Fotos: Wolfgang von Hörsten
Between Salzburg and Bayreuth, in the green countryside of Bavaria, near the little spa town of Bad Aibling, lies the castle of Maxlrain. It’s here, in the castle’s riding hall, that a strongly motivated association of music lovers organizes every year a series of high quality opera performances. This year, we were treated to L’Elisir d’Amore. On the evening of the last representation, a spell of bad weather had the temperatures in the hall down at 13°, and we had to admire the musicians and wonder how they even managed to play. Everything went smoothly, however. Michael Stacheder’s staging transported the action into post-war Germany. Thus, the joyful company of Adina’s farm became a group of disillusioned persons, and the soldier Belcore, who in the imagination of the 19th century was joyous and sexy in his colorful uniform, showed his inner wounds here, bringing to mind the traumas of veterans from Vietnam to this day. A sober set, that had something of a Beuys installation, with chairs scattered on the scene, window-frames and mirrors leaning on the wall and a wash-basin in the middle of the room, reinforced the notions of renewal and disillusionment. Richard van Schoor’s fantastic conducting, full of energy, detailed and shining, also underlined the ambiguity of the opera, torn as it is between joy of life and death’s bitterness. A very good cast, young, dedicated and spirited, inhabited this universe and gave life and soul to the characters. Doris S. Langara was Adina. Her full and warm soprano was sometimes troubled by too much vibrato, yet she played the young woman between two lovers with ease and grace. Stephen Barchi, basse baritone, played Belcore. A rich and warm, powerful voice, perfect intonation, strong stage presence and great acting abilities: this young singer has a career coming up and is certainly worth following. Dulcamara, the quack, the only totally buffo character of the opera, in this version also had a somber side. He was announced by a short stage music, written for the occasion by Richard van Schoor, a piece full of unease which made it clear that there was not only joy in Dulcamara’s suitcase. Jens Olaf Müller sang and played this bitter-sweet Dulcamara very convincingly. Dulcamara had a few spoken interventions in German, words that left no doubt about the hidden darkness of the situation, and he handled them very well indeed. Thomas Huber was very touching as Nemorino. His slightly grainy timbre made his interpretation even more convincing and his voice blended wonderfully into all the ensembles. In this version, the character of Giannetta held the front of the stage. Michael Stacheder made her be in love with Belcore, expressed in mute stage play. Katharina Wittmann, light and spirited of soprano voice and character, interpreted her perfectly. Richard van Schoor’s work deserves another special mention: with an orchestra that is put together every year for the occasion, he obtained a dense and detailed sound, dancing his swift and precise tempi and pulling everything into the dance. Bravi tutti, thank you for an entertaining and insightful evening.