April 9, 2009
Deutsche Oper Berlin

The Queen of the Evening

German Premiere of Respighi's Marie Victoire from 1913 at the Deutsche Oper


Ottorino Respighi
Marie Victoire


Deutsche Oper Berlin
Musical director: Michail Jurowski
Director: Johannes Schaaf
Stage design: Susanne Thomasberger
Costume design: Petra Reinhardt
Light: Manfred Voss
Dramaturgy: Andreas K. W. Meyer, Carsten Jenß
Chorus master: William Spaulding
Choreography: Silke Sense

Marie de Lanjallay: Takesha Meshé Kizart
Maurice de Lanjallay: Markus Brück
Clorivière: German Villar
Simon: Simon Pauly
Cloteau: Stephen Bronk
Kermarec: Jörn Schümann
Lison Fleuriot, Emerantine: Martina Welschenbach
Caracalla: Gregory Warren
La Marquise de Langlade: Nicole Piccolomini
Le Marquis de Langlade: Yosep Kang
Le Chevalier: Tomislav Lucic
L'Abbé: Thomas Blondelle
La Novice: Anna Fleischer
Du Fulgoet: Christophe Fel
Le Marquis de Grandchamp: Krzysztof Szumanski
Le Vicomte: Nathan Myers
Le Mouton: Andrew Ashwin
Le Comissaire: Hyung-Wook Lee

Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Choir of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

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The Queen of the Evening

German Premiere of Respighi's Marie Victoire from 1913 at the Deutsche Oper

by Kate Janeway / Photo: www.tmkizart.com

The German premiere of Respighi's opera at the Deutsche Oper set off with colorful columns of beautiful sound and soaring phrases from a conductor and orchestra in full form. This was the second production of the opera, never performed in the composer's lifetime (the world premiere was in Rome in 2004). Respighi's great orchestration brings Richard Strauss to mind, but where Strauss' phrases seem to take flight, never taking hold, never landing, Respighi's eventually do. In the end, the music felt more vertical. Melodic in parts, it is definitely a piece one needs to hear more than once.

The story itself is set in the fourth year of the French Revolution, with the first act in the remains of a chic chateau. Flowers were growing in the middle of the rubble, and a harpsichord was placed in their center. To complete this tableau, several white sheets were hung as walls around a world torn down by the revolution. These sheets were also repeatedly torn down by the revolutionaries, when they entered and left the stage. The leading couples' costumes were a bit too peach-colored for comfort.

The second act in the prison was more interesting: again a construction over two planes, but with angels that created more spaces and rooms on the stage. The audience could catch a glimpse of the fallen aristocracy behind the ruins of a church wall, attempting to continue the entertainments of the past by putting on a play, and dancing a last minuet. The former aristocrats dressed in tatters of their former splendor and dirty wigs, hobbling around the stage with shaken elegance. The differing individual reactions to a death sentence were demonstrated through a set of minor roles, well sung and acted by the members of the Deutsche Oper ensemble.

Takesha Meshé Kizart
Photo: www.tmkizart.com

The 3rd and 4th acts of the opera are set six years after the revolution. Out of the ruins appeared Marie Victoire's new hat shop in heavenly blue, with a snowy sky over it. A time of new growth, but also of deconstruction. She has had an illegitimate son by the former family friend and royalist Clorivière, sung by the dashing tenor German Villar, and this has brought on the final conflict between husband and wife.

The singers were wonderful. The queen of the evening was Marie Victoire herself, sung by the American soprano Takesha Meshé Kizart. Her vocal abilities and musicianship enabled this fantastic singer to best present Respighi's music. Her grand Puccinian lament of the fallen woman at the end of the 2nd act was an amazing rendition of swirling high-notes and dramatic intensity.

Overall, the stage direction left quite a bit to be desired. In the end the evening belonged to the wonderful soloists and the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper.

(Unfortunately the Deutsche Oper Berlin has not provided us with photos of this production)