Some 18 months ago, Vienna State Opera launched its ‘Live At Home’ service – which uses innovative technologies to make available live broadcasts from the opera house to subscribers via the internet for a subscription of 320 euros a year.
The service – a collaboration between the opera house and Samsung – began officially in May 2014. As this blog reported at the time, audiences worldwide can watch live, or ‘time zone delayed’, via any television connected to the internet, using a SmartTV with a web browser, or via a computer. The video and audio transmitted is of up to full HD quality, depending on the subscriber’s internet connection.
The Vienna State Opera has eight HD cameras as well as state-of-the-art digital video and digital audio studios. Viewers can also access synchronised multilingual subtitles via a free, downloadable app. There is even a synchronised score available for many performances and the ‘Wiener Staatsoper Programmheft App’ (programme booklet app) can also be downloaded, free, to provide a rich multimedia programme booklet in English and German.
Recently, however, this blog went one step further in pursuit of art and sent a correspondent – Graeme Coomber – to Vienna, to watch a performance of Rossini’s opera, ‘La Cenerentola’ (Cinderella), at the opera house. First performed in Rome in 1817, the opera contains pathos and comedy, coloratura fireworks as well as some witty patter – and is considered to be one of Rossini’s most vocally exciting showpieces. As such, it seemed an excellent choice for the holiday season in Vienna.
Graeme writes: Rossini’s La Cenerentola, currently being staged at Vienna’s Staatsoper, has transported the traditional early 19th century setting to Fellini’s Italy of the 1950s, with long flowing dresses, linen suits and dark sunglasses. The staging is all ‘50s functional furniture, classic Italian cars and pedal-powered gelato carts.
Usually, I’m not one for modern interpretations of classic operas and plays but, this time, it worked very well. Maybe the sunny setting had something to do with it – providing a welcome distraction to the prevailing zero-degree temperatures outside the Staatsoper.
Although the staging was definitely pleasing to the eye, it was the music that the capacity audience had really come to witness – in the glorious setting of one of the world’s iconic opera houses. They were not disappointed.
La Cenerentola is an operatic drama giocoso in two acts, composed when Rossini was 25 years old. It followed closely on the success of his opera, The Barber of Seville, which was first produced in 1816.
On this particular evening, the music bubbled with the elegant cheerfulness that is a hallmark of Rossini’s style – complete with vocal pyrotechnics and superb ensemble writing. Standout moments included Alessio Arduini as Dandini, in his singing of ‘Come un’ape’ and the spectacular delivery of Antonio Siragusa (as Prince Ramiro) in ‘Si, ritrovarla io guiro’. Everyone held their breath to see if he could achieve the required top C. He scaled this vocal height with musical aplomb and complete assurance, much to the delight of the adoring, applauding audience.
While the male cast members acquitted themselves with polished aplomb, the female performers brought elegance and true artistry to their roles. Special mention must be made of the mezzo-soprano, Rachel Frenkel, as Angelina (aka La Cenerentola) – especially in her fine phrasing of ‘Nacqui all’affanno, al pianto’, which presented a musical depiction of the veiled heroism demanded by this humblest of characters in this quintessential fairy tale.
The Staatsoper orchestra, under Michael Güttler, ably produced an airy, crisp, orchestral sound, and achieved the well-articulated string and wind playing that Rossini’s score demands – although, on this particular night, their performance of the overture lacked a little “fizz”.
A visit to the Staatsoper should always be on the agenda of all music lovers who find themselves in Vienna. This production of La Cenerentola, performed with customary professionalism to extremely high artistic standards, brought a ray of warm, Italianate musical sunshine to a cold winter’s evening. It was a most enjoyable – and highly recommended – night out.