Die Frau ohne Schatten
Khudoley, Sergeeva, O. Savova; Amonov, Umerov; Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Gergiev. Production: Kent. Mariinsky 053 (2 DVDs), 203 mins., subtitled
Jonathan Kent staged Frau for the Mariinsky in 2009, with markedly British ideas about how to designate class in design terms. (The "higher" realm is pan-Orientalized.) The December 2011 performance the company has issued is an impressive accomplishment and — despite Paul Brown's busy stage pictures — would probably reward hearing in the theater. However, one wonders for whom this set is intended. No one who values idiomatic German pronunciation — or indeed well considered, consistently effective tempos — should elect this set as a first version. Valery Gergiev's rich-toned orchestra may fare best in transitional, non-sung music.
The fine mezzo Olga Savova, as the Nurse, is the vocal standout here. The character starts the production dressed as a Russian doll draped in what looks like a hockey jersey (plus earmuffs); she and the Kaiserin show up in Barak's laundromat/ garage (!) re-dressed in human clothes — a good touch. Olga Sergeeva makes a bottle-blonde, jeans-clad Dyer's Wife. Her dramatic soprano lacks body in the role's testing lower reaches, at other times turning shrill or displaying excessive vibrato under pressure. Still, it's an affecting performance.
The sensuality that makes Mlada Khudoley's voice and physicality plausible as Salome works against the usual conception of the Empress's character; Kent directs her entrance scene as post-coital. Her voice, while fiery and exciting, lacks the inherent tonal purity of other exponents such as Ingrid Bjoner or Anne Schwanewilms. Kent does little to prepare the Empress's transformation, but Khulodey rises quite excitingly to a heavily cut Act III. A sympathetic presence, Edem Umerov's Barak lacks the full resonance and steadiness of line to project the Dyer's big tunes fully. Tenor Avgust Amonov — an unromantic Emperor in terms of stage deportment — summons up some vocal power but stints on legato and (at the very top) pitch.
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