„Risparmiate lo scherno“…….
Franz Welser-Möst | Dirigent
Marco Arturo Marelli | Regie und Licht & Bühnenbild
Dagmar Niefind | Kostüme
Nina Stemme | Minnie
Jonas Kaufmann | Dick Johnson (Ramerrez)
Tomasz Konieczny | Sheriff Jack Rance
Norbert Ernst | Nick
Paolo Rumetz | Ashby
Boaz Daniel | Sonora
Michael Roider | Trin
Hans Peter Kammerer | Sid
Tae-Joong Yang | Bello
Peter Jelosits | Harry
Carlos Osuna | Joe
Clemens Unterreiner | Happy
Il Hong | Larkens
Jongmin Park | Billy Jackrabbit
Juliette Mars | Wowkle
Alessio Arduini | Jake Wallace
Alessio Arduini | José Castro
Wolfram Igor Derntl | Postillion
Much has been expected of this production, Kaufmann´s first premiere in Vienna and role debut as Johnson. A packed house in the first evening, loosely filled standing room in the second performance already.
I have never been a fan of Nina Stemme in Italian Opera. After a disappointing „Forza“ years ago I wondered what to expect. In addition to an ugly and flaring red wig and a most unhappy jeans-overall costume in the first act, Stemme has little of a chaste, charming and sweet, yet resolute and „down-to-earth“ „fanciulla“. A strong voice and forceful singing, but little else. As much as „Laggiù del Soledad“ lacks incisive diction, „Oh, se sapeste come il vivere è allegro!“ lacks gaiety and charm and the duet in the second act real tenderness. The voice is practically torn into two halfs. The lower register sounding totally different with a nice dark sound, but from the middle register upwards the tone spreads badly and becomes harsh and squeezed, the high notes – and Minnie has many of them! – are ugly, shrill and forced. The top is really quite short, she sings these badly attacked and with much strain. One of her biggest vocal deficits is really an even vocal range. She speaks of herself as a singing actress – I cannot find anything outstanding about her neither as a stage performer nor as a vocal actress: diction or „accento“ are certainly not her strong points. The finale, where a real singing actress MUST make a lasting impression was dissappointing. Listen to a Carla Gavazzi in the finale of the opera – not a huge, but a vibrant voice and what a clever singer and vocal actress adressing each one of her workers with a different tone and nuance. Acting with the voice – That´s what makes all the difference…
Kaufmann´s Johnson is definitely one of his better roles. Not that he doesn´t shows his usual vocal deficiencies and vices here: mushy diction, sobbing attack of the notes in the higher register, thick sound and hardly any vocal elasticity, opting for a broad and dark chest sound which he presses up all the way through the passaggio in to the high register. They are just a little more bearable in this role. He was at his best in „Or son sei mesi“ which is effective, yet in a comfortable range ringing full force on „ch´ella non sappia mai la mia vergogna“, but it costs him considerable effort not to be drowned by the orchestra. But it´s not really an intentional shaping and forming of phrases, it´s rather a following and sweeping along with the urge of the music and not actively moulding the part. There are so many nuances in Johnsons character (as Kaufmann noted himself in an interview), yet so little really comes through of these „piccole cose“: „quando il braccio v’ho offerto alla danza con me“, „no, Minnie, non piangete“, „vi piace leggere?“ etc. It´s all drowned in this guttural and throaty sound. Acting with the voice, accento , incisive diction, well sculptured phrases – all impossible without a decent vocal production.
Polish baritone, Tomasz Konieczny, is monotonous, one-dimensional and vocally totally insufficient for the role of Sheriff Jack Rance. Right from his entrance with „Buona sera, ragazzi“, which sounded more like „Buänä särä, rägäzzä“ to the finale (buänä färtönä, sägnär“) he was terribly anxious to make people understand who was the evil guy here. The poker scene is heavy-handed and awkwardly exaggerated. Little imagination as a singing interpreter, vulgar phrasing and tiresome shouting and simply bad singing – and little idea how to sing through the passagio like in „Minni, dalla mia casa“: „Nessuno mai mi amò, nessuno ho amato, nessuna cosa mai mi diè piacere!“ All with non-musical and cheap effects. Ridiculous and tiresome discolouring of every vowel and singing while grinding one´s teeth is not enough to portray a villain.
Of the miners, especially Alessio Arduini and Norbert Ernst deserve special notice Boaz Daniel as Sonora was well cast here.
Welser-Möst handled the score well, keeping the sound clear, full-bodied and well-collected. At times at the expense of Stemme and Kaufmann, who are not exactly small-voiced, but who lack the projection and carrying power to cut through the orchestra.
Every single review raved in relief that this production avoided the usual wild-west clichées. For costumes and stage setting I suppose „conventional update“ would be a fitting description – but Minnie´s costume-designer (and hair-stylist) surely could have done better than that! And the hot air ballon, which finally takes Minnie and Johnson away seemed more of a compromise.
In my opinion the first really significant and “well-rounded” own production of the duo Meyer/Welser-Möst. Nice and well prepared production and good to hear this opera which has been absent too long from the Vienna State Opera, but although there´s certainly worse out there to cast a Fanciulla one craves for singers who really shape and evolve a character and who KNOW what they are singing about, who convey the sense of the words through the music – loud and passionate singing and lots of stage action is not that.