There are many too rarely played operas which would enhance the repertoires of the opera houses across the
country. The Aalto Theater in Essen is mixing up their old beloved repertoire, consisting of Mozart, Verdi and Wagner, with infrequent played operas as The Love for Three Oranges by
Prokofiev. Its fantastical content and pictorial speaking music is drawing the story of a prince whose illness can only be cured by his own laughter. After convalescing, a bane forces him
being in love with three oranges which he is in need to find. As always in fairytales, in the end the prince is getting his princess and they all lived happily ever after.
The Aalto Theater uses a staging of De Nationale Opera Amsterdam from 2005 to play Prokofiev's opera. Laurent Pelly's production is set up in a land of cards which reminds of Alice in Wonderland (stage set: Chantal Thomas). Even the choir is dressed in colours of cards (costumes: Laurent Pelly) to show patriotism to their king's land. Notably was the opera choir and extra-choir of the Aalto Theater (rehearsal: Patrick Jaskolka) presenting its full dramatic power in the final. In this way he created a heroic ending. Big part of this production is a massive amount of movements and crosses over the stage (rehearsal: Nico Weggemans). This brings liveliness into the staging and with little extra pantomime in the singer's playing, this partially overdramatic opera got a wisp of humor.
Tijl Faveyts as King Treff demonstrated a worried father whose son's illness is causing him sorrow, which he showed with his warm and soft voice. As the king's advisor Pantalon, Martijn Cornet represented the counterpart to his king. Cornet’s bright baritone voice with a natural height and exaggerated acting were one of the premiere night’s highlight. Alexey Sayapin showed up as splendidly casted for the melancholy prince. He played with his lyric tenor voice to create an atmosphere something in between of awfully wistful and kind of tragic-comical. His love to princess Ninetta (Christina Clark) sang Sayapin with plenty of melodiousness. This was the part when Sayapin showed the power in his young voice. Christina Clark sang with a gentle and very clear voice. Especially the high notes were sung in a precise way to make a difference to the wicked Fata Morgana (Teiya Kasahara). Her interpretation consisted of big vibratos and a full sound in her flexible voice. Albrecht Kludszuweit as the court jester Truffaldino amused not only the prince but also the audience. He fits perfectly into the concept of this production as it seems he is never standing still at one spot. Kludszuweit transported the idea of an always happy jester who would leave nothing untried to make his prince smile. In spite of all his dancing and jumping was his voice not suffering from this acting and appeared in a highly clear but strong manner. The Essener Philharmoniker under Yannis Pouspourikas could have given even more sound in Truffaldinos parts as his voice came easily over the orchestra and filled the auditorium. Heiko Trinsinger in his role as the evildoer Leander showed a dark timbre and was perfectly in harmony with soprano An De Ridder as the cruel Clarisse. According to the score this part requires a contralto. This is maybe why An De Ridder’s could not show the full volume of her beautiful voice. Especially the lower parts could not stand the orchestra. Fata Morganas antagonist the wizard Tschelio was sung by Bart Driessen with a markedly deep and full timbre. The audience gave Baurzhan Anderzhanov a big laughter for his entrance as the cook. No one expected such a deep bass voice coming out of the clearly feminine dressed woman’s mouth. Anderzhanov gave his voice a smoky and dirty sound which frightened the protagonists Truffaldino and the prince.
This production is great theater with superb singers who are also able to act and interact with the audience. Set and costume design matches perfectly. I only could not figure out why the light design (Joël Adam) was kept very bright through the whole opera. In my opinion more often changing and diverse lights would have created an even more magical staging. But maybe exactly this was the intention: maybe this bright light was likewise a reminder, that the surreal story on stage can never happen in reality.
This well elaborated production and the great cast get 8 out of 10 stars.
Reviewed by Christine Arnold