Monday, May 21, 2018

Gold filigree stained with blood - Fabio Luisi conducts Hindemith’s Cardillac at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Photo: Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Suzanne Daumann

Blood and gold, love and lust: Hindemith and Lion’s masterpiece deals with the very essence of life as a human being and its most powerful symbols. The protagonist, Cardillac, is a goldsmith, so much in love with his creations that he murders his clients in order to retrieve them. Right from the start, we are confronted with violence and the way it breeds violence: in the initial scene the citizens of Paris are talking about a series of murders in the city, disagreements ensue and several strangers almost get lynched. Right from the start, we are shaken to the core by Hindemith’s music. It is soberly expressive, finely instrumented, close to chamber music in its use of solos and small ensembles. Fabio Luisi conducts the wonderful orchestra and choir of the Maggio Musicale and a marvelous cast with just the right amount of expressivity, highlighting the many instrumental moments of heart-stopping beauty, giving time to the drama to unfold. And we follow him to the darker regions of the human heart. Valerio Binasco’s staging is mercifully unassuming - Guido Fiorato’s sober and sombre scenography, Gianluca Falasco’s costumes that evoke the time of the opera’s creation, everything is in perfect accordance with the piece, stage movements develop from the musical content. As the drama unfolds, after the initial scene, we follow a couple of lovers. In perfect romantic fashion, she tells him she’d be his on the night, if he comes to her with a jewel by Cardillac. She waits for him in her bedroom, singing her desire and he comes and brings the gold, and so she loves him. Johannes Chum’s soft and warm tenor and Jennifer Larmore’s glowing soprano come together in joy and gold and the woodwinds sing harmony and bliss. Still Cardillac needs his creation back and murders the two of them.  After the interval, we find ourselves in Cardillac’s house, where his daughter waits on him. The visit of a gold merchant, sung by tenor Pavel Kudinov, obviously ill at ease in the goldsmith’s presence, opens the first door to public suspicion. Baritone Martin Gantner sings a convincing, moving Cardillac. His mellow and volatile voice blends splendidly with Gun-Brit Barkmin’s bright soprano and Ferdinand von Bothmer’s strong tenor, respectively the daughter and the officer. The ensembles between these three characters must be among the most moving moments of the opera repertoire. The instrumentation underscores the many different aspects of this triangle father-daughter-lover and again, Maestro Luisi and the orchestra are there to hold it all together. Right until the end, they keep up the energy and the suspense. Towards the end, we are confronted with the question of loyalty: The officer has bought a jewel from Cardillac and gets aggressed by him. Cardillac is the serial killer that keeps the city in uproar. Loyal to his new family, the officer decides to cover for him. Cardillac however is loyal to his own principles, or murderous folly, and gives himself up. Before the authorities can get  him, he is lynched by the furious mob. Only then, once the bloodlust is appeased, is he again seen as the great artist, and ultimately his own victim. From afar, we hear Wagner’s Rhinedaughters’ incantation of „Rheingold“. Is this, then, the next stage of the gold’s curse? Had Cardillac developed the same madness if he had worked on some different material?  For those of us who go to the opera to nourish the mind while enjoying the glorious sounds, this work is a treat, and this production does it ample justice. Bravi tutti, thank you, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino!

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