Magazine article Opera Canada

Oper Leipzig

Magazine article Opera Canada

Oper Leipzig

Article excerpt

Although I was in Leipzig this June hosting a tour to the annual International Bach Festival, I manage to squeeze in a couple of performances at Oper Leipzig, including one of Rossini's La Cenerentola featuring Ottawa mezzo Wallis Giunta, currently a member of the company's ensemble, in the title role. The company is one of Europe's oldest, dating back to the late 17th century, when Telemann was often involved. A new, proper opera theatre was opened in 1868, with both Arthur Nikisch and a young Gustav Mahler working the podium, but in December, 1943, it was destroyed during Allied bombing. After the war, the East German regime built a new house on the same site of the Augustusplatz, inaugurated in 1960. Today, it is also the home of the Leipziger Ballett. The architecture, defined as "socialist classicism," is clean with sharply-defined lines, somewhat stark, nothing elaborate. As well as the snow-flake, mirrorball chandeliers and porcelain tiles from nearby Meissen, I loved that there are only two loge boxes, one on either side of the hall. In a socialist regime, VIPs and dignitaries would be few. Lobby areas are open and comfortable, every seat is good with excellent sightlines and acoustics. Today, Leipzigers tend to look unfavourably on their house, longing perhaps for one with more ostentatious frills and decoration. Yet I enjoyed the house for its unique flash-back qualities--memories of a time now past, but an important reminder of the city's history and cultural character.

Oper Leipzig has a long tradition with Austro-German opera and especially Wagner. This foray into Italian bel canto and Rossini was welcome, and the Leipzigers reacted warmly. Stage direction was by Lindy Hume, the current Artistic Director of Opera Queensland, one of the co-producers. The setting was updated to 19,h-century London and the time of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. …

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