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Thread: Xerxes (aka Serse, Händel), Komische Oper Berlin, Germany

          
   
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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Xerxes (aka Serse, Händel), Komische Oper Berlin, Germany

    Xerxes by George Fridrich Handel, to an anonymous revision of Silvio Stampiglia's libretto (per Grove Dictionary of Opera), premiered in London on 15 April, 1738

    Co-production with Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf

    Performance of Wednesday, 5 February, 2014

    Conductor: Konrad Junghänel
    Director: Stefan Herheim
    Set Designer: Heike Scheele
    Costumes: Gesine Völlm
    Lighting: Franck Evin

    Cast:

    Xerxes: Stella Doufexis
    Arsamenes: Karolina Gumos
    Amastris: Katarina Bradic
    Romilda: Brigitte Geller
    Atalanta: Heidi Stober (sang)
    Julia Giebel (acted)
    Ariodates: Alexey Antonov
    Elviro: Hagen Matzeit
    and Chorus of the Komische Oper Berlin

    This is both the easiest and most difficult review to write. The Komische Oper's production of Xerxes was, by far, the biggest disappointment of all the operas I saw during my visit. Disappointing enough that my companion and I left at intermission. So, this will be short.

    On the upside, it's a beautiful theater that seats 1,270, and was the venue for my first opera in 1972.

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    Xerxes is an attractive production using a revolving stage that easily and quickly moved sets/scene changes, with beautiful costumes. The Xerxes lead did a nice job with "Ombra mai fu".

    On the downside, a close reading of the cast list shows that there were two performers for the role of Atalanta: one who sang, the other who acted, reflecting a late replacement. When the K.O. official came out prior to the curtain, he announced at least one other change. My German isn't strong enough that I completely understood what had happened, but there were two replacements - one of the singers was borrowed locally, I believe, from the Deutsche Oper, and either she or the other replacement sang in Italian while the rest of the cast sang in German (the Komische Oper specializes in singing its productions in German). I'm not sure who the other replacement was, and can't say whether or not the cast illnesses led to a less than ideal performance.

    Beyond that, there were several other problems with the production that were more difficult to bear. First, the cast principals were all women (except for two comprimario male roles - no countertenors). Not necessarily a problem, but it creates a decided imbalance in the vocalizations from the stage that takes getting used to - a certain tedious quality set in that was heightened by the next problem - that the leads all had very light voices. We were sitting close to the pit (in the 5th row), and it was still difficult to hear the singers over the orchestra. It might be that those further back in the opera house were able to hear better because they weren't sitting so close to the orchestra, but I don't know.

    Next, the production itself was played for high laughs - lots of mugging and comedic situations comprised the action.

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    So, sadly, by the time intermission came around, we looked at each other and decided that it was time to go. It was really too bad, as I had really been looking forward to this particular opera.

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    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    I'm sure one of the singers that you weren't able to hear so well was the dude in white in the first photo. He must have sounded, er, muffled. Bummer. Sorry for your dashed expectations, I can certainly see your point. Given the venue, I hope that all those sheep did was dance.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    I'm sure one of the singers that you weren't able to hear so well was the dude in white in the first photo. He must have sounded, er, muffled. Bummer. Sorry for your dashed expectations, I can certainly see your point. Given the venue, I hope that all those sheep did was dance.
    Oh, it was way worse than the photos - The dude was only a dude wannabe and the sheep did, well, kind of get milked - I think the guy got thirsty.

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    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Oh, it was way worse than the photos - The dude was only a dude wannabe and the sheep did, well, kind of get milked - I think the guy got thirsty.
    Well, the production milked the audience for a lot of money, so why not the sheep? Good grief.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I'll be curious to see if this production is reviewed in Opernwelt and/or Das Opernglas -- and what the reviewer(s) will have to say about it.

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    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I'll be curious to see if this production is reviewed in Opernwelt and/or Das Opernglas -- and what the reviewer(s) will have to say about it.
    It'll probably be a one-line review: "Udder mai fooey!"
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    It'll probably be a one-line review: "Udder mai fooey!"
    Ewe.

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    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Ewe.
    If you think that version of the largo is yucchy, let's hope they skip the platano amato in the recitative.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    If you think that version of the largo is yucchy, let's hope they skip the platano amato in the recitative.
    Oops. Now you've lost me.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Oops. Now you've lost me.
    Ode to a plane tree in the opening....Udder mai fooey = Ombra mai fu

    (took me a while to work it out)
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Ode to a plane tree in the opening....Udder mai fooey = Ombra mai fu

    (took me a while to work it out)
    The Udder mai fooey part I got - it's the platano amato where I got waylaid.
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; February 19th, 2014 at 07:31 PM. Reason: mistake - meant to reply

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    The Udder mai fooey part I got - it's the platano amato where I got waylaid.
    Dunno but it just means darling plane tree.
    Natalie

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