Sunday, June 5, 2016

Staatsoper Berlin: Bohuslav Martinů's Juliette

Another rarity being premiered in Staatsoper near the end of the season. Martinů's Juliette is very rarely played in Berlin and the National Opera in Prague only holds its performances in Czech, which makes this production, sung in French, more special.
Barenboim conducts all the performances in this premiere series. I think he was able to express the many colors and sounds of the piece, although many interesting parts just went somehow too fast.
Claus Guth's production for this opera is quite a highlight, setting the story inside a white box full of drawers , symbolizing a big cupboard where Michel hides his fears and dreams inside his mind. The third act, channeling surrealism, was then set in an empty space with smokes and people walking back and forth, representing the dream bureau. 


Magdalena Kožená as Juliette came back to to a role that she once sang, even made a recording with. Her mezzo voice was very charismatic and captivating. The high dramatic parts sounded very much like an echo, but still sharp and clear.  Sadly, the title role is rather a minor (compared to Michel, the actual protagonist).

Rolando Villazón is sadly both the highlight and the biggest letdown of the night. This opera is basically a one-man-show for his role of Michel. There is no question that Villazón masters the art of acting and comedy, delivering a rather bit silly Michel despite the opera's dark atmosphere. But the voice post-operation is definitely going down the hill in  the past few years.It seems he often lost control of his voice during high registers or long phrases. I personally prefer a tenor, who is accustomed to sing modern operas/ new music instead of Villazón, but I guess his presence also became a magnet to draw his fans discovering this opera.

The whole cast made a great supporting act. The choreography of the chorus and statics was a bit stiff, which matched the concept of the production, I guess.
In the end, it was an adventurous night for me, who haven't seen or heard this opera before. Please don't come if you are not a "new music" lover. A bit avant-garde music won't hurt you if you're willing to listen and expect an entertaining but not perfectly well sung performance from Villazón.

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