Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Aleko" and "Iolanta", Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden 18. July 2009

The premieres of Rachmaninov's first opera "Aleko", with John Relyea in the title role, and Tchaikovsky's last opera "Iolanta", with Anna Netrebko making her role-debut in the title role and Piotr Beczala as Graf Vaudemont, have been performed on Saturday 18. July 2009 opening the Baden-Badener Sommerfestspiele 2009 at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Valery Gergiev conducted the Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Orchestra of St. Petersburg. The production, co-produced by the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg, was directed by Mariusz Treliński. Three more performances of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" are scheduled on 21., 24. and 27. July 2009.

Rachmaninov's youthful work drew the focussed and delighted attention of Tchaikovsky, who assisted the production and even asked the young composer for permission to stage "Aleko" alongside "Iolanta" (which, until the recent premiere, had been performed along with the ballet "The Nutcracker"). On 17. and 18. April 2009, the Mariinsky Theater hosted premieres of Rachmaninov's "Aleko" and Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta", staged by Mariusz Treliński and conducted by Pavel Smelkov. To an extent, these premieres, at the Mariinsky Theater first and at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden now, embody Tchaikovsky's original idea.

The cast announced for all the four performance is very similar. Only the roles of Zemfira in "Aleko" and René and Ebn-Hakia in "Iolanta" are shared by two singers, getting two casts: Veronika Dzhioeva (18. and 24. July) and Irina Mataeva (21. and 27. July) are Zemfira, Sergei Aleksahskin (18. and 24. July) and Mikhail Kit (21. and 27. July) are René and Edem Umerov (18. and 24. July) and Alexander Gergalov (21. and 27. July) are Ebn-Hakia.

Despite the fact the it was initially planned to make a video recording of these performances and to release a DVD, finally this will not be done. Nevertheless, a radio broadcast of one of the performances is planned and a CD could be released.

one act opera
Music by Sergei Rakhmaninov
Libretto by Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenkoafter the poem by Alexander Pushkin

Aleko: John Relyea
Young Gypsy: Sergei Skorokhodov
Zemfira: Veronika Dzhioeva
Old Gypsy: Sergei Aleksashkin
Old Gypsy Woman: Elena Vitman

one act opera
Music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky after the play "Kong Renés Datter" by Henrik Hertz

Iolanta: Anna Netrebko*
Graf Tristan Vaudémont: Piotr Beczala
René, König der Provence: Sergei Aleksashkin
Robert: Alexei Markov
Ebn-Hakia: Edem Umerov
Alméric: Andrei Zorin
Bertrand: Fyodor Kuznetsov
Martha: Natalia Evstafieva
Brigitte: Eleonora Vindau
Laura: Ekaterina Sergeeva

* Role debut

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Mariusz Trelinski
Set Designer: Boris Kudlička
Costume Designer: Magdalena Musial
Lighting Designer: Marc Heinz
Cinematographer: Wojciech Puś
Choreographer: Tomasz Wygoda
Animators: Michał Jankowski and Tomasz Popakul
Literary Consultant: Piotr Gruszczynski
Musical Preparation: Marina Mishuk
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Co-production of the Mariinsky Theater of St. Petersburg

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Orchestra and Chorus of the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg

Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden
Saturday 18. July 2009

About the Operas
Premiere of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" at the Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg 17. Apr 2009
Variations in "Iolanta" Libretto
Iolanta's Russian/Spanish Libretto
Iolanta's English Libretto

Personal Report
Last Friday, 17. July 2009, I went to Baden-Baden to attend the premiere of a really exciting double program including Rachmaninov's first opera "Aleko" and Tchaikovsky's last opera "Iolanta" on Saturday 18. July 2009. I had bought the tickets 15 month ago, in May 2008, and since then I was really looking forward to attending this performance.

I was delighted to have the possibility to see live Anna Netrebko making her role debut as Iolanta, with the maginificent Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater conducted by the maestro Valery Gergiev. Strong reasons to have such an excitement and to expect an unforgetable night! And I got the privilege to be there!

On 18. July 2009, we got lunch at the Paganini restaurant of the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, just in front of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. The members of the Mariinsky Orchestra arrived around 15:30, three and a half hours before the curtains rise. We arrived to the Festspielhaus around 17:30, when the doors given access to the Hall are opened to have a drink, have a look to the Fespsielhaus shop and to the programme of the performance. We bought the programme which was beautifully designed, including full details of the production and the cast for all the four performances, summaries of the plot of the operas in German/English, some colour photos of the rehearsals of Aleko and Iolanta and a short biography and photos of all the artists. A very nice booklet!

The performance started at 19:00 with Aleko, lasting for around 60 min, followed by a 40 min pause (it had been announced just a 20 min pause) and then Iolanta, lasting for around 90 min. Our seats were at the last row of the second balcony, on the right hand side. Full view of the stage, but quite far away, and very good accoustic. The auditorium was quite impressive, being the biggest of Germany in terms of capacity. Needless to say that the performance was sold out and the Festspielhaus was completely full.

I would say that none those operas are well known and they are hard to see live in opera houses, at least outside of Russia. I think also that they deserve more attention and should be better known, because the music is gorgeous and they include breathless arias and duets. I have to confess that I had not previously fully heard any of those operas, just the most well known parts of Iolanta, the Iolanta's aria and Iolanta/Vaudémont duet, which have been sung by Anna Netrebko in different concerts, like in Paris, St. Petersburg and Moscow, and more recently in Braunschweig and München.

The title role of Aleko was sung by John Relyea, recipient of the fourth annual Beverly Sills Artist Award for young singers at the Metropolitan Opera. He was really fantastic. I was very positively impressed by a young, previously unknown to me, soprano Veronika Dzhioeva. She was absolutely great, both singing and acting on the stage. I would recommend to keep track of her career and, certainly, I will do it. The young tenor Sergei Skorokhodov, who had sung recently with Anna Netrebko in her last St. Petersburg and München concerts, was also very good. The Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater conducted by Valery Gergiev were simply outstanding.

After Aleko, what everybody was waiting for, Iolanta with Anna Netrebko! Tchaikovsky's Iolanta has some of the most stunning and breathless arias and duets. The most famous Iolanta's aria was recorded for the Netrebko's Russian Album, certainly, one of the best recordings of her career. Anna was flawless during all the performance. The highlights of the performance were her first aria and the duet with Piotr Beczala as Vaudémont. These two moments were incredibly beautiful. Anna's voice was perfect in colour. The duet was probably the most beautiful part of the whole opera. Both Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala were outstanding there. In general, all the artist of the Mariinksy Theater were very good. Once again, the Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater conducted by Valery Gergiev, one of the most charismatic conductors nowadays, was outstanding.

After the performance, I was able to go backstage and to meet Piotr Beczala, Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko, among other singers, as well as Jeffrey Vanderveen, Anna's General Manager. Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, was also there. While being there, I was able to get an autograph from Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala and Valery Gergiev. Anna had to attend a reception. She left the backstage area in a hurry to attend, first the DB reception and then the buffet for the artists at the Festspielhaus. After a while she left the Festspielhaus by car.

Edda was also at the premiere and has written a report in German, including some nice photos, in her blog "Dich, teure Halle".

Ester was also there for the premiere and has written a report in Spanish, including also some nice photos and an audioclip of the duet Iolanta-Vaudémont, in her blog "Adiós, amigo adiós"

Press Reviews
“The magical sounds of Netrebko´s soprano voice make one´s soul blossom: at the start of the opera in the arioso that resembles an emerging flower bud, as if she were blindly reaching out for an emotion, while later – in Iolanta´s duet with her knight – we see the whole gamut of the emotions of a human being who has just discovered he has his entire life before him: the intonations grow from inside, with ease they soar above the music, striving towards the horizon.”
Jörg Königsdorf, Tagesspiegel, 21.07.09
“This magnificent opera was brilliantly performed. It was hard to believe that it was Netrebko´s debut in this role – such was her confidence throughout the entire opera.”
Jörg Königsdorf, Tagesspiegel, 21.07.09
“It was ninety minutes of absolute triumph. And not just because in addition to Netrebko there were another two first-class singers performing – Alexei Markov´s Russian-sounding baritone and Piotr Beczała´s elegant Polish tenor – and Valery Gergiev lends sensitivity to the score, which is imbued with the leitmotif from the Fifth Symphony, and he subjects it to the powerful, rhythmic reign of his hand.”
Manuel Brug, Die Welt, 20.07.09
“Iolanta is embodied on stage by Anna Netrebko with her marble-cool soprano, which yet still meets all Tchaikovsky´s expectations in terms of its expressiveness. Her voice has clearly grown, it has become much richer than previously and it is moving towards Tosca and Sieglinde; at the same time, the well-known timbre remains, dazzling with its thousands of colours.”
Heinz W. Koch, Badische Zeitung, 20.07.09

On-line Press Reviews
Jolanthes erotische Erweckung singen - Georg Rudiger,, 19. Jul 2009 [German]
Ein Mädchen findet das Licht - Badische Zeitung, 20. Jul 2009 [German]
Das innere Auge leuchtet - EZ-online, 20. Jul 2009 [German]
Anna Netrebko emanzipiert sich zum Individuum - Welt Online, 20. Jul 2009 [German]
Kein Festival für Anna - ein Tschaikowsky-Fest - Frankfurter Allgemeine,, 20. Jul 2009 [German]
Das Aufblühen einer Seele - Der Taggespiele, 21. Jul 2009 [German]
Spinnen, singen, Märchen hören -, 21. Jul 2009 [German]
Anna Netrebko brilliert in Baden-Baden - Sü, 21. Jul 2009 [German]
Die Liebe macht sehend -, 21. Jul 2009 [German]
Estival Festivals: III. Baden-Baden - The Washington Post, 21. Jul 2009 [English]
Wenn die Liebe die Augen öffnet -, 21. Jul 2009 [German]
Festival estival a Baden-Baden -, 22. Jul 2009 [French][Videoclip]
The Mariinsky Theatre´s Tour to the Baden-Baden Summer Festival Has Been a Triumph - [English]
Umjubelter Import aus Russland - Online Musik Magazin [German]
Saisonkrönung: Sommerfestspiele 2009 - Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, 28. Jul 2009 [German] [Photos] [Videoclip]

Main entrance of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Photos [1-2] by Carlos

Posters of the artists at the backstage door of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Photos [1-2] by Carlos

Chopard boutique in Baden-Baden. Photos [1-2] by Carlos

Curtain call for "Iolanta" after the premiere on 18. July 2009. Photos [1-5] by Anne

At the Hall of the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, after the premiere of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" on 18. July 2009. Photos [1-2] by Anne

The Festspielhaus: A virtual visit to the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Videoclip uploaded to Youtube by TheFestpielhaus

Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev crowning the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden Season 2008-2009. Videoclip of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, released by the Festspielhaus. Videoclip uploaded to Youtube by TheFestpielhaus

Premiere of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" at the Mariinsky Theater on 17. Apr 2009. Videoclip from Russian TV

Premiere of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden on 18. Jul 2009. Videoclip from German TV 3sat TV. Uploaded to Youtube by dvedas

Radio Broadcasts
One of the last two performances of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" will be broadcast on SWR2 Kultur, on Sunday 7. February 2010 at 20:03

Related posts
Anna Netrebko at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus 2008-2009 Season
Planned DVDs releases with Anna Netrebko
Breaking News - Piotr Beczala replaces Rolando Villazón in Iolanta, Baden-Baden
Press Conference of Anna Netrebko in Baden-Baden

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  1. Gracias por el post, y ¡que suerte haber estado ahí!

  2. Thanks for the photos - I'm looking forward to hearing all about it!

  3. I am so envious. It sounded like a wonderful performance. Thanks again for the photos and update.

  4. Carlos, you're great! It was a pleasure reading the report. You bought the ticket 15 months before? wow. My longest period of waiting is 1 year.

  5. Great report! I'd love to have seen Anna singing in Russian for once - hopefully there'll be at least a radio broadcast / CD release if the DVD idea has been shelved.

  6. great post with a lot of backround-informations concerning the yet rather unknown operas, great photos. You were backstage, oh dear, wouldn´t know what to talk to the stars, I would probably swallow my tongue!

  7. Thank you very much for the post, the photos, the video... I adore Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala is my favourite tenor.

  8. I like those references to Wagner... This is what I thought while listening to several moments of these works...

  9. Today I got the magazine of the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus. The broadcast of "Aleko" and "Iolanta" is announced on SWR2 Radio on 31. Jan 2010 at 20:30, while at the website it is still announced the date of 24. Jan 2010.



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