review by Willard Manus
Director/designer Pier'Alli contributed significantly to the production. His towering, gloomy prison walls perfectly symbolized the power of the state against which Leonore (and by implication all of humanity) must battle. In Act Two, Pier'Alli unleashed the design work of Sergio Metalli, whose "Ideogamma" digital projections gave magnified and animated life to the spiritual struggle that lies at the heart of the opera. No doubt we shall be seeing Metalli's ground-breaking visuals in many operas and theatrical productions to come.
Grant Gershon, making his company debut as Chorus Master, made sure that his singers matched the intensity and virtuosity of the orchestra (and lead singers), especially in the final moments of the opera, when Beethoven celebrates the healing power of Christian mercy and compassion with some of the most dynamic music ever written.
Opera followed up FIDELIO with another equally strong production--JENUFA
by the Czech composer, Leos Janacek. Starring the Finnish soprano Karita
Mattila (as Jenufa), Eva Urbanova (as her stepmother, Kostelnicka), Jorma
Silvasti (as the rake, Steva), Elizabeth Bishop (as Grandmother Buryja)
and Kim Begley (as the jealous suitor, Laca), JENUFA gave these superb
artists ample room to show off their vocal prowess. All delivered the
goods, not only as singers but actors as well. JENUFA'S drama is intense
and weighty throughout, dealing as it does with infanticide, injustice
and intolerance. The darkness in the human soul is plumbed by Janacek,
who created his own musical language with this work, combining Pan-Slavic
folk tunes with elements of 19th century Romanticism. The result was not
only ground-breaking but revolutionary.
Weighty as the drama is in JENUFA, the opera, like FIDELIO,
ultimately goes from dark to light. Horror gives way to compassion and forgiveness, if only because, as Janacek says, "in every human being there is a spark of God."
With her fiery stage presence and large voice, Mattila is certainly the Jenufa of choice, but Urbanova more than held her own as Kostelnicka, thanks to her luminescent tones and spirited acting. The other singers were equally exciting and commanding, as was James Conlon's conducting work. In all, this was not only a successful but a singular production.
In November/December L.A. Opera will revive two of its most popular productions, DON GIOVANNI and LA BOHEME.
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call (213) 972-8001 or visit losangelesopera.com