Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Und neigte das Haupt und verschied'

'and bowed his head and died' - Jesus in Bach's St John's Passion.

But he didn't. He frigging didn't! I'd heard that this was a very slow production at the Vilnius Opera and Ballet Theatre, but I was not bothered. I love this piece, bought the score and came back specially for this performance and the St Matt's Passion next week in the Filharmonija.

The score was a mishtake - the opera house was pitch dark. I had bought the last ticket available, in January (!) and was in the 15th row. Almost no point of going at all. Couldn't recognise anyone on the stage. Which may be as well in some cases.

I began to worry when the orchestra started noodling around the opening introduction; noodle, noodle, noodle and not a clear note among it. It then turned out to be an extremely stylised production by the American Robert Wilson (if he were Scottish, there would be about 500 of them in an area the size of a thimble). Fast movement? Forget it? Movement (I'm talking human movement, not part of a piece of music)? It was robotic, they moved, and then froze for a good long while - often in poses akin to Indian temple dancers. The costumes were sort of clerical, single colour head to foot; the choir members' heads were painted the same colour as their clothes. Beams moved along the back of the stage - every time you looked, they were in a different place, but you hardly ever saw them move. Now, I love the piece, but I could not see the band, there was no action on the stage, and I could not read my score. Not my idea of a Bach passion. Not interesting. I did not feel any passion.

The opera house orchestra is not made for Bach either. The obbligatos were really quite rough. The singers...so I cannot tell you who sang what, because I was too far away. Especially since my score has 5 main soloist parts, and the website lists 10 singing soloists, plus two choir members stepped forward during the applause. One of the singers had a voice problem, and the German Dominik Koninger sang for him from the edge of the stage (the part of the servant, I think). Not bad. The male alto had intonation issues, I thought - his first aria seemed way off-beam. Johannes von Duisburg, a regular attender in Vilnius, probably Jesus, did well.

At least the diction was better and I could understand most words. People seemed to like it, though I am not sure whether the standing ovation was due to achievement or due to the need to rush to the loo urgently - there had been no break and people suffered.