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Essen July 23. 2006 (Bourg, Görner, Morandi)

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Essen July 23. 2006 (Bourg, Görner, Morandi) Empty Essen July 23. 2006 (Bourg, Görner, Morandi)

Post  operafantomet Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:01 pm

Re-posting the Essen review:

PHANTOM DER OPER in ESSEN, July 23. 2006 (Sunday), 16:30 (military time, people! Very Happy )

OK, so have in mind it's over three years since I saw POTO there. But I found a book with cast list and rather extentive notes, so I wanted to re-post a version of a review I had online ages ago (AKA before the old forum crashed).


PHANTOM: Ian Jon Bourg
CHRISTINE: Anne Görner
RAOUL: Christopher Morandi (u/s)
CARLOTTA: Patricia Corry (u/s)
ANDRÉ: Fernand Delosch
FIRMIN: Reinhard Schulze
PIANGI: Bonifacio Galván
MADAME GIRY: Gabriele Ramm
MEG GIRY: Annabel Kright
LEFEVRE: Eberhard Neitzel
REYER: Daniel Pabst
DON ATTILIO: Lars Henry Larsson
BUQUET: Antoine Godor
CONFIDANTE: Alyssa Preston

OK, so I had been on a round-trip in Europe, staring in London, continuing to Bergamo and Venice in Italy, moving on to Frankfurt in Germany before hitting Essen. I had no idea what to expect of the Essen production, so I went it very open-minded.

The threatre was funky: an old factory building transformed into a high-tech theatre. The stage and auditorium was huge, at least compared to the ones I was used to (London + Copenhagen). Because of the summer season they had closed the upper circle so that all seats sold was stall seats. Down there it was pretty stuffed, but in total the theatre was only half-full.

For some reason I noticed the light design... Or, not the design, but how it was executed. Very effective. And a HUGE chandelier! Very Happy The auctioneer was very believable, no big drama or big gestures, but the right amount of spookiness. There were 21 people in the orchestra, not a huge one but enough to make a full and nice Overture come out of the monitors, I liked it a lot. The conductor said afterwards that what they didn't have in musicials, they sure had in wiring and speakers! He-he.

During the revealing of the proscenium, one of the drapes got stuck, and hung there long into Hannibal (until Lefevre interrupts the managers). The guy playing Firmin pretended he gave a note about them having to remove it, and it was removed by a stagehand. Nice cover-up.

Erm.... Carlotta was disappointing. I'm usually very fond of seeing understudies, but this lady lacked ooomph, she had a thin voice and her comic timing wasn't all that either.

Some of the POTO regulars in Essen had complained about Meg's bad German pronounciation and poor singing voice. Whereas I cannot judge on the former, I actually liked her a lot in terms of singing, acting and dancing. She was a very good Meg, I don't see how they could dislike her so much!

I drooled a lot over the costumes, they were lush and well made (many Hamburg costumes, and some new ones). But the wigs? Awful. Especially the ballet girls and Christine. Looked like greasy hair with too much hairspray, and the curls were at times non-existant. I wonder if it was due to the heatwave, as pics from the Esse production shows much better looking wigs (though not my favourites, admittedly).

Piangi did a wonderful R-r-r-r-om, he made the audience giggle, but other than that it was an awfully quiet audience in the beginning of the show. I almost felt as if I disturbed the times I was the only one laughing... It didn't help that Buquet appeared almost drunk instead of spooky, it was more confusing than entertaining.

Anne Görner's Christine had many wonderful "distant" facial expressions throughout Hannibal, it was fun to watch her. She also mouthed the words when Carlotta sang, and Meg responded well to this. Actually, there were a lot of small details that I enjoyed watching, especially in the ensemble.

The song started so rapid, I was used to London's more lingering beginning. I immediately realized that I loved Anne Görner's acting, there were a lot going on there. However, I wasn't sure about how I liked her voice then, and I'm still not sure about it now. She sings well, no problems with any notes, but there's something about her timbre that at times bugs me. I don't know how to explain it any better...

The Elissa costume was OH-so-gorgeous! Green silk skirt with green tabs, and lots of gold and glitter, it gave an amazing effect on stage! *le drool* Surprised

Adorable scene. I was still very confused on how the Essen bunch could dislike that Meg, she was lovely! Lot of nice acting going on from both Meg and Christine, and the dancers were very in-sync and rhythmic. And I was impressed by how soundless Christine's dressing room was rolled on stage (being used to the squeeky ones at Her Majesty's Theatre and Det Ny Teater... Razz ).

Raoul was... Raoul. He was solid, nice voice, good acting, but... dull. I later heard it was only his third performance as Raoul, so I forgave him the anonymus approach.

Ian Jon Bourg instead of Uwe Kröger. One word: YAY!! Smile The latter had damaged his foot while rehearsing for another musical, so Bourg filled in for him. I was SOOO happy about that... However, I wasn't head-over-heels impressed by his mirror scene. First of all because his extreme R's - like very long rolling r's, only guttural. Odd, so odd. I know guttural R's are standard in most parts of Germany (hey, my own dialect have guttural R's), but this was extreme.

I also didn't feel the intense booming quality I thought I could expect from him, but the scene was well executed. There were lots of smoke in the room only for a brief minute, which made Christine's disappearance impressive, cause most of the smoke was gone by the time Raoul entered. Cool!

Christine faced the audience almost the whole number. I couldn't tell whether they used doubles or not, but I got the feeling it was the real actors for the bridge, like in London. Anyone knows for sure?

The candelabras slid in from the side, a bit disappointing for such a high-tech theatre. I was told it was because they didn't expect it to run so long as it did in Essen, so they didn't moderate the stage floor more than necessairy. The light for the boat scene was also wacko, so blue and lit. However, IJB did some most impressive "gondoling"! Very Happy

The R's still drove me nuts, but eventually I had to block it out... The mic seemed to catch a lot of heavy breathing... Deliberately? It added a certain sensual flair (not sleazy). IJB impressed once again, now with his fedora throwing... Very Happy His BEEE was fantastic, a grand voice in action, and I also like how he said "Christine!" when she fainted. I liked the interaction between IJB and Anne G.

The mirror bride annoyed me a bit. She was somewhat visible behind the drape, and didn't stand still at all, only 10 second before the unveiling did she seem to get into position. I know, I shouldn't watch a draped mirror when the Phantom is singing.... But I did. But her mask was cool, shaped after Anne Görner, but with hollow eyes.

The Essen Phantom mask, on the other hand, looked very bad. Especially when seen from underneath. And it also looked too small for IJB. Probably my least favourite so far (although, when seeing it in photos later on, I must admit it at least looked better ON STAGE than in photos...)

The mirror bride still had problems with standing still, and I have no idea why I kept watching her... Laughing Christine did some lovely singing her, and the Phantom's composing was cool, intense. The unmasking was also impressive, especially when the Phantom stood over Christine, yelling, stomping, mad with rage. It was a WOW moment. The contrast to the very compassionate Christine Anne Görner did made me so happy. It was a true "Beauty and the Beast" moment.

Seriously, was Buquet drunk for real or just a very good actor?

Wow, huge scene and large drapes! I liked the managers a lot, they knew when to do some plain singing and when to make a comic relief. I especially enjoyed Firmin's "shrugging shoulders" movement, which he did a few times during these scenes.

Raoul was still too anonymus to be noted, but I rather liked Piangi. Carlotta... eh. I wanted to like her. I could see that she tried. But her high notes was strained, and she just didn't have any comic timing. However, her costume was pure eye-candy, with a black velvet bodice and a white backdrape - almost graphic in appearance, but also so lush! Smile

I liked the interaction between the Girys. i didn't particularly care for Madame Giry's singing here, but I loved her in the rest of the show. She appeared gentle, yet mysterious and strict - a nice combo.

The scene I loved the most in Essen! Everything came together here, after a fumbling start. So many funny extra details, such a comic timing! The fop trio was hilarious, and Görner surprisingly masculine... Razz I even liked Carlotta here. Don Attilio held the low note "forever", and received a thunderous applause - twice. He-he.

IJB's thunderous Phantom appearance was also fantastic (although I can't remember now what made it so great).

The ballet part was top notch, so in sync and on spot, the set was beautiflly lit to create a 3D feeling, and the costumes were glittering and nice. True eye candy. The Buquet dummy also seemed larger than the ones I've seen before.

Again I had issues with Anne Görner's voice, without being able to put my finer on exactly what bugged me about it. It wasn't the technique or some vocal issues, it was something about the timbre. I guess it's a matter of taste. But what intrigued me the most is that she wore an (almost) proper Robe a la Francaise!! I've never seen such a historical-looking version before, and I haven't been able to track down any pics of it. It wasn't the same as she's depicted with in the brochure, and when I asked her about it afterwards she said she had gotten a new dress some week prior to my visit, and that it was a lot easier to move around in than the old one.

There were some mic issues in this scene, but Raoul and Christine made a cute couple, they looked very much in love. And the set looked radiant.

I got the feeling this was where IJB's Phantom realized he love Christine, and that he's about to loose her. He did a heartbreaking scene, sulking in the beginning, and booooming in the final lines. The chandelier looked HUUUGE up in the ceiling too, but I noticed two peculiar details:

1. It fell very fast, but seemed to hang over the stage for a long time afterwards, without being lowered down
2. I didn't spot any chandelier catchers coming out, not when it was lowered down either

I don't know if something went wrong, if it was standard procedure, or if I missed any details. It was fun none-the-less, as I almost sat under it when it dropped. Did I mention they had a HUGE chandelier?

The souvenir stand hardly had any souvenirs at all, and what a disappointment that was after all the fun stuff they made for the Hamburg production! They had a souvenir brochure, the magic cup, and a poster. i think that was it. I was later told it was because they didn't plan to play as long in Essen as they did, and that they had extended the playing period several times. Good news for them, bad news for souvenir hunters...

The HULA GIRL was on!!!! :mrgreen: She didn't dance around, like in London, but stood up in the staircase most of the number. So apparently it's not worn by any of the dancers there (but probably by a swing, as there were several u/s on).

Anne Görner was a gracious dancer, and her Christine seemed genuinely scared and looking for Raoul rather than doing jolly "bouncing" around the stag. Reminded of Denmark, with a nervous and hectic atmosphere lurking under the glittering surface.

We could hear the lift lifting the Red Death double up, that was a bit silly, but I guess you have to be a total Phantom nerd to notice... Ha-ha. :mrgreen: Andrés skeleton costume was rather bad, and I wasn't too impressed by the Red Death costume either. IJB seemed to be a bit out-of-sync with the music when walking down the stairs as well - but he did one of the best disappearances I've seen! The cloak swirled, a flash, and he was gone. Loved it!

Ooooh, that blue dress! Ahem, anyway... Christine seemed to curtsy when the managers complimented her, cute. Oooh, and she and Carlotta did a wonderful cat fight! I missed some comic edge from Carlotta and Piangi, and I wish they had used a surround system for the Phantom's voiceover. And again there seemed to be mic issues - BUT we got a gorgeous "Twisted every way". Görner's acting really appeals to me.

This was a wonderfully tense scene, everyone seemed a bit frigthened and "jumpy".

Görner was absolutely amazing in this scene. Here's where I also loved her singing, the score seemed to fit it well. I also liked how she sung the first verse in front of the grave, so tender. She got tons of applause, highly deserved.

It seemed to be hard to get a gliding transaction from all the appaluse, and Christine was almost off stage when the violin finally kicked in. Her reaction to being "dragged back" was good, but I missed the little extra from IJB - more sarcasm, more anger, more hypnotic, more... something!

IJB's Phantom might be in disguise for this scene, but the R's immediately gave his identity away, he-he... Great reactions on the bench from IJB - like the Phantom is stressed and loosing control over his little plot cause Christine is responding differently than what he might imagined. The scene wasn't OMG hot, as *ahem* can perform it, but I liked how Görner and IJB responded to eachothers acting. Seemed genuine.

I had scene POTO in London some weeks previously, and one thing I hated there was how hysterical Katie Knight-Adams (Christine) acted after she had unmasked the Phantom. She was all over the place, almost screaming for her life. For some reason I expected the same from Görner, but luckilly she was way more toned down.

Wow, amazing top note from IJB!! And on top of it all, his Phantom almost seemed to be crying. This scene made a huge impression on me.

The travellator seemed to be extremely low when Raoul jumped - maybe it was because he was fairly new to the role?

IJB's Phantom appeared frenetic and fustrated, and Christine was literally dragged around the floor. But he seemed to be a lot more composed when Raoul turned up, like his plan could be realised after all. The portcullis was raised quickly, without the "hiss" or dramatic movement, and lowered just as quickly.

Raoul had a good reaction to the lasso - he stood tip-toped much of the scene, holding himself up with the noose, while it looked like he was about to be strangled. Christine's chain of reaction was priceless - appaled, fustrated, broken, in disbelief - and then extremely pissed.

IJB's "You try my patience..." seemed to ring in the audience long after he had delivered the line. Christine seems at first to want to embrace him, but suddenly she kisse shim instead - so nice. He seemes shocked and disarmed - and he also seems to be crying. The "march" drum after the kiss plays slowly and for a long time, again it reminded me of Copenhagen.

After Raoul is freed, he's fleeing the scene, only to realize Christine is staying behind. She just won't go, she's looking at the Phantom, then at Raoul, wanting to save both, wanting to say the unspoken... I dunno. I loved how Anne Görner hesitated here, and how she stayed until the Phantom was literally screaming "GOOOOO!" into her face.

Christine's return was beautiful. IJB and Anne Görner seemed to have a sort of tender chemistry on stage, and it blossomed in the last minutes of the Final Lair. So, so touching.

All in all, a great experience to see it in Germany once more. In total there were some negative things and many positive ones. I didn't quite feel Ian Jon Bourgh in the first act, but he sure converted me in the end of the second act. Anne Görner did a lovely, lovely portrayal, and although I wasn't comfortable with her voice all along she is high on my list of favourite Christines.

Other favourites of the cast includes Annabel Knight as Meg Giry and Gabriele Ramm as Madame Giry, plus the managers.

Sets and costumes looked so fresh for this production, amazing considering much of it comes from Hamburg and was also used previously in Stuttgart. Quality stuff indeed.

After the show I talked a tad to the conductor, just some random questions about this and that. Nice bloke, that Bob Edwards! After this I hooked up with some of the regulars in Essen, plus a Japanese girl who was so sad Uwe Kröger was odd (she was a big "Elisabeth" fan). I didn't have the heart to tell her I couldn't be happier that he wasn't there and that we got Ian Jon Bourg instead... Many cast members came out rather quickly, and I got the autograph from several of them. I also got to chat a bit with Anne Görner and Lars Henry Larsson (he's Swedish Very Happy ). Carlotta came out, and all I managed to say about her performance was.... "Wow, colourful makeup in Hannibal, eh?".... Dear Lord...

It took forever before Ian Jon Bourg and Christopher Morandi came out, we were about to give up when they finally came. Took some classic "pose-with-actors-and-smile-like-hell" pictures, and was very happy with how my trip around Europe had turned out (Essen was the last stop). Very Happy

Yes, Essen was an experience I wouldn't be without!

Posts : 3600
Join date : 2009-09-21
Age : 45
Location : Norway

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