Falstaff – Kungliga Operan

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Every once in a while I also go to the opera in Stockholm, where I live, without taking planes and travelling. I hadn’t seen Falstaff in a long time, and it is always fun. One of the reasons I don’t often go to the opera in Stockholm is not so much the quality of the singers (because you can find good singers even without a great name) but rather the quality of the productions. I’m always scared I’ll end up seeing stuff with so-so singers and terrifying productions (I have seen things…).

Falstaff4This production, even if it was not very inventive or original, was very pleasant. The “Osteria della Giarrettiera” in the first scene was a typical English pub, but with a revolving door (for some reason). Mrs. Ford’s garden was created by dropping enormous laundry lines with clothes on them, which hide the pub, and among which the merry wives hid and show up. The last scene was a bit empty, but the aria by Nannetta was very well done, with a spotlight on the singer, against the dark scene: she looked like she was floating on air, a real queen of the fairies.

The Kungliga Operan orchestra is not spectacular, but it does its job. They produce a lot of sound; it’s an orchestra clearly born and raised in the Wagnerian tradition, and often it comes out a bit rowdy. Lawrence Renes, the conductor, did his job, which, in Falstaff, includes keeping everybody together in the contrappunto, which is really hard. The first act finale started a bit shaky, somebody seemed to lose their place, but then they got together and made it to the end very well. The final fugue was perfect. So bravo maestro!

Falstaff3Falstaff era Renato Girolami, che io avevo già sentito come Don Bartolo nel . Falstaff was Renato Girolami, who I had already heard as Don Bartolo in Barbiere di Siviglia, in Munich (you can find a review in Italian here). My first good impression was confirmed. He is a great character singer, with a robust voice, good timbre, confident coloratura, and he’s a great actor. He also has the physique du rôle, with a somewhat substantial belly (not as much as Falstaff requires, but he’s a properly big man). His Falstaff was very convincing, and he was by far the best singer on stage. His voice has an Italian color, and, obviously, his diction is perfect, which, in certain places (like “Mondo ladro”) is absolutely necessary.

All the other singers were local, good second leads, with no big stars. Here’s a list:

  • Mr. Ford: Ola Eliasson
  • Fenton: Klas Hedlund
  • Dottor Cajo: Niklas Björling Rygert
  • Bardolfo: Daniel Ralphsson
  • Pistola: John Erik Eleby
  • Mrs. Alice Ford: Sara Olsson
  • Nannetta: Vivianne Holmberg
  • Mrs. Quickly: Marianne Eklöf
  • Mrs. Meg Page: Susann Végh

Vivianne Holmberg came out very well as Nannetta, with a clear, brilliant voice, very precise. She’s the singer I liked the best, after Girolami. She seems very young, we’ll see how she grows up.

Mrs. Ford, sung by Sara Olsson, had a very good control of a nice voice, good intonation and great timbre. Maybe not very distinguished.

Unfortunately Mrs. Quickly was the weak link: she is a routine singer with 35 years of career, and her voice simply can’t make it anymore. I was disappointed, because Mrs. Quickly is my favorite character, and Eklöf sang the lowest passages with a deep, hollow voice, with a very bad passaggio. It’s a pity, because she has the right spirit, she acts well, but the technique is just not there anymore.

All the other singers were reasonable and enjoyable, no peaks, nothing horrible either.

I had already heard the tenor singing Fenton, Klas Hedlund, in Un ballo in maschera, a few years ago here in Stockholm. I really dislike his voice. I realize it’s my problem, but he has a metallic color that really grates on my nerves. Objectively, he has good intonation and a strong projecting voice, even if his phrasing is basically non-existent. He’s also not spectacularly handsome, so to speak, poor thing.

Falstaff1

The final fugue was probably the best thing of the evening: it came out very well, perfect tempo, no defects. Girolami took off his costume and wig and sung the fugue in civilian dress. And at the end they lowered down two portraits of Shakespeare and Verdi, and we all applauded.

Globally, I had fun, I must go to the Kungliga Operan more often.

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