Reunited at Last: Eindelijk 2021 from Opera Ballet Vlaanderen

Beethoven – Fidelio Overture, ‘Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?’, ‘Oh welche Lust’ & ‘Heil sei dem Tag’

Leonore – Carla Filipcic Holm
Florestan – Michael Weinius
Don Fernando – Ivan Thirion
Rocco – Goran Jurić
Marzelline – Elisa Soster
Jaquino – Denzil Delaere
Don Pizarro – Kris Belligh
Erster Gefangener – Erik Dello
Zweiter Gefangener – Simon Schmidt

Verdi – Macbeth ‘La luce langue’, ‘Come dal ciel precipita’ & ‘Patria oppressa’!

Lady Macbeth – Raehann Bryce-Davis
Banco – Goran Jurić

Berlioz – La Damnation de Faust ‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’

Marguerite – Raehann Bryce-Davis

Wagner – Die Walküre ‘Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond’ & ‘Du bist der Lenz’

Siegmund – Michael Weinius
Sieglinde – Carla Filipcic Holm

Mozart – Die Zauberflöte ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’

Sarastro – Goran Jurić,

Mahler – Rückert-Lieder ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’

Soprano – Carla Filipcic Holm

Fauré – Cantique de Jean Racine

Wagner – Lohengrin ‘In fernem Land’

Lohengrin – Michael Weinius

Koor Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Symfonisch Orkest Opera Ballet Vlaanderen / Alejo Pérez.
Concert Performance.  Video director – Jan Bosteels. 

Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, Opera Gent, Ghent Belgium.  Saturday, January 23rd, 2021.  Streamed via the website of Opera Ballet Vlaanderen.

This concert must have been an exceptionally moving occasion for those involved.  The full forces of the innovative Opera Ballet Vlaanderen together for the first since time since March last year, giving us a concert in their beautiful Ghent base.  The program used Fidelio as a centrepiece while offering us a journey from darkness to light, the spring of first love, and the joy of reunion.  Due to the current sanitary situation, the orchestra played spread out on stage, with the principals singing at the front, while the chorus sang in masks spread out throughout the auditorium.  They were conducted by the house music director, Alejo Pérez.  The evening featured singers who should have been singing in a new staging of Tristan this month, which unfortunately was not to be.  However, this always enterprising company used the cast instead for this gala concert.

Photo: © Filip Van Roe

The evening opened with a vigorous account of the Fidelio overture led by Pérez, the strings nicely athletic and complimented by some characterful wind playing.  They were then joined by Raehann Bryce-Davis, who proceeded to knock it out of the park with a sensational account of ‘la luce langue’.  This is a voice that seems to defy gravity, the bottom is rich and full and the top takes wing with glorious ease.  Even in the concert setting, she brought so much of Lady Macbeth’s character through, from the determination of ‘è necessario’ to the conspiratorial edge she brought to the tone in the middle.  When she sang ‘O scettro, alfin sei mio’ you most definitely believed her.

Photo: © Filip Van Roe

Bryce-Davis was followed by Argentine soprano Carla Filipcic Holm to sing Leonore’s big scene, the second of the evening’s extracts from Fidelio.  Filipcic brought so much feeling to her imprecations of ‘Komm, Hoffnung’, pouring out long lines with her distinctive, milky soprano.  She made an effort to enunciate the words with clarity, but I found that her German was rather Porteño in flavour, intonation occasionally came in and out of focus and the top sounded slightly disconnected from the rest.  That said, this is one hell of a big sing to come out and sing cold with.  The horns were particularly well behaved.  Goran Jurić gave us an impassioned ‘Come dal ciel precipita’ with an impeccable legato and a rich and full bottom, the vibrations always even, with Pérez finding a wonderfully cantabile lilt in the strings.  With ‘Patria oppressa’, Jan Schweiger’s chorus gave us a welcome reminder of the superb Macbeth that was such a treat back in summer 2019.  Pérez led it with a swifter tempo than we often hear, making it seem more impassioned yet lyrical, all while bringing out the half-lights of the score’s nocturnal tinta.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

Bryce-Davis returned for a similarly impassioned account of ‘d’amour l’ardente flamme’, which she sang with the excitement of first love and ardent desire.  It was an interesting way to hear it sing, less demure and much more extrovert.  Here, I felt that Bryce-Davis might have been giving a little too much, with the intervals between notes not always optimally judged and I did long for her to make more of the words.  Perhaps it was the sheer thrill of performing live again that led Bryce-Davis to give so much of herself.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

An exciting discovery of the evening was Michael Weinius.  He gave us a ‘Winterstürme’ that opened with the concentrated attentive energy of a lieder singer, the text nicely forward and the tone bright and focused.  Filipcic answered him with a ‘Du bist der Lenz’ of fervent yet contained lyricism.  Pérez again made the orchestra sing with a reading that soared so much that I wish they’d given us a longer extract.  Jurić returned to explore the depths in an ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’ that allowed him to expose the resonance of his lower range and generosity of vibrations in the middle.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

With ‘O welche Lust’, the chorus took us on a journey from darkness to light, the warmth of the tone as the tenors opened up was something quite special and the two soloists, Erik Dello and Simon Schmidt, demonstrated the quality of the voices available to these forces.  Filipcic returned for a thoughtful rendition of ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’.  Again, her milky soprano was even in emission but here also the voice didn’t always sit right on the note.  She did however sing with pensive dignity.  The cor anglais soloist of the house orchestra played with eloquence and warmth.  In the Cantique de Jean Racine, Pérez once more launched it on a relatively swiftly lyrical tempo, with the strings given additional warmth with swooping portamenti.  The chorus sang with generous tone, the sopranos opening up with liberal vibrations yet always with pleasant warmth, never that war of vibratos heard elsewhere.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

Weinius returned for an ‘in fernem Land’ that he floated quite wonderfully over the shimmering Flanders strings, with the voice then soaring with silvery ease, seemingly unlimited in power.  Weinius is a major Wagnerian voice and while I regret we weren’t able to hear his Tristan this time around, he is most definitely a name to watch.  I must admit I also wished that they’d extended the extract until the end of Lohengrin and invited Bryce-Davis back for ‘Fahr Heim’.  Perhaps another time.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

The evening closed with the final scene of Fidelio.  Yet again here, Pérez led a reading that was swiftly athletic while also finding the lyricism for ‘O Gott, welch’ ein Augenblick’.  Here Filipcic was a generous presence on the top line, but the intonation issues continued to distract from the honesty of her singing.  Weinius sang with power and poetry and Jurić underpinned the ensemble with inky warmth.  The ensemble also featured some of the most exciting Belgian talents – Ivan Thirion sang an expressive Fernando while Elisa Soster scintillated as Marzelline.  The chorus sang as if their lives depended on it, with thrillingly enthusiastic warmth and big-heartedness.

Rehearsal photo: © Tom Cornille

This was an evening that was a musical showcase for this wonderful house and really whets the appetite for a quick return.  It showed the house forces at their appreciable best and showcased some extremely fine voices.  It had also been imaginatively programmed, not only to show the best of the company’s resources, but to give us as viewers an uplifting journey – something this house does night after night.  One can only hope that we will be back there very soon.

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