|Mireille Mosse, Uku Uusberg - Requiem... and life before - Birgitta Festival, Tallinn|
photo Heiti Kruusmaa
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Aug 19 2016
Music theatre piece based on Mozart's music and letters, performed in the ruins of an Estonian convent
|Uku Uusberg and soloists|
Requiem... and life before - Birgitta Festival, Tallinn photo Heiti Kruusmaa
For the first of my two visits to this year's festival on Friday 19 August 2016 I saw Requiem... and life before a music theatre piece by Joel Lauwers based on Mozart's Requiem and texts from his letters. Joel Lauwers designed and directed, Mihhail Gerts conducted the Latvian State Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. Actor Uku Uusberg played the protagonist Eugene Trazom, soprano Yuka Yanagihara played Aileen, Trazom's wife, mezzo-soprano Helen Lokuta played Marianne, Trazom's sister, tenor Thomas Volle played Emanuel, Trazom's friend and bass Simon Robinson played Trazom's father, with actors Andri Luup, Tiia als, Kaja Plovits, Elisabeth Peterson, and Kaido Kelder. The French actress Mireille Mosse played Mrs Death.
|Latvian State Choir photo Heiti Kruusmaa|
The set had a large lozenge shaped pit in the middle (for the orchestra), with the fore-stage thus divided into two main acting areas, stage left was the Trazom's home, and stage right was the domain of Mireille Mosse's Mrs Death. Here was an open grave, and here she summoned people to die. At the rear of the stage was a screen on which projections changed, varying from the Pirita ruins themselves to city scenes. The screen could open to reveal a tableau often involving the chorus, these were not always silent and would sometimes invade the stage making random noises.
The result was striking and intriguing, though we gained only a little sense of the protagonist's inner life. At the moment of his unexpected death, the Requiem started with his wife (soprano Yuka Yanagihara) singing the soprano solo in the opening movement at the funeral obsequies. The movements of the Requiem proceeded through the various mourning rituals for the protagonist, but in fact he had refused to die and formed a spectator at these with a constant, silent duel being fought between Uku Uusberg's Trazom and Mireille Mosse's Mrs Death. Much was made of their physicality, Mosse is diminutive (Wikipedia states that she is only 120cm tall and Uusberg is more than twice that). Finally, at the end of the Requiem, Trazom descended.
It was an intriguing prospect, and formed a striking dramatic complement to the sung Requiem.
|Uku Uusberg, Latvian State Choir - photo Heiti Kruusmaa|
All the singers were miked, and the sound was strong and focussed, but lacked a sense of directionality. The sound picture was more like listening to a recording than watching a stage event. The Latvian State Choir were on impressive form, making a strong, vibrant sound which managed to be stylishly Mozartian too. Of course, this was a large scale performance, but there is no problem with that when done well, as here. Mihhail Gerts controlled his forces were, and there were only one or two moments when the staging got in the way of ensemble. Half hidden from view, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra gave a mellifluous account of the score with some lovely playing from the all important basset clarinets.
The four soloists Yuka Yanagihara, Helen Lokuta, Thomas Volle, and Simon Robinson were on fine form. Yanagihara spun a fine line in the opening (and closing) solo and Lokuta sang with fine rich tone. The tenor's opening solo clearly held no terrors for Volle, and Robinson produced some lovely resonant tones for the 'Tuba mirum', though it was a shame that the logic of the drama meant that he sang much of the later solo part off stage.
|Requiem... and life before - Birgitta Festival, Tallinn - photo Heiti Kruusmaa|
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Very funny indeed: Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at Grimeborn Festival - Opera review
- Pilgrimage to Santiago: Gabriel Jackson's To the field of stars - CD review
- A day in Reykjavik: Ponce, Piazolla and Icelandic song at Harpa - concert review
- Beguiling charm: Sullivan's complete incidenal music to Macbeth and to The Tempest - CD review
- Intriguing: Music for clarinet by Michael Finnissy - CD review
- Elegiac modernism: Richard Strauss's Capriccio at Santa Fe - Opera review
- Channelling Gone with the Wind: Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at Santa Fe Opera - Opera review
- Hollywood noir: Samuel Barber's Vanessa at Santa Fe Opera - Opera review
- Quirky combination: Haydn and Ligeti - Cd review
- Sylvan delights:Gounod's La Colombe at West Green House
- Fascinating sound-world: Bartosz Glowacki on accordion - concert review