The Operacritic, 28 December 2014
by Silvia Luraghi
Beethoven: Fidelio, Teatro alla Scala, Milano, 10. Dezember 2014
La Scala's dark Fidelio is brightened by Jonas Kaufmann's late appearance
Following tradition, the new season opened at La Scala on December 7, accompanied by riots (also traditional), with a new production of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio. The production, the last of the Lissner/Barenboim era, was at the same time the opener of new general manager Alexander Pereira’s tenure. Opening night was quite successful: there was applause for everyone, including the production team, and no boos (less traditional).

British director Deborah Warner with the help of set and costume designer Chloe Obolensky staged the opera in a dark area in the middle of nowhere. Some concrete pillars (perhaps an unfinished building) and an empty parking space surrounded Marzelline (soprano Mojca Erdmann) who, wearing a pink sweat shirt and blue jeans, was ironing and chatting with Jaquino (tenor Florian Hoffmann). In practice, the setting and the costumes did not refer to any specific place or time: a way for the director to hint at the timeless character of Fidelio, an opera about unlawful imprisonment of victims of political persecution which, as such, could be set in any historical age and in any place.

Some criticism by traditionalists was openly biased, as many complained about Marzelline ironing in the first act, thus showing their complete ignorance of the fact that this is an instruction which comes from the libretto. In the second act, the interior of the prison was empty and dark, with Florestan barely visible on the side.

In the title role, soprano Anja Kampe, by now a veteran of this score, was a temperamental Fidelio, especially compelling on the theatrical side, less so vocally. Her voice sounded somewhat out of control at the top in her aria ‘Komm Hoffnung’, and the singer was audibly tired in the finale. Kampe had already sung in an earlier Deborah Warner production in Glyndebourne, and found it challenging to recreate the character in a new production by the same director.

As Don Pizarro, baritone Falk Struckmann sounded and looked the villain he is supposed to be. Peter Mattei was an over cheerful Don Fernando, while Kwangchul Youn depicted a sympathetic Rocco, displaying a nicely colored and well trained voice.

Tenor Klaus Florian Vogt who sang the role of Florestan at opening night cancelled the second performance, and was replaced by Jonas Kaufmann, much to the delight of the numerous fans who were able to buy a last minute ticket. As a reward, he received a rich and well deserved tribute of applause at the end.

The chorus participated and sang with commitment, giving an outstanding contribution to the performance.

The orchestra, perfectly tuned, followed the Maestro, who, in his last appearance in the pit of the Milanese house, was cheered by many out of admiration, but by some also in the expectation of a new era.

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