Wednesday, February 9, 2011

REVIEW: Antigona (Berlin) at the Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

Staatsoper im Schiller Theatre, Thursday February 3

I went to the Staatsoper in Unter den Linden just to be confronted by a deserted theatre. Apparently, the whole operation was moved to Schiller Theater so as to facilitate the renovation of the theatre in Unter den Linden, which won't be open again until 2013. Terrible memories of mistakenly going to Covent Garden when the Royal Opera House was under renovation (which has moved to Shaftesbury Theatre) came flooding back! Luckily, I was early and was able to grab a cab to Schiller Theater, which cost me about 15 Euros! Most importantly, I arrived on time.
Kurt Streit (on chair), Kenneth Tarver (holding crown)

It was Tommaso Traetta’s Antigona that I was going to see. I have to admit that I was not familiar with the name Traetta prior to the booking of my ticket. The reason why I chose this opera was mainly because Rene Jacob was conducting it and Bejun Mehta was singing the role of Emone.

Veronica Cangemi, Jennifer Rivera

Traetta was having the premiere of Antigona (libretto by Marco Coltellini base on the tragedy Antigone by Sophocles) at the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, when Mozart was preparing Lucio Silla for the Teatro Regio Ducal. Mozart was 16-year-old and Traetta was 45-year-old. Hands down, at least to me, Antigona trumps Lucio Silla for its consistent musical style, superior story development and theatrical impact.

The production (by Vera Nemirova) revolves around a stage made to look like a beach with a tall lifeguard chair. In front of the chair is a trap door that served as a burial site and tomb. Actually, the concept was not bad; at least it didn’t interfere with the opera; which was a bit on the slow side, just like a lot of opera of its time.

Veronica Cangemi, Bejun Mehta

The Akademie für Alte Musik was excellent under Jacobs, while the chorus sang and acted with very little commitment, almost look unsure. Aside from that, the cast was fantastic. Veronica Cangemi’s Antigona was heartfelt. Bejun Mehta was a stunning Emone, vocally spellbinding and dramatically effective, he has to be one of the best countertenors in the opera world today. Kurt Streit’s Creon was a strongly performed bully. Kenneth Tarver (Adrasto) and Jennifer Rivera (Ismene) finely completed a wonderful cast.


Opera by Tommaso Traetta

Creative Team:
Conductor - René Jacobs
Director - Vera Nemirova
Stage setting - Werner Hutterli
Costume design - Birgit Hutter
Lighting - Olaf Freese
Chöre - Eberhard Friedrich, Frank Markowitsch
Dramaturgy - Detlef Giese

Antigona - Veronica Cangemi
Ismene - Jennifer Rivera
Emone - Bejun Mehta
Creonte - Kurt Streit
Adrasto - Kenneth Tarver
Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

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