The weather in Munich was unseasonably mild and sunny where I enjoyed a Verdi splurge at the State Opera House at two quite different productions in the composer's 200th anniversary year . The cameras were in place on Sunday night for the free live transmission of the performance of Rigoletto via the world wide web, a very welcome development. Nothing though can beat the live experience and although the house was sold out for weeks for this much anticipated new production, I went along 'on spec' to see could I find a seat on the night. There was no returns queue but about an hour and a quarter before curtain up, about a dozen or so punters appeared in the gloaming and hovered on the front steps near the Maximillian Strasse end, doing a little circle dance around each other to see who was buying and selling, the more seasoned punters holding up signs declaring 'suche karte'. When at last one of the huge doors ( the second door in for future reference) opened to admit opera goers, I made a bee line for the Abendkasse and soon after, I was on my way to a seat underneath the ceiling with a birds eye view of the fabulous retractable chandelier.
Post Show Analysis
The singing was superb. Baritone Franco Vassallo imbued the title role with great pathos. Star tenor Joseph Calleja lived up to expectations and soprano Patricia Petibon glided angelically around the upper register.Clarecastle tenor, Dean Power had a notable stage presence in the role of courtier Borsa Matteo. Even at a distance, a sense of verve and dynamism emanated from the lively dancing baton of musical director, the ubiquitous Marco Amiliato .
While the singing did not disappoint, the production lacked a certain theatricality. The huge 100+ male cast and chorus in cream linen mounted on a tiered steps looked like a photo shoot for an M&S summer suit collection. Nor did the Duke look very menacing dressed more for an autumnal day of gardening than a spot of philandering in cosy beige cardigan and matching track suit bottoms. One can't help wondering did the Maltese tenor raise an eyebrow when he was handed a flowery dressing gown for his tryst with blue jean clad Gilda. (You knew the Duke had had his wicked way when Gilda appeared in the next scene in the same robe). An antique wheelchair was assassin Sparafucile's (Dimitry Ivashchenko) prop to convey his victims to the the next world. Sit in for a spin and you were doomed. Nothing in the lighting or staging made you shiver at the sinister elements of the plot. A gigantic prancing horse made a brief appearance and looked impressive but it's relevance was lost on me
The opera house has such splendid glittering halls for promenading about that I was almost sorry there was only one interval each evening, There was great style, lots of family groups and quite a few drindel dresses and the dress code was relatively formal.On our way out I noticed a gathering of patrons for a Q&A with a representative of the team. I would love to be able report the nuance of the debate but even without a grasp of German, one could guess by the tone and body language that these were somewhat disgruntled patrons. My source, a seasoned punter whom I met on the steps earlier. told me that the general tenor of the discussion was that although very musical, it had been a concert performance and not quite living up to the hype and expectation of a generous six week rehearsal schedule.
Aida was altogether a more theatrical affair although a similarly nuetral palette of black, cream and white prevailed with a smattering of gold for royalty. The on stage trumpets looked and sounded splendid Sandra Radvonosky as Aida was impressive and I liked the Finnish bass, Mika Kares as Ramfis. Robert Dean Smith as Radames sounded grand but didn't quite have the look of a battle honed warrior despite the costume. The battle scene was brief and a little perfunctory and the choreography of the dance elements was in a modern dance style that jarred a little with a traditional look and feel to the production
Look at those shoes!
While top price stalls tickets are over €100, I purchased a standing room ticket online for €11.50 which is incredible value by any reckoning. But addicted now to the element of chance and the thrill in picking up a last hour ticket on the steps, I sold my ticket and traded up to the relative comfort of a seat in the second balcony. I had a fairly restricted view but for the price of little more than a cinema ticket at €14 one couldn't feel too hard done by.What did baffle me were the choice of photos in the background programme notes. Where I expected maybe a montage of great artists or historic figures of the past, instead there were rather grungy photos of bare torsoed young males that looked more like adverts for a brand of jeans or underwear than images for a premier opera house production.
Set Aida Staatsoper
The dates for the next free live screenings are below.. I will be linking up my laptop to the telly for these dates and if it won't be the same at least I can put my feet up and switch on the English subtitles