By Juan Antonio Muñoz H.
Giordano: Andrea Chenier, Bayerische Staatsoper, 18. März 2017
Resorting more than once to the aesthetics of the grand-guignol, Philipp Stölz was responsible for sealing the horror and deception of everything that was betrayed in the French Revolution. He did it by emphasizing the contrasts between noblemen and the populace; building up figures of rebels who end up being liars and murderers; and by showing how the fury for revolt turned to enjoying others’ deaths. He imagined for his motley staging —as in “Cavalleria Rusticana” in Salzburg— simultaneous scenes, so that powdered gavottes may coexist with the subterraneous surge of the poor, the jail with the courts, the lyrical love of the protagonists with the squalid sex resulting from hunger and fear. Probably this profuse theatrical activity distracted some from the essential point and at times affected the voices, but the dramatic result was able to describe the impotence against brutality, the terror, the resigned surrender of the innocent, the stubbornness of the judges, the felony of the “incredibles” and the “non-spontaneous corruption” of the “marvelous”. Yes, a controversial staging, but a lively one, for which one is grateful.

Stölz had a great ally in this historical-interpretative scenario, as Omer Meier Wellber’s baton was very theatrical; he sought the sound impact from the pit, but without disregarding the voices. He was elegant and charming in the first act, which he conducted perhaps a bit faster than necessary, but then his sound became menacing and furious, ending with a last act of refined expressiveness. His was a fine verism, even in its disarray.

The protagonists were the crown of this magnificent spectacle. Jonas Kaufmann is an artist of historical stature and, as in his London debut in this role, was overwhelming in his understanding of the poetical sense of his singing, irrigating each phrase with emotion and sense. In “Un dì all'azzurro spazio” he was a model, but watch out!the social annoyance of his Chénier gradually gained vigor until the possibilities of a character who moves first by arrogance and later on by love and heroic virtues were fully open. In Kaufmann, strength and vocal impact are only part of a myriad nuances that serve him to express desire, doubt, fear, courage. Virile and vulnerable at the same time, he was defiant in “Si fui soldato” and captivating in “Eravate possente”. His “Come un bel dì di Maggio”, sung without any veristic emphasis, left the public breathless. Only Kaufmann is able to hardly mumble the famous phrase that anticipates death: “Ella vien col sole”.

Anja Harteros was another great winner. Her crystalline and radiant instrument was perfectly suited to Maddalena di Coigny. The first act, through her voice and physical presence, became a sort of romantic exhalation, and “La mamma morta”, taken at a very slow tempo, was a crescendo of expressive tension. She was splendid in the final duet and in the scene with Gérard, a role which seems to be custom-made for baritone Luca Salsi, who exhibits the role and his powerful voice with sybaritic pleasure, confidence and clearness. This lavishness was also extended to the secondary characters: Doris Soffel was the Countess; J’Nai Bridges, a remarkable Bersi, and the “vecchia Madelon”, the incombustible Elena Zilio.

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