Sunday, May 16, 2010

REVEIW: Beethoven's Fidelio with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

A very beautifully crafted concert version with a very balanced cast.

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s second installment to its Beethoven trilogy, Fidelio: Opera in Concert, performed to a full house

last night (15th of May) at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. The concert recruited a star-studded cast, while Maestro Edo de Waart led the orchestra.

Before the concert started, two performers stepped onto the stage and took their positions. The two performers were later revealed to be David Pountney as the narrator and Lisa Larsson as Marzelline. The narrator took up the character of a person of law going through some old documents in relation to the case of Leonore and Florestan. I have to say that I somehow like this approach. In absence of a full staging and dialogues, the narrator served as a radio broadcast-like host for the evening, mitigating whatever missing to make the story comprehensible without too much intrusion.

All the characters were impeccably cast. Susan Bullock, as Leonore/Fidelio, turned out a fine performance; though did not impress me as much as when I saw her in Elektra and Salome. Simon O’Neill, on the other hand as Florestan, was even better than I remembered him as Sigmund. He gave a moving portrayal with his penetrating lyrical voice.

Kristinn Sigmudsson was a booming and looming Rocco. Too bad that this was not a staged version as I suspect that Kristinn would have made an endearing father-jailer. Lisa Larsson, as Marzelline – daughter to Rocco, was a delight with her bright and engaging lyric soprano voice and her attractive stage presence. Jon-Michael Ball was a brooding lovesick Jaquino. Eike Wilm Schulte was a menacing Don Pizarro, while Andrew Foster-Williams was a dignified Don Fernando.

The surprise of the evening was the Shanghai Opera House Choir. They produced some really gorgeous sounds that showcased beautiful harmony. In fact, they made Opera Hong Kong Chorus sounded like a high school choir! The chorus also provided two excellent prisoners in Zheng Yao and Xu Qi, who sang with wonderful conviction.

The orchestra sounded fine. Maestro Edo de Waart kept the glorious music flowing.

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