‘Peter Grimes’ review: Opera stars take on a Vienna ravaged by Omicron

ENNA – Whenever I open Instagram these days, it seems like I’m serving an ad for “Hamilton”. What used to be a finish line musical that took months to plan or spent a lot of money to see, now algorithmically spreading the word that last-minute tickets are ready to be picked up, no need for #Ham4Ham lottery.

That is live performance status when the upgraded Omicron variant shows up and puts audiences at home on alert.

Visit the Vienna State Opera, one of the world’s great companies and major tourist attraction. Forced to close for almost a week in December because of the coronavirus, it is now back to full capacity. Nearly 450 seats (in a home of just over 1,700) remained unsold as of Wednesday morning, with just hours left until the opening of the luxury cast revival. Britten of “Peter Grimes” – looks to be one of the hottest tickets in Europe, featuring tenor star Jonas Kaufmann and fast-rising soprano Lise Davidsen.

By the time the curtain closed, the house was much fuller, but there were still hundreds of tickets left for each future performance. It’s easy to see why people might get frustrated and why the company is practically begging to attend: Visitors to the State Theater, who are required to wear N95 quality masks inside the building, must also be fully vaccinated and boosted, as well as tested (by PCR, apparently). Not antigen) to the virus.

I am not alone in my scramble to present all the necessary documents upon entry: identification, a non-transferable ticket, vaccination certificate and negative test result – which comes with a price of 70 euro because I traveled from Berlin, where rapid tests are widely available and free, but PCR is not.

The things we do for opera.

And, in this case, for the chance to hear Kaufmann in his debut as Peter Grimes, as well as Davidsen in her first staged performance as Ellen Orford – first impressions head for the roles these artists are rumored to take elsewhere in future seasons, including the Metropolitan Opera House.

Often trapped by the staging of Christine Mielitz’s neon-lit opera – a psychologically complex tragedy of cruelty and loneliness in the province – Kaufmann and Davidsen seem forced to rely on more dramatic instincts. is a cohesive vision. While the evening was not a disaster and was well received, neither singer seems to have found new roles.

In particular, Kaufmann struggled to clearly trace his character’s decline from social isolation to volatility and suicidal delirium. A fisherman believed by the villagers to have killed his apprentices, Grimes carries the weight of sentience; In this work, he is actually burdened by ropes and the bodies of boys who died under his supervision. Sound has a similar weight, Kaufmann sings mostly in nuances of fatigue, with overt reverence on dangling pianissimos punctuated by outbursts of force rather than pain or agony. violence.

If this approach – steadfastly resigned instead of callous – is taken to static storytelling, it pays off in Grimes’ climactic frenzy. Long brooding under a halo of grief, Kaufmann is all the more moved in this hidden monologue, which shows that a character’s death is inevitable.

But in this scene, as throughout the opera, Britten spreads spikes of marcato and the staccato joint technique. Instead, Kaufmann opted for a consistent legato, which sometimes contradicted the orchestra and, in extreme cases, denigrated phrases that became difficult to hear.

Davidsen’s Ellen was the departure from the mighty Wagner and Strauss roles that quickly made her famous. “Grimes” demands comparative humility, a challenge she met on Wednesday with graceful control-deploying reverberations that she can execute when necessary to perform. his iron will in the face of a small town’s hasty judgments, and fell to a glass pianissamo in a moment of convincing desperation. She conforms to the exact instructions of the score with clear distribution and diversion, but also in Act II, embodying a quartet of deft flair with Noa Beinart as Aunt and Ileana Tonca and Aurora Marthens as her role. two girls.

The other star on stage is Bryn Terfel with the baritone voice, as Balstrode – who, aside from Ellen, the only inhabitant of “Borough” (as the town is called) treats Grimes with some sympathy. But that’s hard to spot in this performance; Terfel’s powerful voice held a hint of evil, with smirks here and there that made it seem like he was encouraging Grimes’ path of destruction. No wonder Balstrode, in the end, tells poor Grimes to sink with his boat at sea.

The other actors were more prominent and worse: the influential texture of Martin Hässler’s Ned Keene and Thomas Ebenstein’s dark comedy Bob Boles; but also Stephanie Houtzeel’s mournful cry of Mrs Sedley, an interpretation more fitting for Brecht than for Britten.

Conductor Simone Young shaped the enormous sonic peaks and valleys in the orchestra. Great endings are separate narratives: the first sets a tone with its cold thinness, the third is angular and light, the fifth is gently swinging but tense. And the chorus, dressed in monochrome and often moving in unison, is sung with as much personality as any single performer on stage. In Act III, its members actually display the destructive power of a determined mob.

That scene is one of the most horrifying in the opera, a massive climax in a production where, when executed at this level, any nasty safety protocol becomes worthwhile. If you can get over that hurdle, there are some opportunities – and lots of tickets – left for you to discover for yourself.

Peter Grimes

Through February 8 at the Vienna State Opera; wiener-staatsoper.at.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/27/arts/music/peter-grimes-jonas-kaufmann-lise-davidsen.html ‘Peter Grimes’ review: Opera stars take on a Vienna ravaged by Omicron

Fry Electronics Team

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