© Monika Rittershaus / Theater an der Wien
Stephen Langley stuurde mij volgende bijdrage :
BRITTEN'S BOROUGH LACKING SUFFOLK PUNCH
Vienna is a wonderful place to be during the run up to Christmas and my wife duly booked a couple of flights on Austrian a couple of months ago plus two ringside seats at the Theater an der Wien (TW) for their new production of Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes.”
TW has a well-deserved reputation for innovative and daring productions. In recent years, we’ve enjoyed some radically different fare from that typically staged at the nearby Staatsoper. Recent productions, including the Rake’s Progress, Don Giovanni and Rodelinda (Toby Spence, Erwin Schrott, Danielle de Niese respectively in the title roles), spring readily to mind as good reasons to give Vienna and the TW a try – indeed at any time of year. Add brilliant public transport, more than reasonable hotel prices, glittering shopfronts, clean streets, Viennese craft beer (try the Wiener Helles at Siebensternbräu in the BoBo 7th District) and traditional comfort food (e.g. Wienerschnitzel and Apfelstrudel at Gastwirtschaft Schilling) and the case for Vienna is overwhelming.
The Viennese press has been uniformly ecstatic in its praise for this production directed by Christof Loy. To be sure there were some interesting moments – not least in the first scene with Grimes (sung by the Canadian tenor, Joseph Kaiser) awoken by the midnight knock and subsequent interrogation – disturbingly reminiscent of Stasi tactics in the Lives of Others. A stage sloping steeply upwards from Grimes’s bed provided plenty of visibility for the excellent chorus recruited from the local Arnold Schönberg choir and plenty of opportunity for them to look down on – and (pre)judge – the unfortunate Grimes. There was plenty of hypocrisy in word and deed with Mrs Sedley (Rosalind Plowright) successfully portrayed as a coke-sniffing gossiping malevolent and the behavior of Bob Boles (Andreas Conrad) oscillating alarmingly between religious fanaticism and sexual assault – in the same Act of course. By way of innovation, the Director introduced a hefty portion of homo-erotic tension between Balstrode and the apprentice boy in Act 2; this is unlikely to have shocked regular visitors to TW who, by now, must be used to sex, explicit or otherwise, on this progressive Viennese stage.
These moments were balanced by a number of disappointments. Notably the stage was barren with little more than a few chairs and Grimes’s bed and few scenic contrasts between any of the Acts. The government budgets for Viennese theaters are getting hit hard at present but this sort of staging is, in my view, taking minimalism to ridiculous lengths. A view of the odd geographic feature such as a rocky outcrop, horizon or coastal path would have served to emphasize the loneliness and isolation of the Borough – this sense of place, wind, storm and torrent serve as inspiration for the musical ripples and swells in the first Act. Of all this we saw nothing produced or even suggested on stage. The juxtaposition of Christian values and violent small-town prejudice called for (at least) a back-cloth of some kind in Act 2 – but perhaps they don’t do English church naves or steeples in Vienna?
The quality of the singing was adequate without reaching the levels of emotional intensity required. We attended the premiere so I surmise that the performers were either ultra- cautious about their steps or, more seriously, not wholly comfortable in their roles. The biggest disappointment was Agneta Eichenholz as Ellen Orford – she appeared to struggle not only in the higher register but also with English diction which sounded strangled to me as an English speaker. Here again I'm out of kilter with large sections of the Viennese press
So, despite some good moments, this felt like an uneven production which left me feeling a little short- changed. Loy's staging compared less favourably with the Monnaie’s 1994 effort where the resigned, reluctant conversion of Orford to the view of the intolerant majority provided such a poignant and brilliantly staged climax to Willy Decker’s production and thereby extracting the maximum dramatic juice out of the last two notes of Britten's brilliant score .
Nonetheless, give the TW a go as the house is determinedly innovative and provides a welcome addition to the already innumerable musical possibilities ready and waiting in Vienna.