Operatic miniatures in Berlin are revolutionary takes on chamber music — assessment

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Two world premieres and three girls centre-stage: final Friday’s live performance at Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal regarded thrilling.

It was Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv who had prompt that Munich-based Russian composer Vladimir Genin write two operatic miniatures. He responded with Alkestis (2015) and Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes (2017) — each setting poems by Rainer Maria Rilke for solo voice and strings.

It took longer than anticipated for the works to obtain their first efficiency, however time has made the traditional Greek themes of affection, loss, sacrifice and remorse extra related than ever.

It’s a part of the Boulez Saal’s temporary to experiment with kind within the presentation of chamber music, with an eye fixed to the long run. That is the second music-theatre night within the corridor this month, following a dynamic incarnation of Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo with puppetry by South African director Janni Younge.

Neither night fairly met standard definitions of music theatre — the Handel as a result of the boldly illustrative nature of the puppetry inevitably sidelined the singers, and the Genin items as a result of virtually no staging was tried. Higher, then, to view each as revolutionary takes on the medium of chamber music and put aside any operatic expectations.

A female singer in a black ballgown stands amid an orchestra
Mezzo-soprano Susan Zarrabi in ‘Alkestis’ © peteradamik.de

Alkestis preceded the interval. Right here, with mezzo Susan Zarrabi singing the only position fastidiously, the Boulez Ensemble often ventured into microtonal territory — or had been they simply enjoying out of tune? On reflection, there have been in all probability moments of each. Most orchestral entries had been ragged, which prompt inadequate rehearsal, but additionally an absence of belief between gamers and conductor.

After the interval, Thea Musgrave’s Orfeo II continued the theatrical theme, however with out singers; a solo flautist, Alberto Acuña Almela, performed the title position, whereas a solo violin within the corridor’s higher circle answered with snatches of Gluck.

The second Christopher Ainslie set foot on the stage for Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes on the finish of the night, every thing shifted. Ainslie has theatre in each molecule. He is aware of the right way to stand on a stage in entrance of an viewers. Easy, proper? Evidently not. He prowled across the seated chamber orchestra like a caged lion, and when he sang, his total physique participated. This was music theatre. It’s a ability set. This was the moment when the night turned greater than a chamber music live performance.

A male singer stands and gestures with his hands while singing amid an orchestra
Christopher Ainslie sings in ‘Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes’ © peteradamik.de

Although Ainslie is a countertenor, Genin’s quick drama known as for him so as to add his baritone register and, at instances, to talk and shout. The orchestra spoke too. Rilke’s evocative textual content picks the second when Orpheus seems to be again and loses every thing. Genin’s music is basically tonal, deft and pictorial with out lapsing into kitsch. It’s not radical, not experimental, however it’s also by no means boring.

Nonetheless, it might have benefited from extra precision and higher dynamic vary. Lyniv seldom regarded up from the rating and beat time with grimly metronomic dedication; she did little to form the traces, and infrequently barely held issues collectively.

Lyniv is clearly a powerful and vital musical determine, with a lot to say and boatloads of braveness, however it might do her good to spend a little bit of outing of the limelight, engaged on her method.

★★★☆☆

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