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So what does this sound like? I enjoyed Karita Mattila’s performance as Leonore – her voice here has a weight to it that contrasts very nicely with that of Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Marzelline. The latter sounded a little fluttery early in Act I, but by the first quartet she has warmed up and the sound is very pleasant. René Pape is not used to full advantage as Rocco – I know Pape can bring the big guns both vocally and in terms of acting and this role doesn’t quite give him the chance to do that. Ben Heppner as Florestan was appropriately heroic-sounding. The men’s chorus has some stirring moments during Act I – there’s some really nice chorus/orchestra interplay here (I noticed it during “O welche Lust”). Finally, remember that production of Mary Stuart from Houston a while back? The tenor singing Leicester in that instance, Eric Cutler, appears here as the First Prisoner. I don’t have much to say because he doesn’t have much to sing, but – well, there you are. I guess there really aren’t that many opera singers in the world, are there?
So. This is a performance of an opera that is about exactly what it purports to be about, which is the triumph of freedom and conjugal love over tyranny and oppression. Perhaps if I were an early nineteenth-century person I might find the drama uplifting – I think it’s definitely supposed to be. But again, no one in the story ever really has to decide anything; you don’t get the sense from this performance that anyone’s motives are mixed. It’s this very quality of utter earnestness that is, paradoxically, kind of confusing: one doesn’t know how to react, or quite how to feel about it.