Wit, Pathos and Perfection

Cavalli – La Calisto

La Natura / Satirino / Le Furie – Dominique Visse
L’Eternità / Giunone – Karina Gauvin
Il Destino / Diana / Le Furie – Anna Bonitatibus
Giove – Luca Tittoto
Mercurio – Nikolay Borchev
Calisto – Danielle de Niese
Endimione – Tim Mead
Linfea – Emiliano González Toro
Pane – Mathias Vidal
Silvano – Tareq Nazmi

Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Monteverdi-Continuo-Ensemble der Bayerischen Staatsoper / Ivor Bolton.
Stage Director – David Alden

Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Sunday, January 12th, 2014.

I first saw this production of La Calisto at the Royal Opera House a few years ago. It was my first introduction to Cavalli’s work and it struck me as one of the most engaging and entertaining pieces of theatre I have ever seen. Tonight, the impressions were similar but it seemed to be even more strongly cast than in London with an outstanding group of singer-actors all of whom gave of their very best. In a way, it was a perfect partner for that historic Forza of last night.

Where Alden succeeds in his staging is in the element of fantasy inherent in the story. It is set in some fantastical 1960s-inspired nightclub where gods, nymphs and mortals meet. There are so many wonderfully arresting stage pictures – the entry of Giunone from an elevator, Calisto as a lounge singer, the fountain as a water cooler – it really does show the mark of a great mind. The action is constantly buzzing and the hours fly by. The action was completely fluid and the singers all gamely entered into the spirit of things. It is a fabulous romp with all manner of different sexual combinations and incredibly great fun. Yet there is also great pathos – such as in Endimione and Calisto’s arias.

The singing was at the very highest level. Danielle De Niese is known as a great actress and the role of Calisto suited her to perfection dramatically. Vocally she was very good a slight tension in the tone at first quickly disappeared and apart from a few passing intonation issues she acquitted herself with distinction. In a way this is the kind of role she was born to sing and she was indeed very fine. Anna Bonitatibus has an exceptional voice and was a wonderfully engaging stage presence as Diana. The voice is rich with an ease throughout the range and a beautifully warm, rounded tone. She also brought fantastic textual awareness finding a perfect symbiosis between text and music. She also blended well with Karina Gauvin in various roles. Her Giunone was sensational, sung with a richness and spark that was striking. As always with Karina, the technique was staggering but what I really drew from her performance tonight was the richness and warmth of tone.

Tonight was the first time I heard Tim Mead live and he also struck by the sheer beauty of tone of his counter-tenor. There was an evenness of tone and beauty of line that was simply ravishing. Definitely a voice to watch. Another striking new talent to me was Luca Tittoto as Giove with a liquid, sonorous bass and genuine sumptuousness of tone. He tired a little towards the end but this is also a very promising talent. The veteran Dominique Visse was simply fabulous as Satirino singing with wit and accuracy as did Emiliano González Toro as a terrifically bawdy Linfea. There were also highly enjoyable performances in smaller roles from Mathias Vidal, Tareq Nazmi and Nikolay Borchev.

Ivor Bolton directed a reading of great fluency and the work was paced to perfection. The band played with spellbinding warmth and wit. It would be impossible to imagine it better played or directed.

This was a wonderful evening in the theatre, dramatically outstanding, beautifully sung played and directed and introduced me to some major new talent. It was also a real ensemble production with a cast of singer-actors and a group of musicians who worked together to perfection. Outstanding.


The Nationaltheater, home of the Bayerische Staatsoper © Wilfried Hösl

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