April 5, 2004
Deutsche Oper Berlin

Thielemann's Favourite

Puccini's La Fanciulla del West in a contemporary setting at Deutsche Oper Berlin

Program

Giacomo Puccini
La Fanciulla del West

Artists

Deutsche Oper Berlin
Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Director, Set Designer: Vera Nemirova
Costume Designer: Klaus Werner Noack
Dramaturgy: Brunhild Matthias
Chorus Master: Ulrich Paetzholdt

Minnie: Paoletta Marrocu
Jack Rance: Lado Ataneli
Dick Johnson: Dario Volonté
Nick: Clemens Bieber
Ashby: Peter Klaveness
Sonora: Lenus Carlson
Trin: Burkhard Ulrich
Sid: Yu Chen
Bello: Markus Brück
Harry: Peter Maus
Joe: Jörg Schörner
Happy: Tom Erik Lie
Larkens: Roland Schubert
Billy Jackrabbit: Hidekazu Tsumaya
Wowkle: Diane Pilcher
Jake Wallace: Markus Brück
José Castro: Harold Wilson
Ein Postillon: Volker Horn

Soloists and Ensemble of the Ballett der Stiftung Oper in Berlin

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion

Thielemann's Favourite

Puccini's La Fanciulla del West in a contemporary setting at Deutsche Oper Berlin

by Nancy Chapple and Jens Paape / translation: Andrej Huesener / Fotos: Bernd Uhlig

Das Mädchen aus dem goldenen Westen: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

The Deutsche Oper Berlin invited us to take a voyage at sea, beginning in its very own foyer, including announcements over the loudspeakers and staff dressed as sailors. However, the promised "soaking" in the production's atmosphere did not quite take place. The same goes for Act 1 of this production, premiered at the end of March: we feel left cold and emotionally uninvolved in the action on stage. Transposing the action from the 19th century goldrush to a refugee camp reminiscent of the 1950s, including a video screen showing flight timetables and Big Brother-type clips of the shabby barracks, does not entrance the audience but only serves to confuse matters further.

Das Mädchen aus dem goldenen Westen: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Puccini's music, however, does convince from the outset. The orchestra conducted by Christian Thielemann interprets the score vividly and precisely. In musical terms, the opera is brilliantly consistent throughout, accurately expressing the characters' emotions. Even the famously unscored scene between Minnie and Jack arguing on the rooftop of their house is impressive. La Fanciulla del West is one of Christian Thielemann's favourite operas, and so it is no wonder that the audience feels it is attending a concert rather than an opera performance.

Singing against such superb orchestral playing cannot be easy. Paoletta Marrocu as Minnie made herself heard, but occasionally her voice sounded shrill and her vocal line unclean. She more than compensated with some remarkable acting; her portrayal of Minnie as a combination of an untouchable saint and a clever poker player was convincing throughout. Dario Volonté in the role of Dick Johnson struggled more. His voice sounded pressed and was often overshadowed by the orchestra. Nor was his acting very strong: he seemed stiff and out of place. Lado Ataneli as Jack Rance was the strongest member of the cast, a brilliant actor with a strong and impressive voice.

Das Mädchen aus dem goldenen Westen: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

In Act 2 the story is more focussed and the characters' relationships are much more intense. Despite some small inconsistencies in the production, we felt more excited and more involved. Some directorial ideas didn't make much sense: why does the sheriff have to tear down the walls of Minnie's van, even though it is snowing heavily outside? In Act 3, the production finally found its feet with some beautiful images, for example the men's chorus spread across the plains on stage, or the gallows right in the middle of the stage which is then converted into the pedestal from which Minnie sings her passionate monologue, even later turning into a ship mast.

Summary: An orchestra playing Puccini on top form, in a production making up for a weak start with a strong finish.



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