An education project with Kirill Petrenko & Nico and the Navigators: It is about humanity in an inhuman environment and the struggle for one’s own dignity. Director Nicola Hümpel wants to bring out these contemporary aspects of the work with her ensemble Nico and the Navigators and the actors.
“Most impressive, however, was the protagonist, the US soprano Ann Toomey in the role of Suor Angelica. An absolutely great voice, one can still hear her youthfulness, but she is aware of her potential and works with it magnificently. She received minutes of applause. She was also the discovery of the evening, because you could totally believe the emotions she embodied on the improvised stage – from the shock when she learns of the death of her son to the abysmal despair with which she then goes to her death – that was also great acting art!”
Giacomo Puccini’s drama Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) tells a moving story: the protagonist, who after the birth of an illegitimate son was banished to a convent by her cold-hearted aunt, longs for her child. Life in the convent is characterized by rules and taboos, which the other sisters openly or secretly try to circumvent. When Angelica learns during a visit from her aunt that her son has died, she no longer wants to live and prepares a poisonous drink. As she dies, she has a vision that the Mother of God unites her with her child.
Although the setting and time have little to do with the reality of modern life, the message of the opera is more relevant than ever: it is about humanity in an inhuman environment and the struggle for one’s own dignity. The Berlin director Nicola Hümpel will explore these modern aspects of the work with her ensemble Nico and the Navigators and the performers. Themes from the past will be combined with current sociopolitical phenomena and individual experiences in a new form of musical theatre – close to everyday life, associative, challenging, moving, perplexing. In addition, Puccini’s magnificent music will be interpreted by Kirill Petrenko. The composer was able to musically illuminate and capture all the emotions of his protagonists with psychological sensitivity.
The Suor Angelica project fulfils the educational goals of the Berliner Philharmoniker on various levels. For one thing, the opera provides the Vocal Heroes, the Education Programme’s youth choir, with the opportunity for a wonderful performance. For another, young singers from Berlin’s universities and scholars from the Karajan Academy – musicians at the beginning of their careers – have the chance to appear in a highly professional opera production. Finally, Suor Angelica will also be an impressive experience for the whole family. At a time when school curricula devote less and less time to music, Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker want to offer both parents and children opportunities to discover the expressiveness and beauty of this art in unique projects such as this.
“Ingenious also this scenic idea of Hümpel: The expectedly great appearance of the princess (highly ingenious: the vocally still totally intact and dressed in inconspicuous-black manager design Katarina Dalayman!!), which starts with her live-filmed limousine drive to the main portal of the Hans Scharoun Building, continues with her walk through the foyer and her climbing of the stairs towards the “Stage entrance”, where she finally conquers the hall for herself, has extra bite and is of ominous quality! / The opera ends then also in such a way that one gets to see only the Dalayman, who had disappeared in the meantime again into the foyer, where she pours herself wine behind the bark, at/after the endlessly reverberating, breathing finale of Suor Angelica.”
Now Kirill Petrenko, too, will gradually ennoble the Berliner Philharmoniker's education program, initiated 16 years ago by Sir Simon Rattle, with "his own contribution. "Last night he succeeded for the first time in a stunning way with Puccini's Suor Angelica (under the meaningful working title "Faith to Face"). Briefly explained: "These performances [...] also unite several aspects of mediation work, which the Berliner Philharmoniker and Kirill Petrenko are committed to: In addition to the promotion of promising young musicians, this includes in particular the idea of inspiring people of all ages and diverse backgrounds for classical music within joint projects. With the cast of soloists from Berlin's music academies and the scholarship holders of the Karajan Academy, highly talented outstanding young musicians are given the opportunity to work intensively with a conductor of world renown as well as with an experienced team of directors. The adult amateur singers of the project choir have undergone a demanding selection process in advance and can thus join the children and young people of the Vocal Heroes in a highly professional setting for what is sure to be an unforgettable artistic experience." (Source: berliner-philharmoniker.de) The orchestra podium is recessed, so that the optical impression of a somehow existing orchestra pit, just like in the opera, is created. In front of it, there is an elongated white seating furniture divided into two parts, in which - for each of the 12 nuns and/or novices of this rather mawkish and "in spirit" rather annoying one-act play by Giovacchino Forzano - just as many sliding compartments have been punched in by the overall designer Oliver Proske. Behind/above the orchestra, an equally divided LED panel, on which then simultaneously (read: live) the large-face shots of the then respective singers become visible in pore-deep razor-sharp HD, moves back and forth. The performance begins with a whimsical and actually quite faceless piano prologue "based on motifs by Giacomo Puccini", composed and played by Matan Porat - during which the protagonists enter their place of action, stylized as a nunnery. It looks as if they have just joined the covenant of the church, because they are about to exchange their clothes from their pre-civilization with those of their new confinement; the costumes were made by Nicola Hümpel, who also directed. Ann Toomey sings and plays the title role, and she emerges from the circle of her companions - in Hümpel's view, the aforementioned nunnery could also have been logically sacrificed to a charitably organized women's shelter of our days - as probably the most emancipated of her peers; not only because at the end of the opera act she stands quite confidently for her self-determined suicide! And anyway, her soprano sounds on the one hand silky soft, on the other hand brutal; the real mixture that is needed for Puccini. This scenic idea of Hümpel's is also ingenious: The expectedly great entrance of the Princess (highly ingenious: the vocally still totally intact Katarina Dalayman, dressed in inconspicuous black managerial design!!), which starts with her live-filmed limousine drive to the main portal of the Hans Scharoun Building, continues with her walk through the foyer and her climbing of the stairs towards the "stage entrance", where she enters the stage. "Stage entrance", where she finally conquers the hall for herself, has extra bite and is of ominous quality! / The opera then ends in such a way that during/after the endlessly echoing, breathy finale of Suor Angelica, one only gets to see the Dalayman, who in the meantime had slipped away again into the foyer, where she pours herself some wine... The orchestra with the scholarship holders of the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic performs Petrenko's mostly quiet, calm, balanced and thus completely "unhectic" view of things - partnerships don't get more compatible than this, and who was actually most inspired by whom here? My God, it was all great and beautiful!
“Nicola Hümpel’s direction was original and full of wit. Together with set designer Oliver Proske, she ensured a contemporary staging of the historical material. Thus, the novices in their simple clothing, which was chosen by Nicola Hümpel far from all nun clichés, seemed a little like dropouts of the present time, who want to find themselves in a spiritual camp far away from everyday problems and yet often enough fight each other there.”
Original and full of humour With the Puccini one-act opera "Suor Angelica" Kirill Petrenko presents his first educational project in the Philharmonic Hall One expects an opera performance, semi-staged, in the Philharmonic Hall. One looks forward to a beautiful overture, played by an orchestra, but things turn out differently: several performers move on stage in Pina-Bausch dance theatre style, making strange sounds and fuzzing through their hair, while a young pianist plays Puccini melodies, which, however, always drift off into the jazzy. A look at the programme clears things up: Before the actual opera "Suor Angelica" by Giacomo Puccini, a "prologue" for solo piano by the Israeli composer Matan Porat, who himself sits at the piano, is heard. Now Kirill Petrenko comes on stage, and the piano prelude seamlessly merges into the overture to Puccini's one-act opera. An original start for a rarely performed musical theatre work. "Suor Angelica" forms the lyrical middle piece within the "Tritticco" (in English: triptych), which is framed by the tragic one-act play "Il tabarro" and the cheerful opera "Gianni Schicchi". The somewhat maudlin libretto is by Giovacchino Forzano. "Suor Angelica" is set in a convent near Siena at the end of the 17th century. The audience is confronted with the everyday life of the novices. Many things revolve around the misdemeanours of the nuns, who are severely punished by their teacher. At first Sister Angelica is shown as one of many, but in the course of the play she gradually becomes the protagonist. She comes from a noble family who was sent to a convent for punishment. When her merciless aunt visits her there to obtain a waiver from Angelica regarding the parental inheritance, Angelica learns from her aunt that her illegitimate son, whom she gave birth to before her novitiate, has died. After the aunt has left, Angelica falls into heavy mourning. She only wants to die to be with her child again and cooks a poisonous potion to kill herself. When she has ingested the poison, she becomes aware of the sinful act and she asks the Mother of God for mercy. Meanwhile, the church begins to shine, it opens up and reveals the view of a flock of angels. The Virgin Mary leaves the church with a blond boy who slowly walks towards Angelica, accompanied by the choir of angels. Angelica dies. For the vocal parts, which are covered exclusively by female voices, outstanding female singers from various nations from Berlin's music academies were engaged, while the orchestra was made up of scholarship holders from the Karajan Academy. Vocal support was provided by the Project Choir of the Vocal Heroes Chrogram. The artistic result was simply overwhelming. The American soprano Ann Toomey in particular delighted in the role of Angelica with the colourful range of her voice, as did the Swedish star singer Katarina Dalayman, who was won as a guest star for the role of Angelica's aunt; she performed with great emotional intensity and outstanding technique. The French singer Sarah Laulan also convinced with her velvety, full alto. The novices seem like dropouts of the present Nicola Hümpel's direction was original and full of humour. Together with set designer Oliver Proske, she provided a contemporary production of the historical material. The novices in their simple clothing, which was chosen by Nicola Hümpel far away from all nun clichés, looked a little bit like dropouts of the present time, who want to find themselves in a spiritual camp far away from everyday problems and yet fight each other often enough. A special feature of the actresses in this performance is that each of the 13 women comes from a different country and all five continents are covered. The pedagogical idea behind this is that people from different nations and cultures should come together, exchange their experiences and make music together. Through the use of video screens, the faces of the performers were regularly shown in close-up, which placed special emphasis on mimic play. In collaboration with the Russian world-class conductor they performed at their best musically. Wonderfully floating, full of dancing lightness and with a lot of warmth of heart they made Puccini's score sound. For the young amateur singers in the choir, too, the collaboration with such an empathic thoroughbred musician as Petrenko must have been a special moment in their lives. The way Petrenko communicated in all directions on stage showed that he is a highly experienced opera conductor who knows how to coordinate the various actors in a performance. There was plenty of applause for this in the sold-out Philharmonic Hall.
“The expectedly great performance by the Princess (highly ingenious: Katarina Dalayman, vocally still totally intact and dressed in an inconspicuous black managerial design! ), which starts with her live-filmed limousine drive to the main portal of the Hans Scharoun Building, continues with her walk through the foyer and her climb up the stairs towards the “stage entrance”, where she finally conquers the hall herself, has extra bite and is of ominous quality!”
Premiere review First education project of the Berlin Philharmonic under its new "boss" Kirill Petrenko Now Kirill Petrenko will gradually be able to ennoble the Education Programme of the Berlin Philharmonic, initiated 16 years ago by Sir Simon Rattle, with his "own contribution" - last night he succeeded in doing so for the first time in a stunning way in Puccini's Suor Angelica (under the meaningful working title "Faith to Face"). Briefly explained: "These performances [...] also combine several aspects of the mediation work which the Berliner Philharmonic and Kirill Petrenko have taken up as their banner: In addition to the promotion of promising young musicians, these include in particular the idea of getting people of all ages and backgrounds enthusiastic about classical music through joint projects. With the line-up of soloists from Berlin's music academies and scholarship holders from the Karajan Academy, highly talented outstanding young musicians are given the opportunity to work intensively with a world-renowned conductor and an experienced team of directors. The adult amateur singers of the project choir have undergone a demanding selection process in the run-up to the event and can thus gain a certainly unforgettable artistic experience together with the children and young people of the vocal heroes in a highly professional setting". (Source: berliner-philharmoniker.de) The orchestra podium is recessed, so that the visual impression of a somehow existing orchestra pit is created, just like in the opera. In front of it there is a two-part, elongated white seating unit in which - for each of the 12 nuns and/or novices of this very maudlin and "in spirit" annoying one-act play by Giovacchino Forzano - just as many sliding box compartments have been punched in by the overall designer Oliver Proske. Behind and above the orchestra, an equally two-part LED panel travels back and forth, on which the large-face shots of the singers can be seen simultaneously (i.e. live) in razor-sharp HD. The performance begins with a whimsical and actually quite faceless piano prologue "based on motifs by Giacomo Puccini", composed and played by Matan Porat - while the protagonists enter their place of action, stylized as a nunnery; it looks as if they have just joined the confederation of the church, as they are about to exchange their clothes from their pre-civilization for those of their new prison; the costumes were made by Nicola Hümpel, who also directed the performance. Ann Toomey sings and plays the title role, and she peels herself out of the circle of her companions - in Hümpel's view, this nunnery could also have been sacrificed to a charitable women's shelter of our days - as the most emancipated of her peers; not only because she stands at the end of the opera nude quite self-confidently for her self-determined suicide! And anyway, her soprano sounds silky soft on the one hand, brutal on the other; the real mixture that is needed for Puccini. This scenic idea by Hümpel is also brilliant: The expected big performance by the princess (highly ingenious: Katarina Dalayman, her voice still totally intact and in inconspicuously black manager design! ), which starts with her live filmed limousine drive to the main portal of the Hans-Scharoun-Building, continues with her walk through the foyer and her stair climbing towards the "stage entrance", where she finally conquers the hall for herself, culminates, has extra bite and is of ominous quality! / The opera ends in such a way that after Suor Angelica's endlessly fading, breathy finale, all you see is the Dalayman, who has meanwhile disappeared back into the foyer, where she pours herself a glass of wine... The orchestra with the scholarship holders of the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic performs Petrenko's mostly quiet, calm, balanced and therefore completely "unhectic" view of things - partnerships don't get any more compatible than this, and who was most inspired by whom? My God, it was all great and beautiful!
“In these portraits Hümpel’s production achieves a high degree of liveliness, it comes particularly close to our present. This is also supported by the large video screen on which the action is projected live … The production seems modern and coherent, it also involves the offspring of the Philharmonic’s own “Vocal Heroes” choir.”
Kirill Petrenko performs Puccini's "Suor Angelica" at the Berlin Philharmonie with young singers and musicians. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were bearers of civilization, keepers of ancient knowledge, islands of education in a sea of illiteracy. Those who lived in a monastery did not have it worst, were provided for, reasonably safe, born into a community. Already in the age this must have been long gone. With his 1917 opera "Suor Angelica" wanted to honor the highest form of love for him, mother love. But he also created a haunting document of the spiritual torpor that prevailed behind convent walls. The plot is grisly: Angelica is forced to become a nun. Only after seven years does she learn that her illegitimate child has died. In desperation, she mixes a poisonous potion - and is lucky that her grandmother saves her from eternal damnation, which would have threatened her as a suicide. Compulsions everywhere, permanent feelings of guilt, a guilty conscience, repentance is always demanded. Is such material suitable for young musicians? Kirill Petrenko and the Berliner Philharmoniker are of this opinion and performed the piece - for which Puccini was inspired by the convent life of his sister Iginia and which actually forms the middle section of "Il Trittico" - semi-staged in the Berlin Philharmonie at the beginning of February, under the title "Faith to Face". It is the first education project of the new principal conductor. Nico and the Navigators director Nicola Hümpel takes great pains to emphasize the story's relevance for today - as a tale of humanity in inhuman surroundings. Above all, she pads the supporting roles of the other nuns heavily. Composer Matan Porat has written a prologue and sits at the piano himself; he gives each of the women (sung by students from the two Berlin music academies) one minute to gesturally present her character on a bridge (choreography: Yui Kawaquchi). It is precisely in these portraits that Hümpel's production achieves a high degree of liveliness, coming particularly close to our present. This is also supported by the large video screen on which the action is projected live. Petrenko's gestures are uncommonly soft, flowing, and he achieves with the instrumentalists of the Karajan Academy a lean, iridescent, dynamically, however, quite leveled, largely low-risk sound. A good soundbed for the central conflict between Angelica (Ann Toomey) and the Princess (Katarina Dalayman), who is also her aunt and brings her, almost casually, the terrible news of her son's death. As an educational project, "Faith to Face" is quite successful. The staging is modern and coherent, and it also involves the offspring of the Philharmonic's own "Vocal Heroes" chorus. But even on this evening, the libretto is not rewritten. Once again, as so often in musical theater, everything revolves around a terrible female fate. The title heroine in Benjamin Britten's "The Rape of Lucretia," an opera that the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester had performed a few days earlier in a similar project for young musicians in Berlin, fared little better. Working with young musicians and singers does not automatically mean that new, forward-looking material is also dealt with.
“As an education project, ‘Faith to Face’ is a success. The production is modern, coherent, it gives students an opportunity to perform and also inspires the young people involved, especially the singers of the philharmonic’s own Vocal Heroes Choir, for classical music.”
Kirill Petrenko conducts Puccini's "Suor Angelica" at the Education Project in the Philharmonie. The libretto is atrocious. A woman is forced into a convent, where she learns seven years later that her illegitimate child has long since died. Thereupon, in the greatest despair, she mixes herself a poisonous potion and may still be glad that the Holy Virgin saves her at the last minute from eternal damnation, which would have threatened her as a suicide - by lifting her into the celesta-flooded sky. As touching as Giacomo Puccini's music in the one-act opera "Suor Angelica" is, the material is strong stuff for people of the 21st century. That doesn't stop the Berliner Philharmoniker from choosing the piece - actually the middle part of Puccini's cycle "Il Trittico" - under the title "Faith to Face" as the first education project of new principal conductor Kirill Petrenko. Because it still has a lot to tell us today, he says, about humanity in inhuman surroundings and motherly love. And, of course, there are still women who have their children torn from their chests. "Nico and the Navigators" director Nicola Hümpel has all the actresses perform on a catwalk in the Philharmonie - originally Tempelhof Airport was planned. Today, her staging is especially in the padded supporting roles of the remaining sisters in this convent near Siena. UdK and "Hanns Eisler" soloists sing them convincingly, make individual characters out of them: the glutton, the shy one, the exalted one. Risk-free sound Composer Matan Porat, who himself sits at the piano, has written a prologue based on Puccini's first two bell notes, which gives each sister one minute to present herself gesturally. Live broadcasts on a large screen bring the action close to the viewer. Suddenly Kirill Petrenko stands at the podium. His movements are extraordinarily soft and flowing, elegant and suggestive. In this way he elicits from the musicians of the Karajan Academy of the Philharmonic a finely balanced sound that is also largely free of risks and rarely leaves the medium dynamic range. With handbag through the foyer Ann Toomey as the protagonist Angelica also takes no risks. She sings intonation-securely, but with a restrained despair, which could definitely be shown to greater advantage. One wishes her voice had a bit more substance in all registers. This is provided by the mature alto of Katarina Dalayman, who as the evil princess and Angelica's aunt walks on the screen long before her physical appearance, parks in front of the philharmonic hall, and walks through the foyer with her handbag. The meeting of the two women - one with low, long note values, the other with much shorter, more vital tones - is the high point and focal point of the hour-long work. It was the princess who once put Angelica in a convent. And she now brings her the bad news of her son's death, while the other sisters gather around Angelica like the Valkyries around Brünnhilde. That the aunt is aware of her guilt is revealed by the trembling with which she sips an aperitif at the bar at the end, back on the screen. As an educational project, "Faith to Face" is successful Conclusion: As an educational project, "Faith to Face" is a success. The production is modern, coherent, it gives students an opportunity to perform, and it also inspires the young people involved, especially the singers of the philharmonic's own Vocal Heroes Choir, for classical music. Nevertheless, the production is also affirmative, for it cannot criticize monastic life with all its constraints, permanent feelings of guilt and guilty conscience without at the same time exposing it. How we are to deal with the many unbearable materials in the opera, which so often end in the sacrifice and death of a woman, if we still want to listen to this music: That remains a problem that even this evening cannot solve.
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's new chief conductor Kirill Petrenko has once again made his mark on the city's music scene winning over both the audience and critics with a performance of Puccini's little-known, all-female opera, "Suor Angelica." Berlin (dpa) - The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's new chief conductor Kirill Petrenko selected a rarely performed opera set in late 17th-century Italy for his first opera project with the orchestra's education programme. More than 100 years after Giacomo Puccini's "Suor Angelica" was first performed, the opera remains remarkably relevant to modern times. Saturday night's debut performance was greeted with a warm reception from both critics and the audience alike. "My god, it was all great and beautiful," wrote the German weekly Der Freitag. In addition to touching on the role of women in society, the opera also high- lights the suffering caused by expulsion, separation and the flight from war and natural catastrophes such as global warming. "Basically, the first question for me was: How can I put this opera in the here and now? What does it have to do with us now?" said Nicola Huempel, who directed Saturday's staging of the opera in the Berliner Philharmonie concert house. Composed in 1917, "Suor Angelica" was one of three one-act operas written by Puccini and was first performed in December 1918, just six years before his death at the age of 65. In conversation with the Philharmonie's Digital Concert Hall, an online platform which is also showing the "Suor Angelica" performance free of charge in a livestream, Petrenko described the opera as "very realistic." It tells the story of a young woman sent to a convent seven years earlier by her family as punishment for having an illegitimate child. Heroines dominate some of Puccini's most famous operas, such as "La Boheme," "Madame Butterfly," "Tosca" and "Turandot." But in "Suor Angelica," the great Italian opera composer has written a piece in which women make up the entire cast, which Huempel, a German theatre and opera director, said was unusual for an opera. Huempel sees similarities between this story of a mother separated from her illegitimate child, and the plight of peo- ple struggling to exert their sense of dignity in modern-day strife. "Worldwide, mothers are separated from their children because of fleeing violence or war," said Huempel, who also oversaw the opera's costumes. "We have moved the location of the opera [from the setting of a convent] to a spiritual place today where women meet to process traumas, do meditation exercises or simply optimize their lives," she said. The opera's performance formed part of the Berlin Philharmonic's education programme, which aims to make the orche- stra's work and its music as accessible to as many people as possible. The "Suor Angelica" team was drawn from 14 nations. Russian-born Petrenko, who conducted the performance with his customary verve - once described by a philharmonic orchestra member as like the energy of a kung-fu master - said the opera was "something unique." It was performed by young singers from Berlin music schools as well as the Choir of the Vocal Heroes Choral Programme and in cooperation with the Berlin music theatre company Nico and the Navigators. The international cast of singers and musicians performing the opera are lar- gely under 30 - with some considerably younger. The leading Swedish soprano, Katarina Dalayman, aged 57, plays the only adult role in the opera. However, a large part of the evening belonged to the American soprano Ann Toomey, who sang the role of Angelica. "Petrenko's 'Suor Angelica' is painfully impacting - striving for one's dignity in this toxic world! What a beautiful and aching triumph!" tweeted the American composer and choral conductor Emerson Eads. In his Digital Concert conversation, Petrenko said he thought the youthful age of the singers helped to produce "a very authentic" sound which created the sense of young nuns as lost souls in a convent. He also paid tribute to the opera's orche- stra, which included young musicians from the Karajan Academy. It was founded 40 years ago by the Berlin Philharmonic's legendary chief conductor Herbert von Karajan for orchestra members to tutor young musicians. "These young musicians take it all in," said Petrenko, who launched his first season as Berlin Philharmonic chief conductor in August last year. They played, he said, "with fire in their eyes."
Sister Osmina holds an empty dress in her hands. Sadly, the dancer and choreographer Yui Kawaguchi carries the piece of cloth across the stage - a simple and at the same time immensely powerful image for death. For Sister Angelica has just taken her own life. She had previously learned from her aunt, the princess, that her young son had died. Because of this illegitimate "misstep" Angelica had been disowned seven years ago and put into a convent. Her only wish to see her little son again never came true. After the deeply sad farewell aria "Senza mamma" , in which Angelica laments that her son has died "without a mother", she decides to meet him again in death - which succeeds with the help of the Virgin Mary. Best cast, authentic young female voices Singer Ann Toomey musically portrays "Suor Angelica" with great vocal power. In the choreographic and scenic performance by Yui Kawaguchi, the modern dimension of this female figure also becomes clear. The other parts and roles are without exception also well cast. Women throughout - how could it be otherwise in a nunnery. Authentic young female voices, which do not necessarily have to be fully developed - Kirill Petrenko was looking forward to this before the performance and described "Suor Angelica" as an ideal piece for the education project. Obviously, the young orchestra musicians of the Karajan Academy, the support program for future Philharmonic musicians, were able to learn a lot here. With them and the singers, Petrenko created a highly lyrical Puccini lyrical Puccini, depicting emotions in transparent orchestral sounds that are free of mawkishness. What luck it must have been for the young education participants from 13 different countries to work with one of the best opera conductors and to profit from his knowledge of modern music theater. "Screen breaks" are missing Director Nicola Hümpel then defines new ways of seeing for the audience in this opera evening: the singers always turn sideways while singing, looking into cameras to the left or right of the stage. The arias filmed in this way appear in close-ups behind the singers on a video screen. However, the really large screen in the center of the podium dominates the performance after a short time. For the razor-sharp images of the cameras absorb almost the entire attention with their intensity. As an audience member, you have to tear yourself away from the cinematic big screen again and again in order not to lose sight of the real action on stage. Short "screen breaks" in between would do the modern production good, so the visual effect wears off after a while. Grand entrance of a grand dame of opera In the end, however, the modern screen experiment with its two visual levels provides completely new views: The Princess - the only role in the play performed by an experienced singer, Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Dalayman - leaves the stage after the death of her niece. Normally, this would cause her to disappear from the audience's field of vision. Here, however, you can continue to watch her via the big screen, outside in the foyer of the Philharmonie, all alone with her sorrows and a drink she takes like bitter medicine. A great performance by a grand dame of opera, broadcast live to the hall - while on stage the nuns slowly but surely transform into modern young women.
“An impressive idea by the otherwise pleasantly reserved Berlin director Nicola Hümpel with her ensemble Nico and the Navigators. Petrenko is also restrained during the final applause in favor of the young artists, but rightly beams all over his face.”
A Star is Born" was my impression after the performance of Giacomo Puccini's drama "Suor Angelica" as part of the Berliner Philharmoniker's Education Program. For the first time, their chief Kirill Petrenko conducts an opera in Berlin, but with loud young, very talented people. They are the scholarship holders of the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic, who play their instruments with verve and almost like professionals. The choir of the Vokalhelden choral program also does a good job. The phrase "folk heroes" is intended to lower inhibitions and encourage young people to join the choir. The greatest astonishment, however, is aroused by the 13 female singers, vocal soloists and students from Berlin's music academies. They sing and play the sisters in this Marian convent. Singing in Italian according to Puccini, they create their roles with temperament, joy of performance and already well-developed voices. The newcomers to the convent first take off their colorful wardrobe, slip into the white convent garb and then sit together with those who have lived in the convent for a longer time on a long bench in front of Petrenko and the instrumentalists, but directly opposite the audience. On a large screen they can also be seen exactly from the front, whether they are angrily contorting their faces or singing their parts. Oliver Proske has developed the stage concept and this video technology, which in its permanent existence sometimes seems somewhat disturbing and distracts from Puccini's music. How it is sung, on the other hand, can be closely observed. Since everything is recorded directly, it is also evident that the young singers obviously have no stage fright. When they receive punishment for their minor sins, some, as is equally apparent, do contort their faces, but overall they all seem relatively content in this seclusion. Also Ann Toomey as the actual Sister Angelica (now written in German). She carries only one sting in her heart: for seven years she has never received word from her propertied family, who, after she gave birth to an illegitimate son, put her in a convent to atone for her "misdemeanor." Nor did she ever see her infant son again. But then her princely aunt finally comes to visit, the soprano Katarina Dalayman, who also sings mezzo parts. But only with a document that is supposed to regulate the redistribution of the property, since Angelika's sister is getting married. Ms. Dalayman portrays her as a person with a petrified heart who, when Angelica asks her about her child, pitilessly announces that it died two years ago. A world is now breaking down for Sister Angelica, and as Ann Toomey sings it, it goes straight to the heart. Her powerful, intonation-clean and sonorous soprano, which after lyrical passages now dramatically expresses all her despair, floods through the large, very well-filled Philharmonie. Yet despite the believable anguish, her voice never becomes shrill, even in the high range. Her intensely sung despair brings tears to the eyes of some listeners. She tears the notarial deed brought by her aunt into pieces and forms a baby figure from it, which she puts on her arm. She has never been able to hold her own son in her arms, now she wants to join him in heaven. She drinks a weed killer and remembers too late that hell is certain for a Catholic suicide. A new surge of despair overcomes her and again, pleading with Mother Mary for help, she delivers a gripping vocal performance. "A Star is Born," is my impression, which will probably be shared later by the audience cheering for her. During her farewell song and still afterwards, two sisters make out of her former clothes loud little graves for more babies formed out of paper. There seem to be many of them in secret. An impressive idea by the otherwise pleasantly restrained Berlin director Nicola Hümpel with her ensemble Nico and the Navigators. Petrenko, too, is restrained during the final applause in favor of the young artists, but rightly beams all over his face. Here are all the sisters in their roles: Ann Toomey soprano (Suor Angelica); Katarina Dalayman soprano (La zia principessa), Daniela Vega mezzo-soprano (La badessa), Fleur Barron mezzo-soprano (La suora zelatrice), Sarah Laulan alto (La maestra delle novizie), Aurora Marthens soprano (Suor Genovieffa), Qing Wang soprano (Suor Dolcina), Aphrodite Patoulidou soprano (La suora infirmiera), Alessia Schumacher soprano (1st alms seeker), Ekaterina Bazhanova mezzo-soprano (2nd almoner and 2nd lay sister), Yeo-Jung Ha soprano (1st lay sister), Bernadeta Astari soprano (1st novice), complemented by the spectacularly agile dancer Yui Kawaguchi (Suor Osmina).
“Nicola Hümpel, director of the renowned performance troupe Nico and the Navigators, which just had a huge success in Hanover with Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia, updates Suor Angelica discreetly and includes the fate of children threatened by war and hunger …Great cheers in the sold-out Philharmonie after a memorable educational performance.”
The Berliner Philharmoniker's so-called Education Program has set itself the task of awakening an enjoyment of classical music across all generations and social classes. The means of this form of musical education are many and varied: there are concerts for children and young people, workshops, projects with marginalized people - this season it is prisoners - and there are the vocal heroes: Amateur choirs for all ages that participate in professional events. And the driving forces are always top musical talents, first and foremost Sir Simon Rattle, who initiated the program furiously almost 20 years ago with the dance spectacle Le Sacre du printemps, and most recently conducted modern operas tailored to the concept. His successor Kirill Petrenko continues the commitment. As his debut, the new Philharmonic leader chooses Suor Angelica, the lyrical centerpiece of Giacomo Puccini's three-part Il Trittico, which he has already conducted in its entirety in Munich. The tragedy of a young woman who, after the birth of her illegitimate son, is banished by her family to a convent, where she learns of his death through her aunt and then seeks suicide, is unusual in terms of material for an education program. But the timelessness of the mother-child theme may have been decisive for the choice, especially since the short opera offers many small roles for young female artists. Nicola Hümpel, director of the renowned performance troupe Nico and the Navigators, who just had a huge success in Hannover with Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia in Hanover, subtly updates Suor Angelica to include the fate of children threatened by war and hunger, along with a call for donations for a war children's project in the Congo printed in the program booklet. The nuns are a community of outsiders. In an added piano prologue of Puccini motifs, they introduce themselves one by one. Then follows the opera, in which Hümpel visualizes the confining convent life by means of synchronized movements, ritual actions and dance sketches. For this purpose, the faces are superimposed on a screen in close-up - a characteristic of the Navigators and their stage designer Oliver Proske. Faith to Face, that is, after all, the subtitle. The appearance and departure of the aunt is also seen on video. via video. She gets out of a cab and wanders through the foyer of the Philharmonie until she finally enters the stage. Later, after her tense duet with Angelica, she will get drunk in the bar. But basically, so much scenic actionism is not necessary at all. Because it distracts from the music and yet one wants to absorb every beat intensely. Because under the hands of Kirill Petrenko, Puccini's score becomes the main attraction. If only because the conductor celebrates it with so much devotion. The way he lets the music flow organically, bringing out the finest dynamic gradations and tonal colors: That makes the performance an event. It goes without saying that the scholarship holders of the Karajan Academy follow Petrenko's markings with the greatest attention and translate them into a magical sound. Ann Tomey's Angelica, after a restrained beginning, rises to poignant vocal and acting intensity, crowned by luminous high Cs. Katarina Dalayman exudes majestic authority as the Aunt and impresses with a profound contralto. The nuns are sung by up-and-comers, some of whom are still students. Representative of the high vocal level of the soloists is Daniela Vega's Abbess. And also the vocal heroines distinguish themselves by absolute homogeneity. Great jubilation in the sold-out Philharmonie after a memorable educational performance.
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