Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Munich's New Hoffmann A Vocal Success (Press Comments)

The Bavarian State Opera chose Halloween night for their first premiere of the season: "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" with Rolando Villazón in the title role and Diana Damrau singing all of his female counterparts for the first time in her career. The muchly anticipated event turned out to be a triumph for the singers who earned overwhelming ovations. Director Richard Jones, who fell out of favor with the Bavarian audience with his staging of "Lohengrin" two seasons ago, received singular boos which, however, could be interpreted as the reaction of some unforgiving opera locals as the rest of the audience seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed his interpretation of Hoffmann's tales.

Some insightful videoclips of this production can be found on the Bavarian State Opera's website. And here's some collected press comments:

Die Welt:
"He is back. Not shining as brightly as before but with a safeness that seemed to have disappeared - Rolando Villazón."
Merkur Online:
"Villazón sings at the edge. And it is a miracle that not more things go wrong when he does."
"The actual vocal event at this 'Hoffmann' premiere were his female counterparts. Ensemble member Angela Brower was celebrated as confident and natural Niklausse. She was almost as strong as Diana Damrau who for the first time sang all four of the poet's lovers - and with that kicked open the door to a new phase of her career."
"John Relyea's dark, bronze bass provides for the perfect material for the four villains, with Dapertutto's (not original) 'mirror aria' probably being a concession to him."
"[Constantinos Carydis] adamantly, even ruthlessly implements his concept. This is not a laissez-faire Offenbach, much more an interpretation equipped with blowoffs, which is highly dramatic, surprisingly true to detail and razor-sharp."
"From the start Diana Damrau left no doubt about who was going to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. Courageously she took on all three soprano parts in Offenbach's opera. [...] Musically Diana Damrau sets one highlight after the other. She's the superb centre that everything else revolves around. Even the protagonist has to bow to her. One had to be worried whether Rolando Villazón would have the stamina needed for the part of Hoffmann beforehand. Even before his vocal crisis he was not the ideal cast for this role. [...] Despite vocal vehemence he leaves something to be desired: When he forces the voice becomes tight. Luster and assertiveness are limited. The Mexican's acting is incredibly intense but sometimes too boisterous."
"However: Diana Damrau, Rolando Villazón, Angela Brower (Niklausse) and the superb Canadian bass John Relyea, who sang all four villains, made sure that the musical side dominated over the stage direction, which all in all dawdled along too harmlessly and superficially."

John Relyea earns much praise for his portrayal of all four villains.

Angela Brower shines as Hoffmann's muse Niklausse.
All pictures courtesy of

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