Hamburg, September 17+18, 2014 (Arnsperger - Brons - Wuchinger)

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Hamburg, September 17+18, 2014 (Arnsperger - Brons - Wuchinger)

Post  operafantomet on Wed Sep 24, 2014 12:10 pm

PHANTOM DER OPER

Wednesday 17. and Thursday 18. September 2014
Neue Flora, Hamburg

PHANTOM: David Arnsperger (alt.)
CHRISTINE: Lauri Brons (alt, though principal this week)
RAOUL: Nicky Wuchinger
CARLOTTA: Rachel Anne Moore
FIRMIN: Anton Rattinger
ANDRÉ: Guido Gottenbos
MADAME GIRY: Mona Graw (u/s Wednesday) and Linda Veenhuizen (u/s Thursday)
MEG GIRY: Theano Makariou
PIANGI: Raymond Sepe


Neue Flora is like a modern-day Palais Garnier. So much money and so much space has been spent on the foyer and the bars. Like, the entrance and foyer is huuuuge, there are multiple bars, multiple sitting arrangements, multiple souvenir stands. It's a very comfortable theatre to be in (especially for those of used used to squeeze into the cozy and crowded Her Majesty's Theatre in London).

Now, performers first.

David Arnsperger: Everyone hoped I would get to see him, and I did. I tend to be an alternate/understudy magnet, though. Now, he's of a FINE school. The extremely solid one, grand voice, never hesitant or unsteady, consistent portrayal - think Gerónimo Rauch, John Owen-Jones, Saulos Vasconcelos and Juan Carlos Barona. If you read from this that he was boring, you're wrong. He's a Phantom delivering in every way. He also had some really nice, intense moments with Lauri Brons. I liked him a lot. And what a super trouper to survive a whole OMG!MISHAPS Thursday show without even blinking.

Lauri Brons: I have no idea what to make of this Christine. In a good way. She's one of the most peculiar Christines I've seen in a long time. She's part Brightman eyes, part Anna O'Byrne distressed, part Gina Beck glow and part Rachel Barrell spunky. All in one. Her Christine is part adorable, part insane. It's actually a close match to how I want Christine to be performed, but it was a portrayal I needed to see twice (and probably more) to get the full grasp of. Cool shit, but peculiar. ALMOST throwing in Lerouxesque too, but not quite. Lovely voice with light overtones.

Nicky Wuchinger: ….Tomas, is that you…?!? I have never seen a Raoul closer to Tomas Ambt Kofod's Raoul. And if you know me, you know that is a major compliment. It was both in the overall portrayal and voice, but also in the small details - constantly kissing Christines hands, the way he fought the marksmen, just so much. Strong, solid, awesome Raoul.

Rachel Anne Moore: I almost kicked Scorp in the nuts when he said someting slightly unfavorable about this Carlotta. OMG, she's a goddess. Fantastic coloratura with a hint of a sharp edge, looking like a million dollar, an incredibly balanced portrayal, and possibly the most expressive face I've ever seen in a Carlotta. I could watch a whole video with only closeups of her and be happy. Germans say she has a heavy accent; that I'm blissfully unaware of.

Raymond Sepe: A very good Piangi to match Carlotta. They have a lot of plotting and scheming going on, a true BFF team. He has some very amusing "eyes popping out of his head" expressions and head wiggling, and he's king of offended kings. His Piangi was a tenor way past his prime, trying hard to retain his position.

Anton Rattinger and Guido Gottenbos: Good team. Anton Rattinger's Firmin remained fairly anonymous on behalf of the more flamboyant André. This André was a true Carlotta superfan, I'm tempted to say fangirl. And so blue-eyed (pun not intended) I could see his eye colour from the 10th row. Nice comic timing throughout.

Mona Graw/Linda Veenhuizen: So I got to see two different Madame Giry understudies, that was cool. Of the two I preferred Linda Veenhuizen, if only because she had a sharper portrayal. Mona Graw may have had the bigger voice, but her portrayal was a bit bland. Also, looking at her too short skirt and bodice and skirt of different colours drove me nuts. Not that THAT'S her fault, though.

Theano Makariou: Good dancer and steady, sweet voice. But I had kinda expected more? She was a Meg doing everything right, but I can't mention one single detail that stuck. OK, that's a lie. She did a very cool stag leap in Don Juan Triumphant. But other than that, rather generic.


ACT I

AUCTION
It's hard being of the London school when the only auctioneer voice in the world belongs to Philip Griffiths, and the words needs to be spoken in a snotty, dry Oxford kind of way. I will probably never get used to hearing the SPOOOOOOKYYYY auctioneers, even though I've seen many fine ones. Moving on, the porters were very stylistic, really playing up the slow pace and the moving in sync. That I liked. Underlines Hal Prince's vision of this maybe not being a real world, maybe they're just all ghosts in Raoul's mind. Nicky Wuchinger sung extremely well and soft as old Raoul. The porter worked hard on unbuttoning the chandelier drape on the Wednesday show, I have no idea why that was so important to him. Didn't do it on Thursday.

Nice flashy sparks for the chandelier, and the drapes (which BTW had a checquered pattern to them, never seen that before) revealed the lovely, dominant proscenium. They use the Madrid proscenium, which is almost identical to the original Hamburg one, except a tad narrower and more concentrated. I actually liked it better than the original (sorry). The chandelier looked Dutch or Swiss, because of the curved spike through the lyre ornament. I can't tell exactly which one it is, but it's definitely not the original Hamburg chandelier.

Looked like Rachel Anne Moore was sitting behind the "Egypian" Ox statue during the Overture. I might have been wrong.

HANNIBAL
Cue: glitter! Rachel Anne Moore possess the stage in the most natural manner. She's the boss, don't every think otherwise. Sharper voice than I expected, brilliant colouratura. And during that intro alone she did probably 10 different facial expressions, and it feels like she's studied old opera photos to find stylistic poses for her Carlotta. And she looks like a supermodel, and her costume is too fab for words. She must be experienced.

They were one dancer short on Thursday, but full stock on Wednesday. It was nice to see how the dancers perfectly mirrored eachother when full stock - Christine and Meg sitting to the right, two dancers standing behind them, and the same on the left side. Lauri Brons wears a slightly different costume than the other, paler velvet and flatter collar (Dutch?). She did some awesome stretching on the floor during the dialogues, putting her pointe dressed foot up to her neck, it really made her look like a ballerina. But she didn't dance en pointe /nerdy detail Very precise dancing from the ballerinas.

I loved that their two Japanese dancers had gotten rather light brown wigs. If only because I'm not a huge fan of stereotypes. Speaking of wigs, they looked awesome on stage. Light, bouncy, BIG curls.

Raymond Sepe's way-past-his-prime-but-still-trying-so-hard Piangi was lots of fun to watch. André was fangirling Carlotta so hard, and for a moment I was sure they were gonna kiss when Carlotta sang. Yes, I approve. She was also milking the song, making it sound like an actual aria, made me think of Priti Coles in Vienna.

One of the Wild Women were singing crazy coloratura trills to Reyer, either trying to convince him to give her a lead role, or to demonstrate a phrase he gave her. Not sure, but cool detail.

Piangi said "dilettante" while leaving instead of "amatore/amateur" - is this normal in Germany, or just something this Italian Piangi has added?

Oh, and Buquet was pretty insane. He had not taken his pills that day.


THINK OF ME
I loved how Madame Giry gave Christine all the moves during the audition part, and Christine just followed her lead until almost going into a trance. I don't think I've seen it done like that before. I also loved that the Girys, the dresser and Reyer paused after the blackout, standing there for some 5-6 seconds, semi lit, and then leaving the stage (THAT I've seen before).

THE GREEN-ON-GREEN SKIRT! Excuse me while I fan nerd. Not the same as Valerie Link wears, as the tabs were different, but same style.

Lauri Brons seemed to do some slightly different choreography (or interpretation of it) when taking the spins right before Raoul sings. Going to center front stage and doing some happy moves, and then running towards the back.

Nicky Wuchinger's Raoul seemed puzzled. He's been chatting with Madame Firmin throughout, or rather, she'd been chatting with him, waving her big annoying feather fan, and I love the transition to his solo part, there the others in the box freeze and you kinda take part in his mind rather than seeing the scene from the outside. I don't remember which production does the "freeze" move and not (I think most international productions do, and West End does not), but it really clarifies the scene. Lovely and strong, albeit short, cadenza from Lauri B.


ANGEL OF MUSIC/LITTLE LOTTE
I'll never NOT be amused by the audience aaaah-ing and ooooh-ing over the turned perspective after "Think of Me". Giggle. Neue Flora's stage is so big! Dang. Madame Firmin's train is so hardcore and long and draped, and Corinne Schaefer (playing her) is so tiny. What a combo. I swear the train was longer than her actual height.

I remember seeing the barre for the ballerinas before, but is this always done? Like, they have a ballet barre where they rehearse? Another nice detail (and it's just hoisted up in the flies afterwards, so it's not in the way). Again, Theano Makariou's Meg is good, but she just isn't adding anything to the role. Good singing, though, that's always a plus.

I just can't stop watching the Degas routine in the background. It's one of my favourite moments in the show. it was also lovely lit. I'll give the Hamburg production this, it looks extremely fresh and sharp.

Wednesday: Nicky Wuchinger really is a warm and passionate Raoul. Who would not fall in love with him, like seriously?
Thursday: OMG, the mirror is semi lit, you can see the Phantom standing in position all through Little Lotte!

Christine has a top hat and an old school bonnet on her wall. I wonder if that is supposed to be memorabilia from her parents? Oh, and the "Lost dress" is GREEN.


MIRROR SCENE
Wednesday: I like David Arnsperger's voice a lot. Deep undertones, strong voice. Not raging or out of control Phantom, just very pissed. Lovely response from Lauri's Christine, so regretful. Absolutely flawless mirror scene, with just the right amount of smoke, brilliantly lit, and a new mirror plate which slide away unnoticed and popped back into place. Had I not known how the mirror worked I wouldn't have understood squat of how Christine disappeared. Seriously, the most flawless execution of the scene I've seen.

Thursday: Same build-up. But does the mirror open? No. Or wait, yes it does, like an inch or two. Clock is ticking. Christine remains in her hypnotized stage, walking baby steps towards the mirror, but THE DARN THING DOESN'T open. Last "I am your angel of music…" and the door is very soon to open. This Phantom wants his Christine. He puts his hand at the side of the mirror plate, force it open with all the strength in his body, still singing, and it's just enough for Christine to squeeze through, just in time for Raoul to enter and find the room empty. I was told there really aren't any plan B for this scene, but most likely we'd seen Christine faint instead. Could have been interesting too.

BTW, the way Nicky's Raoul approach the door, hammer on it, and reacts to finding it locked, is very VERY similar to Tomas Ambt Kofod. This was probably the first place I noticed the similarity, but it happened frequently throughout the show.


TITLE SONG
NO TRAP DOOR FOR THE DOUBLES? C'mon. They had to literally run across the huge Neue Flora stage to reach the other side in time for the other pair of doubles to emerge. Very unlike Copenhagen, where the tiny stage + trap door meant they had all the time in the world.

Excellent reactions from the doubles on the bridge, and the perfect amount of smoke and light in the title song. And then… CANDELABRAS FROM THE SIDE? This is a sit-down production, not a bloody tour version! Should it matter? Maybe not, but there's just something about the highly erotic about the huge candelabras coming up from the ground that I always found overwhelming.

Wednesday: Rather standard, except Christine and the Phantom stood really close before the cadenza, and it was quite intense. Like, they looked like they were really connecting.

Thursday: The boat had its own will. Apparently it came out too rapidly, so the candles in front was up for a long time while the boat still stood there. Felt like they then came a bit late into the cadenza part, with the Phantom literally dragging Christine out of the boat, urging her to sing while twirling her around. Quite cool, and even more intense.

Lauri Brons had a good reaction again: when singing the top note, it was like she experienced a miracle. There was no look of puzzlement, no grabbing her throat in confusion. Instead she did her "in-trance-smile".


MUSIC OF THE NIGHT
David Arnsperger has a nice voice, I gotta say. Smooth and strong, with with a nice depth when needed. He did a nice little spin when spreading out on the portcullis, which was nicely echoed by Christine's spin when fleeing him. Not nice of the German translator not give the Phantom an A to sing on the money note. Gotta work a lot more on other vowels. But David nailed it.

Very interesting detail by the mirror. The Phantom let Christine over there by the hand. Instead of letting it go, he grabbed it with both hands and she put hers on top of that again, so they were clutching all hands. They stood very close, and again this just felt like an intense pair. Then he let go, pulled the mirror drape off and looked into the audience, extremely proud (Flemming Enevold did the same, again these strong Copenhagen vibes). But of course Christine faints, and the Phantom shows that was NOT according to plan.

The Mirror Bride wears one of the prettiest wedding dresses of them all. Grumble.


STYDI
The Hamburg production is just so beautifully lit. I thought it was just the photos, but no. An amazing depth to the sets. I loved one detail here - when Christine stumbles and falls she just keeps looking at the Phantom, never turning away. she's really trying to read him, and already here she shows she sees behind the monster. Liked it a LOT. David A. did some impressive crawling and dragging across stage, not sure how he managed to sing at the same time.


MAGICAL LASSO
This Buquet is insane, I tell you. Especially his reaction to Madame Giry. But I liked how he tried to hide the "magical lasso" under his cloak. Meg is not with the ballerinas here, it seemed.


NOTES/PRIMA DONNA
Again so nicely lit stage and nice depth. The managers are such an opposite pair; one low and round, the other very tall and thin. RACHEL ANNE MOORE, THOUGH. What an amazing Carlotta. She must have had 30 different facial expressions all through this scene - pouty, triumphant, fierce, furious, flattered - just wow.

Discussed a bit with Scorp the actual idea behind the Phantom voiceover. My theory is that whenever you hear the Phantom's voiceover sing and the actors walk in a specific pattern (happens three times during the show), we're not really meant to think the people on stage hear him. Rather, they feel his presence and the audience get to know his intentions. But I don't think we're to take it literally, like him standing behind the walls singing to them. Yeah.

People starting applauding when the red curtain came down, that's impressive.


IL MUTO
The fops were delightful. Lots of laughter and gossiping. Rachel Anne Moore displayed a most delightful coloratura here, I don't think Il Muto has ever sounded more like a genuine opera piece. And her croaks were FAAAAANTASTIIIIIC. OMG. Hoes does she do the thing?!?


BALLET
AGAIN Copenhagen vibes - the way André stumbled into specific dancers and the way he left stage was just so similar. He didn't do the silly "I'm just gonna dance off stage" thing that always cracked me up in Copenhagen, though. AND THESE COSTUMES. OMG!!! They are beautiful beyond words. Very precise dancing from the solo dancer, even when getting caught in the floral garlands on one occasion. But I would have wanted more reactions to the shadow in the background, I think the point was a bit lost on people.

Dead Buquet worked well, didn't look all that dummy like.


ROOFTOP
So strange seeing Christine and Raoul run in from the side. GIVE THEM A TRAP DOOR ALREADY. I loved the distinct wind sound (wind, as in nature, not instrument). Nicky Wuchinger is a most excellent Raoul. I love the warmth of his portrayal. And he looks so in love in this scene, and he is so proud to propose to her, and he swings her around with the biggest joy in the world. CUTE.

Lauri's acting felt like a mix of Anna O'Byrne and Sarah Brightman. In other words, very distressed. But she seemed more in love by the end of the song.


CURSE
We only see the hand coming up over the Golden Angel's hand when they strike the chord. I love that. The eyes and mouths of the Golden Angel didn't glow the first night, I was gravely disappointed. Did the second night, though. Happy camper.

The chandelier still has a mean tempo. Not as quick as in the past, but the first half of the drop is really fun! Also a night "explosion" inside the chandelier when it hits the stage, I don't know if they were just lucky or if it's always done like that? I APPROVE anyway.


ACT II

ENTR'ACTE
Same ol'. People were chatting. But sitting front row for the entr'acte was loads of fun.


MASQUERADE
Here I missed the stylistic touch - that the managers walk in rhythm to the music, and that they are more scared when bumping into eachother. Could definitely be milked more.

BUT WHO CARES, OMG HOW PRETTY A SET! They had Lon Chaney (or the red masked Phantom) dummy in front, that was cool. A nice distressed tone to it, especially when Raoul and Christine looked for eachother. Raoul was taunted, and Lauri Brons even did the headache acting™ at one point (right before they find eachother). Very nice.

Red Death's entrance was signaled long before the music indicated it. Christine froze in her track. But she didn't look distressed. She went into her trance smile, and remained so until Raoul pulled her out of it. That was a cool little detail. Flawless explosion and disappearance


NOTES II / TWISTED
I shouldn't be annoyed that Christine's Wishing dress had wildly different fringes/tassels on the bodice and the skirt, right?

Rachel Anne Moore had some hilarious facial expressions here. When she'd sung "Christine Daaé? She doesn't have the voice!", she looked away and smiled, so content with herself, going over to Piangi to scheme. Another thing I noticed throughout the scene was that they all seemed to have various dialogues in small groups, and only now and then would you hear what they say (their sung line) - so the musical was just small tidbits of everything being said. Rachel Anne Moore and Raymond Sepe really underlined this, and it was cool.

Very Brightmanesque acting from Lauri Brons here, terrified big eyes.

Anyone knows what Christine say when she runs off? She seems to have more lines here? ETA: once again the internet is coming to my rescue. Christine's lines here are "Ich kann nicht. Ich will nicht! Es tut mit leid." (I can't. I won't! I'm sorry)

This was the only place the reduced orchestra sounded genuinely bad - when Raoul curse the Phantom. I have no idea what tune they were in or what it was supposed to sound like. Just sounded like noise. Horrible.


DON JUAN REHEARSAL
Christine comes running in the last second, and gets her notes from Meg. Carlotta looks at her with the smirkiest smile in the world, like "Let's see just how much you'll screw up", but when Christine sings well, she looks confused and scared. Nice lil' detail. Carlotta punches the laughing man next to her HARD in the guts too, that was amusing. And Piangi tries so hard, bless him. In other words, a well executed scene. Not as stylistic as in London, where the ensemble behind really exaggerate their movements (I like both ways).


MAUSOLEUM SCENE
WYWSHA: Just very solid. Nothing new to add. Liked that Lauri Brons went fuller voice here.

Wandering Child: A peculiar thing: David Arnsperger were standing in front of the cross all the time. He went a bit from side to side, but he never stepped down to the side of the cross, as I'm used to seen (and he certainly didn't leap across the foot of the cross, Earl Carpenter style!). But it made him seem very much in control.

The rest… again, just very similar to Copenhagen. Only the language was wrong, haha!

Ooooh, wait, no one cool detail: David's laugh! Straight out of the crypt, like the guy at Michael Jackson's Thriller.


DON JUAN TRIUMPHANT
I really have nothing to add here. But I loved how kinda old school Piangi appeared, very old school operatic in movements and singing. Theano's Meg did a most lovely stag leap after getting her money from Don Juan.


POINT OF NO RETURN
Lauri Brons does some cool "throwing apple in the air" here. I liked the dark undertones of David Arnsperger's voice here, very commanding. This scene is majorly tangoed up. Don't think US tour, think the hints the music gives and some of Christine's movements in her solo. I'm half expecting her to pull out some castanets. I liked it a lot. Her skirt swish and smacking-boot-on-bench was basically identical to Copenhagen. IS IT ARTHUR MARSELLA'S DIRECTING? I need to know.

Thursday: His right arm popped out of the Don Juan sleeve, and because of the blocking he NEEDS that hand available. So he opened parts of the robe and popped the hand out there instead. Well saved, but you could see the Phantom's white shirt and at time mask. Slightly revealing

I liked that the Phantom more or less forced the ring on Christine's hand. It makes her actions to follow very understandable. But I like other versions too, for example where she puts the ring on herself. Again David Arnsperger displayed a large, full voice. He is just so lovely to listen to.

Meg's Gypsy Girl costume was fantastic, so golden/bronze/brown in both bodice and tabs. It looked so… historical, in lack of better terms.


DOWN ONCE MORE
"Down Once More" was fab, again grand voice, and both seemed so lost in a way. And the stage is so huge and so covered with "mist" and light and it just looks spectacular. In an actual spectacular way, not restaged tour spectacular…

Raoul's jump into the lake got comments and gasps, I love when that happens. He didn't jump as much as kinda falling down on his back. I forget just how far down it is at times, I can't believe they do that every night.


FINAL LAIR
So mist filled a stage! Beautiful. Lauri's Christine repeated her STYDI move, she didn't look away from the Phantom, she faced him bravely. David's Phantom went into an ugly and childish mood. He was in his own world, focusing only on Christine as his bride, all until she sung her "…in your soul…" line and Raoul appears. Bad chuckling and faces while sitting on the throne, I would not trust this man a second.

The bossiest and coolest moment in the whole show was when Christine protected Raoul in the lasso. Not only did she put herself in front of Raoul, arms out, ready to take the beating on his behalf. No, remaining in this pose, she started walking towards the Phantom, forcing him away, towards the organ, then halfway across stage, from where he stumbled towards his throne. That is the bossiest move I've seen any Christines do, ever (INCLUDING Rache Barrell pushing the Phantom away). But then a nice transaction to pure despair, running to the Phantom, throwing herself at his feet. It felt like a Leroux moment, switching from independent to desperate, though I can't tell exactly why or what passage made it Leroux.

Nicky Wuchinger mostly looked away during the kiss, but David's Phantom did the nice "dare not touch but want to embrace but hands are shaking" kind of reaction, and after letting go the music kept going for a long time (Copenhagen… sorry… but really… so similar…).

Another incredibly nice moment was when Christine returned to give the ring back. Putting the ring in his hand she folded his fingers over it, and put her hands over his, and he put his hands on top, and they clutched hands like that for a long time, almost putting their foreheads against eachother. Very tender, and also a very nice echo to the same move they did right before the unmasking of the mirror bride.

Then we see the Phantom sobbing over the veil, while Christine and Raoul gondola away in the background, Nicky kissing her hands, Tomas Ambt Kofod style. And it's so heartbreaking.


SORTA CONCLUSION
So… This was great. The portrayals of David Arnsperger and Lauri Brons needed a bit of time to kinda come out from the stage and to make sense. But when they finally did, it was SO good. Also, Rachel Anne Moore's Carlotta and Nicky Wuchinger's Raoul was SOOOOOOOO good, both bumped right into my top 5 list. and the ensemble was very solid, and the visuals were some of the best I've seen.

There were also awesome backstage touring happening. The arranged one was fun, as we got to see them preparing the stage for the Auction, putting the proscenium drapes in place, seeing the Monkey Musical Box etc. Also fun to see the props and costumes being prepared on the side stages, and a closeup of Christine's dressing room. One of the photos on her boudoir said "May Cerveris", I think, but I couldn't find any hits on it online. I assume I got the last name wrong. Any ideas to who that is?

I also got to take a photo with Golden Lion. Aaaaaw, my boy looks nice. Smile And it was also so nice to see friend Scorp again.

In other words, this was such an experience, and a much needed energy boost. If anyone asks me if the Hamburg production is worth seeing. YES DARNIT. For the visuals, for one. But I also genuinely loved this cast.

_________________
JOSEFINE TO THE PHANTOM:
You come off as... somewhat... rough...

operafantomet

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