úterý 8. května 2018

2018 International May Festival - Káťa Kabanová, Un ballo in maschera and Otello

It is the time of the year again when I found myself in a lovely city of Wiesbaden for a couple of opera adventures. This year it was an interesting mix of operas with tremendous emotions, love, death and revenge. Janaček’s Káťa Kabanová, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and a Gala performance of  Verdi's Otello.

Janaček’s Káťa Kabanová is an internationally known and loved opera which has been staged on many different levels, set in various times and cultures. This production is interestingly set in simple, dark and rather negative looking Russian’s housing estate where all main characters live. Wonderful and rather simple staging reflects the pain, hate and longing of each person who wishes to be anywhere else but not here.

The orchestra was playing with dramatic gusto; and was not afraid to show the vulnerability – that could be said especially about Káťa / Varvara duet. Being Czech native speaker, I was very impressed with Czech language diction, especially from Slovenian soprano Sabina Cvilak who sang the title role of Káťa and her evil mother-in-law portrayed here by legendary soprano Nadine Secunde who sang the same role with Czech opera company in Ostrava a few years ago.

Conductor Philipp Pointner
Production Matthew Wild 

Stage Designer Matthias Schaller, Susanne Füller 
Lighting Designer Ralf Baars 
Chorus Master Albert Horne

Kaťa Sabina Cvilak
Boris Mirko Roschkowski
Kabanicha Nadine Secunde
Tichon Aaron Cawley
Dikój Wolf Matthias Friedrich
Kudrjasch Joel Scott
Varvara Silvia Hauer
Kuligin Christian Balzer


The premiere of Un ballo in maschera on April 30 was the actual opening night of 2018 International May Festival. What an opening! Verdi’s masterpiece that premiered in 1959 in Rome was set in the 1920’s prohibition in the United States where everything was polished with gangster-like elegance and mystery. One must confess it felt rather more like a trip to some old-fashioned cinema with a poster of Carole Lombard on the main building in Act 1 than to an opera performance.
The most interesting twist of this production was Ulrica’s scene. We are used to seeing Ulrica as a witch or some uninteresting creature that lives in a dark forest where nobody wants to go to. Wiesbaden Ulrica was a glamorous singer in a night club - carefree but wise smart woman who knew exactly what she was doing.

The highlights of this production were wonderful costumes and great lighting. Adina Aaron who sang the role of Amelia approached the role with lyrical beauty, I would say her best Verdi roles are ahead of her; I look forward to hearing her in more Italian repertoire in general in the future. Arnold Rutkowski’s voice lacked the dramatic skills; I don’t believe that at the age of 39 one is ready to sing Riccardo to its full potential. Unfortunately, the part was not ideal for him; however there was wonderful chemistry between the main characters on stage.
On the other hand Vladislav Sulimsky’s Renato was torn between love for his wife and loyalty to his friend. I do hope to hear his beautiful legato and color in more roles like Attila or Posa in the future.

Conductor Patrick Lange
Director Beka Savić
Stage Designer Luis Carvalho
Costume Designer Selena Orb
Lighting Designer Andreas Frank
Chorus Master Albert Horne
Riccardo Arnold Rutkowski
Renato Vladislav Sulimsky
Amelia Adina Aaron
Ulrica Marie Nicole Lemieux
Oscar Gloria Rehm
Silvano Benjamin Russell
Tom Florian Kontschak
Samuel Young Doo Park


First day of May belonged to a gala performance of Verdi's Otello. Giuseppe Verdi composed this masterpiece almost 30 years after Un ballo in maschera - with more mature and dramatic score that demands a lot from everyone involved in each production. The tragedy based on Shakespeare’s play with the libretto by Arrigo Boito premiered in February 1887 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

This rather unsophisticated and clever production allowed the audience to concentrate on characters and their relationships rather than on overdone staging details and costumes. The cast was mostly young and lively, especially wonderful and vulnerable Olesya Golovneva as Desdemona who seemed very passionate with big voice and energy that would break a mountain. I liked Aleksei Isaev’s tricky and evil Iago who didn’t stop at anything.

And yet, it was Gregory Kunde’s evening! American tenor who celebrated 40 years of his professional career has made Verdi's Otello his own. However, it was not always like that. Kunde who is known for his bel canto repertoire and later became one of Rossini specialists made the right choices at the right time for his voice. As he pointed out in our interview earlier on, he was able to make such repertoire transitions from bel canto to lighter and then more dramatic Verdi roles precisely because of the technique he’s used all those years.

Conductor Daniela Musca
Director Uwe Eric Laufenberg
Stage Designer Gisbert Jäkel
Costume Designer Jessica Karge
Lighting Designer Andreas Frank
Chorus Master Albert Horne
Youth Chorus Direction Dagmar Howe
Otello Gregory Kunde 
Desdemona Olesya Golovneva
Iago Aleksei Isaev
Cassio Aaron Cawley
Roderigo Joel Scott
Lodovico Young Doo Park
Emilia Silvia Hauer
Montano Alexander Knight