I really hardly know where to start.
First off, as an obsessive diehard fan, I do think this production is worth seeing. Partly because the chance to see WW produced is (sadly) so rare. But partly also because this is a collection of fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, gripping music, and hearing/seeing it performed by actors/singers with genuine talent and skill is a wonderful experience. So. If you like the play, I would recommend that you see this production. But maybe you should sit with your eyes closed. ;-)
OK, first things first.
The translation is … good enough. Mostly. Supposedly it’s by some guy I never heard of called Ola E Bø, but basically it’s an obvious reworking of Håvard Rem’s Norwegian lyrics from Satans kvinnfolk. Some additional text by Axel Hellstenius. This part I think sucks on principle because one of the facets of WW that I find so impressive is that they sing everything. There are like two spoken lines in the entire two hours, twenty minutes. Even if it’s just a two-word line, they sing it. In this production, though, there’s quite a lot of talking. So … less opera, more musical. IMO, personally, that’s a bad thing.
The cast. Those worth mentioning by name:
Maria Vittoria: Heidi Gjermundsen Broch
Bishop Daniel: Paul Ottar Haga (<3!)
Anna Regina: Gjertrud Jynge
Cardinal Gonzaga: Sigve Bøe
Gertrude: Ingrid Jørgensen Dragland
Anton Fugger: Niklas Gundersen
Plus various Roman nobles/German townspeople/etc.
Gjermundsen Broch is very good. She acts well, she has a beautiful voice, she looks the part. Jynge is … a wonderful singer, fantastic voice. She also looks the part … except for her hair and costume. >:-) She acts it completely horrendously wrong, but for that, I blame the director, Hilde Andersen. Haga … is fantastic, acting- and singing-wise, but – and I really don’t want to be saying this – I think he is really wrong for this part. Graham Bickley did it SO much better. Because what Daniel is, essentially, is a weak man. His inner core is weak, he has no steel in him. He lets himself be ruled over and controlled. He tries to rebel against this, but he doesn’t have what it takes to break free, and he fails. In the end I would say that he actually takes the easy way out. May not look like it, but still. I do think so. What he does seems brave, but it would have demanded more of him to live with himself. Anyway. Daniel is a weakling. But Haga in this role is a strong man who acts weak … if that makes sense. I didn’t buy it.
From the cast list above you may have noticed a conspicuous absence. There’s no Giulia. :-( She’s been written out of the play completely. Wrong decision IMO. (Quel surprise. >:-) She brings so much to the play – human warmth, comic relief, a voice of reason, a beacon of sympathy and light in the utter darkness that comes to surround Maria. The scene where the two meet again in Heidelberg is just heartbreaking.
My beloved friend! How wonderful!
We heard such dreadful stories. I couldn’t stay in Rome.
If only you knew the things that have happened here …
With the right actress, Giulia is a wonderful part, deeply rewarding for both the singer and the audience. But alas, she’s gone. As a result, the Gertrude character is rather different. Only in part the helpless, aging wise woman; also a clever cynic highly alert to danger and quick to attempt evasion. This interpretation weakened the character, IMO. It made her too twisted. And I deeply resent the implication (which does sometimes crop up in productions of WW) of any sort of genuine witchcraft attached to any character. I did see it in this production, and I heartily object to it. Society’s condemnation of these women is cruel to the extent that it is unfounded – if they truly have these arcane powers, condemnation can be justified. And the moral heart of this story is that Maria Vittoria dies a perfect innocent … while the true evildoer remains a respected leader of her community.
The plot has been slightly reworked – first and foremost, it has been shortened. From two hours twenty to … less than two. They must have cut half an hour. Bad choice. ;-) It makes the story very rushed, to the point where logic starts to fail. Events seem to happen way too quickly, especially at the end. It goes without saying that a number of songs have been cut. Both Overtures. :-o And, let me think … The Wedding Contract, The Herb Deal, The Spire, Bad Omens, all of the St John’s Eve scene except Spectral Evidence, several songs from the Sabbath, Cardinal Gonzaga, The End, Almighty God, Reunion and Hallelujah. (They’ve cut The End!! Sob!!) A number of other songs have been conflated to form more compact scenes … nuances being lost along the way. More on that later.
A couple of songs have been added. These are pretty good, but didn’t have the biggest impact on me. Not after just hearing them once. But I thought they were a pretty good fit. And they were performed beautifully. :-)
OK, I think this is long enough now. This is all very general. Don’t worry, though, I have a long list of more specific grievances to address … >:-)
2 weeks ago