During the end-of-year holidays I had the opportunity to attend three different music events in Vienna.
Starting with a new production of Bertolt Brecht’s Dreigroschenoper (Three Penny Opera) in the Volkstheater, we saw a very slim, stripped-down version of the Brecht-Weill opus, which omitted any sentimentality and softness, concentrating on the rough and violent messages. Mackheath (Mackie Messer) was portrayed as a London punk, a look-alike Sid Vicious whose brutality and cynicism overshadowed any potentially tender feelings for his Polly. He was a relatively weak singer who became stronger of voice and acting in the second half. Polly, his latest wife, was more a rebellious teenager, keen to leave her slutty, alcoholic mother and her beggar-king brutal father. She was great in the Seeraeuber-Jenny Song, and made my hair stand up when she hoarsely whispered “alle!”, when as pirate queen she is asked who of the city population should be executed, and she was even scarier when she said “hoppla”, as the heads fell. I have seen a number of Threepenny opera productions, most of which were more convincing than the present one, but in the end this was a credible rendition. As expected, Mac’s remark that the founding of a bank is a larger crime (against the population) than robbing one, was rewarded by the audience with the expected giggles, bringing to life the present financial crisis.
A very exhilarating event was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on New Year’s Eve in the Wiener Konzerthaus, directed by the future chief Symphoniker conductor Philippe Jordan whose interpretation is reminiscent to those of Riccardo Chailly: very strong contrasts in tempo and volume, very precise intonation. The orchestra was in very good spitrit, the Wiener Akademiechor excellent, the soloists impressive. Jourdain sports a remarkable conducting style, very erect, very marked hand movements, reminding me of parading soldiers. It was a great way to finish the annus horribilis for the Eurozone.
And then, a beautifully sung and played production of the Marriage of Figaro in the Vienna Staatsoper, albeit with a very strange scenery. This consisted mainly of very large paintings hung all over the stage, depicting still-lives with fruit and venison. This might have been better than ENO’s recent Figaro production (see a former posting) where a gigantic killed boor is dumped onto the floor of the Countess’ boudoir, but still did not make a lot of sense. A pretty and very strong-of-voice Susanna, a credible Figaro, an excellent (if short) Almaviva, a slightly mis-cast Countess who did not manage to portray her despair at her husband’s philandering, and a less-convincing Cherubino, who, however sang his “nun vergiss, leises Fleh’n” aria in truly outstanding form.
In other fields, a Botero showing could not convince me that his “fat lady” outside the EBRD headquarter is more than a naive colossus. However, a Magritte exhibition in the Albertina is certainly worth seeing.