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Thread: Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Staatstheater Nurnberg, Germany

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia at the Staatstheater Nurnberg, Germany

    The diacritic mark is absent from the title to avoid disturbing the URL link - the correct spelling is Nürnberg

    Il Barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione, opera buffa in two acts, sung in Italian, with German and English surtitles
    Music by Gioacchino Rossini
    Libretto by Cesare Sterbini, adapted from the comedy Le Barbier de Séville ou La Précaution Inutile (1775) by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
    Premiered on 20 February 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, Rome

    A performance of the Staatstheater Nürnberg, in Nuremberg, Germany, attended in person on July 3, 2018

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    This article is part of the Opera Lively coverage of opera houses in the German-speaking area of Central Europe in the Summer of 2018 - see the links to numerous other reviews, interviews, pictorial blogs (including numerous pictures of the beautiful city of Nuremberg), and other articles related to this coverage, by clicking [here].

    This review is of one of the last performances of the run. Previous and subsequent shows will have happened/happen on various days; for the complete list of performance dates and times, and tickets, consult this link: [click here], then click on Termine.


    Who will it be who conquers Rosina? The greedy old Doctor Bartolo? Or the young and charming Count Almaviva? With a virtuoso game of intrigue and disguise, the crafty Figaro – local handyman, barber, and confidant of the Count – sees to it that the right people come together in the end.

    After the Staatstheater Nürnberg presented Rossini’s late works with Il viaggio a Reims, Moses and Pharaoh, and William Tell, the program will follow last season’s L'italiana in Algeri with The Barber of Seville, showcasing what is not only Rossini’s most well-known stage work, but in Giuseppe Verdi’s words, “the most beautiful opera buffa of them all.” The director of Munich’s Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz, Josef E. Köpplinger, will be bringing the work to the opera house stage as a fast-paced slam-bang comedy.

    Staatsphilharmonie Nürnberg conducted by Volker Hiemeyer
    Herrenchor des Staatstheater Nürnberg, Chorus Master Tarmo Vaask
    Harpsichord, Esteban Domínguez-Gonzalvo

    Stage Direction: Josef Ernst Köpplinger
    Set Design: Harald Thor
    Costume Design: Gabriele Heimann
    Dramaturgy: Kai Wessler
    Lighting: Karl Wiedermann


    Count Almaviva - Martin Platz
    Doctor Bartolo - Jens Waldig
    Rosina - Ida Aldrian
    Figaro - Opera Lively interviewee Ludwig Mittelhammer
    Basilio - Nicolai Karnolsky
    Fiorillo - Petro Ostapenko
    Ambrosio - Dieter Fernengel
    Berta - Eun-Joo Ham
    An officer - Benjamin Weaver
    A notary - Gor Harutyunyan


    This production, slightly changed, was originally from the Volksoper Wien and was given to great acclaim elsewhere (including a Tokyo tour), with a clever rotating set. Here is a picture of a run of the very similar production when given in Vienna (with a different cast):

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    JunHo You (Almaviva), Beate Ritter (Rosina), Ben Connor (Figaro), Martin Winkler (Bartolo), Sulie Girardi (Berta), Yasushi Hirano (Basilio), Ensemble - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien, fair promotional use

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    Jörg Schneider (Graf Almaviva), Beate Ritter (Rosina), Chor - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien, fair promotional use

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    JunHo You (Almaviva), Beate Ritter (Rosina), Ensemble - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien, fair promotional use

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    Martin Winkler (Doktor Bartolo) - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien - fair promotional use

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    Martin Winkler (Bartolo), Beate Ritter (Rosina), JunHo You (Almaviva), Yasushi Hirano (Basilio), Ben Connor (Figaro) - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien - fair promotional use

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    Martin Bermoser (Ambrosio), Beate Ritter (Rosina), Daniel Ochoa (Figaro), Noel Colin (Doktor Bartolo), Sulie Girardi (Berta), Jörg Schneider (Graf Almaviva), Stefan Cerny (Basilio) - © Barbara Pálffy/Volksoper Wien - fair promotional use


    Review of the performance:

    We'll have an article later about the opera house in Nürnberg, whose history is fascinating, given how it was chosen by the Nazis as their preferred theater (Hitler had a lounge here) and was redone by them so that the decoration would better match their ideology. Jewish composers such as Meyerbeer were forbidden there, and many others were suppressed. Modernly the theater has made a point of staging again these works. I interviewed before the performance the Deputy Intendant Johann Casimir Eule (the principal was out of town), who also doubles as dramaturg for the company. He gave me a tour of the building and explained its history. Stay tuned for this piece, which will take a while to transcribe and publish given that sheer amount of material I'm collecting. I also interviewed the young artist who sang Figaro, Ludwig Mittelhammer, and surprisingly, the great Sigfried Jerusalem, who is currently retired from singing but is a voice teacher in Nürnberg.

    It is a small theater with 1,000 seats, and Mr. Eule ackowledged that the artistic quality is second tier, not as good as in Berlin, Munich, and Dresden. He added "we are a small theater but then we have small voices."

    I wouldn't take it as severe criticism of the singers. It all depends on "compared to what". Sure, I just came from the Wiener Staatsoper and from the Bayerische Staatsoper and listened to several world-class singers there; the young singers who are members of the Staatstheater Nürnberg ensemble can't compete if that's the standard we are using. But if the standard is, say, a regional opera house in the United States, then these singers stand their own.

    However, when I grant my assessment of the grades, I do try to remain consistent (meaning, I'm not giving a discount or grade inflation to regional singers as opposed to world-class ones, just for the sake of saying that *for a regional house* they sang well; no, a grade is a grade regardless of where the singer is performing), so we are not about to see the A++ grades I was distributing in Vienna and Munich, let's be honest.

    There were flaws, for sure. But the singing was still very enjoyable. Our Almaviva was the weakest link. He must have started cold because he didn't do well in the two big early arias, with his voice faultering in several passages, and lacking agility. He did warm up later, and his second act was much better. On the other hand, this young man is a good comic actor. He was very funny. I actually liked his acting more than his singing; to the latter I grant a B-.

    Compensanting for a weak Almaviva, our Figaro, our Rosina, and our Basilio were significantly better, all three with an edge over their colleagues. Rosina and Basilio did reach A-, while Figaro gets a B+. Dr. Bartolo struggled with the pater songs, and earns a B. Berta was decent. B as well. The comprimarios and the chorus didn't sink the ship, and also get a collective B.

    So overall singing averages to a B+.

    I found the conductor actually better than his orchestra. He tried hard to motivate them, with all the right moves, and correct tempi. But the orchestra appeared a bit thin and not very motivated; they still played well. A+ for the conductor and A- for the orchestra.

    Now, what was A+ quality, was the acting, which was very good across the board. This ensemble has some very talented actors, and in addition to this, they did hire a professional stage actor for the silent role of Ambrosio, and he was simply phenomenal, and responsible for a good chunk of the laughs.

    Theatrically, the sets actually look better (they aren't exactly the same as in the Volksoper) than the ones depicted here. With more time I will add, later, pictures of this specific show (they gave me a data CD with the production pictures but I haven't had the time to open it yet). Lighting and blocking were great, and added a lot to the show.

    Not to forget, our Rosina is a very cute and charming young artist. She looked great in this production.

    We get to the very best part of this show: the stage direction / concept. Now we are at A++ level of quality, the world-class type. This production is simply phenomenal. It is arguably the most eventful, lively, and funny Barber I've ever seen! Yes, it is this good! Comic gems happen one after the other, and there is a lot of entertaining action on stage.

    What Josef Ernst Köpplinger did, is that he told very faithfully the story contained in the libretto, with no conceptual changes to it, but then added more to it. Everything that is in the libretto does happen on stage, the way it was intended, with nothing altered, but there are a larger number of extra silent characters who interact loosely with the singing ones (in ways that make sense although are not part of the original). For example, a pregnant woman with a baby in tow keeps harassing Count Almaviva for alimony money (suggesting his womanizing ways we'll see in Beaumarchais' next play). She almost delivers the baby on stage (but doesn't; then latter appears without the belly, but with two babies in tow). Right next to Bartolo's place there is a bordello, called Club Eros, complete with three prostitutes who also interact with some of the male characters. Ambrosio keeps suffering all sorts of painful accidents and gets progressively bruised, electrocuted and bitten, in truly hillarious scenes.

    The very definition of "all hell breaks loose" with lots of comic mayhem coincides with the act I finale. I was very tired (this trip is proving to be more tiresome than I expected) and having already formed an opinion about the acting and the singing, I considered leaving during intermission and going back to the hotel. The spectacular act I finale motivated me to stay and watch the entire act II as well, and I don't regret it, since I got to enjoy it wildly.

    This is an extremely entertaining production that really makes this workhorse new again. Ms. Verena Kögler, the Press and Communications officer for the company, put it perfectly during the interviews in the afternoon: "our production is high art, but is also sheer theatrical entertainment." Indeed. I don't recall laughing as hard in any other Barber production I've attended live or watched on video (dozens and dozens of them).

    So there is a sort of summary rating conundrum here. Musically while very decent and enjoyable, the show wasn't memorable (just a regularly well-performed Barber with ups and downs). But theatrically speaking, there is a point in picking this Barber if one wants to spend a fabulous evening of laughter and entertainment. So, we got a B+ musical performance, with A+ acting, and A++ staging. Therefore the verdict must be A+, very recommended.

    And then, it is in the middle of the phenomenally beautiful city of Nürnberg. According to Mr. Eule, all their productions are Regie-rich and try to renovate that piece a bit. If this is a sample of what they do, then it is absolutely worth the 1 hour train trip from Munch to Nürnberg, to watch one of the Staatstheater performances, if you are alredy visiting Munich for opera. I definitely do not regret the detour, not to forget that I'm grateful to the hospitality shown by the company's officials.

    So, dear readers, do include Nürnberg in your opera travel plans. There is also good food and good hotels here. Stay tuned for the other parts of our Nürnberg coverage, once we complete all the material for the Central Europe 2018 portal.


    I'll add curtain call pics and production pics later (now I'm very tired, need to go to sleep, another trip tomorrow, going to Zurich).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 3rd, 2018 at 10:59 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Pictorial Blog for Nürnberg, Germany

    Staatstheater Nürnberg

    The Imperial Castle

    The famous Nürnberger Bratwurst


    A detail of the historic part of town with the Sinwell Tower

    A corner at Koenigstrasse


    Holy Spirit Hospital

    A typical meal with bratwurst, sauerkraut, mustard, and beer

    One of the canals

    A plaza with the Imperial Castle in the backround

    The house / museum of painter Albrecht Dürer

    A detail of the old part of town

    One of the plazas close to the castle

    The main square around Christmas time, open market

    The Imperial Castle

    Another canal view

    One of the streets

    Nuremberg by night

    The main plaza, again

    Another view of the Holy Spirit Hospital

    A view of the rooftops

    The facade of the Staatstheater Nürnberg where operas are performed
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The review of the performance is in; scroll up.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    I was very tired (this trip is proving to be more tiresome than I expected)

    I shudder to think. When I was traveling earlier in the year, I spent my week in India changing hotels every night. That alone get old pretty fast - going to the opera every night isn’t exactly privation, but you have to think about it and organize your day around it. Every day for 16 days. Yikes.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you next week!

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