Musical impressions from Peralada Festival 2015

Among the various events of Peralada Festival 2015 we attended a recital by German tenor Klaus Florian Vogt and a single fully staged performance of Verdi’s Othello.

Klaus Florian Vogt Recital

A capacity audience greeted Klaus Florian Vogt at the Peralada Festival. Klaus Florian’s festival debut was held in the estate church, a charming venue, with appropriate stained glass angels playing musical instruments overhead.

It was not easy for Klaus to adjust to the difficult acoustic of the church, with a booming echo if he sang loudly, contrasting with his voice disappearing when he sang quietly. Within a short time, however, he was in full and expressive voice and control, with a wide range of repertoire. The highlights for many of the audience were his “Winterstürme” from Die Walküre, and a sublime excerpt from Lohengrin, both sung with elegance and much dramatic expression. The enthusiastic audience was delighted by two encores.

Triumphant Otello

The open-air auditorium at Peralada seats 1,700 and a huge crowd gathered excitedly for the one-off staging of Othello. Starting at 10.00pm, and finishing at 1.00am, this was a true operatic marathon, and the stunning performance well rewarded the enthusiastic audience.

The opera opened with Jago trying on Othello’s costumes, setting an early marker for director Paco Azorin’s vision of the story. Massive scenery, hauled around the large stage by Jago’s formidable henchmen, created a stormy background for the large chorus and brilliant soloists. The chorus, from Barcelona’s Liceu Opera House, were in full voice and created a great impact in the opening scene. Carlos Alvarez was an ominously strong, scheming Jago, well matched by Gregory Kunde’s Othello. Gregory brought great authority to the part, reminiscent of Sir John Tomlinson in voice and stage presence.

Desdemona was sung by Eva-Maria Westbroek.  She captured a wide range of emotions and was able to use her voice in a way which overcame the difficulties of an open-air performance, and still retain all the colours and nuances of the part. She was no less than magnificent. With the rest of the cast, including all of the chorus, in black, Eva’s white dress stood out with brilliant clarity.

The orchestra of the Liceu, conducted by Riccardo Frizza, played with great precision and passion; this was no slouch engagement whilst on holiday – this was a fully committed reading of the score.

A very happy audience continued afterwards to dinner, or the (open air) bar, or even into the casino.

Peralada has a very big stage, used to great effect in this most intense of Verdi operas. This new Peralada production was co-produced with the Macerata Opera Festival (Italy) where it will be seen on an even bigger stage with even bigger arena audience. Productions of this high quality certainly deserve more than one outing!

Jeremy D. Rowe

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