[Photo Credit: Andreas Birkigt, Oper Leipzig. – Iris Vermillion in Nono’s “Al gran sole…”, Leipzig 2009]
What’s better than a mezzo with a soprano on top? (Other than “nothing”, that is) – A mezzo with four sopranos on top, of course.
Case in question: the formidable Iris Vermillion. And it’s three sopranos and another mezzo, actually. Left to right: Marika Schönberg (soprano), Kathrin Göring (mezzo), Soula Parassidis (soprano) and Tanja Andirjic (soprano).
Just in time for Oct. 9th (the 20th anniversary oft the so-called “peaceful revolution” that led tot he fall of the Berlin wall in 1989), Leipzig Opera reissued the 2004 staging by Peter Konwitschny that won “production of the year”.
I was curious enough to travel up to Leipzig to catch a performance with my friend the dramaturg (coming right after my friend Erda, the green-faced torso) and I was not disappointed.
First of all, the timing is genius – a requiem on the ideals of communism and its very real battles,and losses, exactly at the place where 20 years ago, the mutations of those very ideals were cast out by a people? – Awesome.
Furthermore, it was very pleasant to watch that Leipzig opera seems to grow more of an ensemble spirit again since former intendant Meier has left – the whole evening, despite offering a critical discussion of community ideals, breathes as a team effort – from the outstanding choir performance (Nono without notebooks, btw.) to the lucid, precise Gewandhaus orchestra under the direction of composer/director Johannes Harneit.
It seems against the spirit of such an evening to single out performances, but still: Iris Vermillion as Mother delivers a gripping performance (see Dresden’s Schoeck “Penthesilea” for further reference!). The woman is pillars of sound. And anyone who doesn’t gasp at her Mother reaching after the tossed out soup: go directly to jail and don’t take $2000.
As her son Pawel, Tuomas Pursio offers an equally intense portrayal. At first, I didn’t want to believe my-friend-the dramaturg that this was the same guy who did last season’s Escamillo. It’s not that the Escamillo was bad, but this Pawel is something else, both vocally and in acting.
And then, of course, there is the quartet of ladies, with cast newbie Parassidis making a very strong first impression alongside Göring, who is – says the dramaturg – turning more and more into the core of the ensemble. I’d say that’s very good news for the ensemble. All four navigate through Nono’s stratospheric heights (and the occasional flowery dress) with an aplomb and a verve that makes this evening far more interesting than the Salzburg take on Nono this past summer – that, and the choir.