A premier at the Zurich Opera has probably never drawn so much international attention than the one of this production in early November. The reason for this: the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov is sitting in house arrest in Moscow since the summer of 2017. In the past, Serebrennikov polarized the artist scene in his native country Russia and has been well acclaimed for his cinematic and stage work all over Europe. The decision by Zurich’s director Andreas Homoki to let Evgeny Kulagin realize Serebrennikov’s concept was not only a win for Zurich’s new production, mainly it set a sign of solidarity for Serebrennikov.
One would think that Serebrennikov’s team would use this chance to draw attention to current events in Russian politics – but instead, they decided to give the audience a funny, smart and absolutely convincing sight on Mozart’s grotesque comedy, which set an even bigger sign at the end than political provocation. The directing team set the focus of the rather simple story on the relationship between the two genders. Although they created a diverting modern adaptation of the piece with a great sense of humor, the focus this evening was mainly on the theatrical aspect what made Mozart’s music all of the sudden began to seem a bit incidental. When, for example, the gorgeous “Soave sia il vento” Terzetto is interrupted by laughter from the audience because of what happens on stage, one starts questioning if this really lives up to Mozart’s music.
Such enormous scenic requirements demand much from a singers ensemble. In the first act this had a bit of a lack of musical concentration as a result. However in the second part each and every part of this very playful ensemble convinced the audience with their own empathy for their characters. Especially Ruzan Mantashyan, as suffering Fiordiligi, showed great understanding for Mozart’s music and convinced with a crystal clear height and a very agile voice (Stunning was the coloratura part in her aria “Come scoglio, immoto resta”). Although being announced sick, Anna Goryachova’s (Dorabella) voluminous mezzo voice filled the audience without many efforts and she especially convinced with a superb acting. Suiting the Mozart repertoire perfectly is Rebeca Olvera’s voice; her Despina was presented so lively and she took over the role of a self-confident psychiatrist for the two desperate ladies.
The reason for their desperation is the sudden military absence of their spouses, which is only arranged by Don Alfonso to test their fidelity. Frédéric Antoun presented with his smooth tenor a stunningly beautiful “Un’aura amorosa” and Andrei Bondarenko convinced with a wonderful bartitonal warmth. A successful role debut had Michael Nagy as Don Alfonso with his irresistible voice and stage presence.
Despite the big attention to the happening on stage, Cornelius Meister and the Philharmonia Zurich created a rich and homogeneous sound. His great sense for the right Mozart tempi and for the period instruments showed enormous musical competence. Only when it came to big ensemble scenes he tended to overwhelm some of the singers with the volume. I assume the staging wasn’t quite optimal for the acoustics (staging Nikolay Simonov), but this unusual production convinced the audience: the sold out auditorium honored the whole team with a standing ovation. And not only did it convince, it showed us that art has no political boundaries. Hats off for Andreas Homoki and the whole production team for making such performance possible.
- By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov
- Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte
- Conducted by Cornelius Meister
- Cast includes: Ruzan Mantashyan, Anna Goryachova, Andrei Bondarenko, Frederic Antoun
- Opernhaus Zurich
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