Fidelio at the Sydney Opera House. Fri 15 Feb 2002.
Lisa Gasteen and Glenn Winslade may be the strongest Leonore/Florestan pairing we have heard in many years. Both acted well and sang beautifully. But the 'power' factor was special and they were matched perfectly in all respects. [I understand that Winslade is to sing Tannhauser at Bayreuth while Covent Garden will hear Gasteen as Isolde soon.]
Gasteen cut a fine figure of a 'man' in rather formal attire. Her voice was even and accurate - with her attacca and accomplished line bringing cheers from the opening night audience. Winslade was of necessity bearded and raggedly dressed for his intense 'big sing'. And indeed his musicality and voice production were first rate.
This production by Michael Hampe and Elke Neidhardt used a massive symmetrical stone prison set by John Gunter with the usual attributes (camp X-Ray and Woomera notwithstanding). A marvellous bit of stage-craft allowed the final scene to proceed without the usual delay and noisy scene change. At the end of the scene the newly reunited couple are embracing in the dark, craggy dungeon. Then the entire rear wall angles forward, leaving them exposed through a small fenestration, amid a bright outdoors setting of the final scene. Thus rather than the usual curtain after scene one, we get the wonderful strains of scene two, one of the most memorable in all opera, directly.
Conal Coad played a wonderful playful and sympathetic Rocco. Ali McGregor played an excellent Marzelline with Jamie Allen a fine Jaquino. The evil Don Pizarro was played by Simon Neal who showed a believable dramatic intensity and a voice with the finest vibrato. The Minister was played warmly by Warwick Fyfe.
The orchestra was full and accurate under the baton of Ola Rudner. Some of the tempi were very fast. We have been spoilt by large symphony orchestras playing Beethoven, but the balance needed here, even with big singers, takes exactly what the AOBO currently offers, to its great credit. The choruses of prisoners and citizens were also very well received by the excitable audience.
comments by Andrew Byrne ..
Dr Andrew Byrne,
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