate evening rather than a sign of vocal decline. Jessica Glatte was a bright sounding and attractive looking Countess, although her resinous voice is an acquired taste. 

Michael Heim elevated the standard of the evening in stalwart fashion, delivering Arthur with elegant phrasing and stylish musicality. His voice has maintained its strength and clarity over the past decade and he’s kept himself in shape. The testosterone-heavy support cast was ably rounded out by Manfred Equiluz (Count Falconi), Marcus Günzel and Bernd Könnes as two friends of the hero, Jeannette Oswald (Therese) and Jens-Uwe Mürner

Ernst Theis kept the Dresden State Operetta Orchestra and the chrous under the direction of Thomas Runge in a Carneval mood. 

Scenes from Karneval in Cologne 2013 
Brünnhilde (Above) meets Almaviva (below)

Le Postillon
Nabucco double-cast
The Nose @ Ebertplatz
Opening Night: Barely Audible

Karneval Photos and Post-Production:  Sam H. Shirakawa

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