The Salzburg Festival had not originally planned to celebrate its 100th anniversary with Cosi fan tutte. As it turned out, the Summer 2020 production of Mozart’s intimate opera was hailed by the German newspaper Die Welt as “The best Mozart at Salzburg for decades … Everything worked, coming together in fabulous harmony: acting, singing and theatrical concept.” The Austrian magazine Profil spoke of “The return of opera after the first lockdown in the form of a perfect Mozartian miracle”.
Before the coronavirus wrought havoc on the world, the Austrian festival had scheduled seven operas to mark its centenary. In the event, it staged just two, honouring the two composers most closely identified with Salzburg: Strauss (with Elektra) and Mozart. The production of Cosi fan tutte was created in a matter of weeks by a team led by award-winning stage director Christoph Loy and conductor Joana Malwitz. General music director in the German city of Nuremberg, Malwitz became the first woman to conduct a series of performances at the Salzburg Festival. The three female singers in the cast are all closely linked with the Erato label – soprano Elsa Dreisig and mezzo-sopranos Marianne Crebassa and Lea Desandre (respectively Fiordiligi, Dorabella and Despina) – while the male singers were tenor Bogdan Volkov and baritones Andrè Schuen and Johannes Martin Kränzle (Ferrando, Guglielmo and Don Alfonso).
Typically for a production by Christoph Loy – one of the world’s leading opera directors – streamlined, contemporary design set the scene for penetrating psychology. The opera is subtitled ‘The School for Lovers’, and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s ostensibly comic libretto is famously full of improbabilities and ambiguities as, for a bet, two young men disguise themselves and attempt to deceive their girlfriends. “I feel the piece is an invitation to enjoy life with all its complications,” says Loy. “That, combined with the prospect of potential future happiness, is quite something. For me, the fact that Mozart composed a ‘lieto fine’, a ‘happy ending’, is not mere convention — it corresponds to his deepest convictions about life.” The Viennese newspaper Die Presse found that Loy created “a relationship drama with humour and depth”, while the French newspaper Le Figaro praised “a subtle and lively production”.
To respect Austria’s Covid-19 protocols, the opera was reduced in length and played without an interval. This DVD, filmed on the first night of the production, runs for some two hours 25 minutes. Noting that the coherence and flow of the opera was preserved in this condensation, Musical America observed that: “Loy sees it as a work in which joy and melancholy are in tension. Everyone is caught in a state of emotional volatility, and the genius of the staging is that at any moment you never know – contrary to logic – which of the two conflicting emotions will surface.” “Attention was focused on the characters,” wrote the French website Altamusica, “Everything depended on the fluidity of the adaptation, which was absolutely convincing.”
There was a full-scale orchestra in the pit of Salzburg’s Grosses Festspielhaus and the chorus made its brief contributions from behind the scenes. Le Figaro described Malwitz’s interpretation of the score as “a jewel of quicksilver precision, drawing a hypersensitive, sparkling response from the Wiener Philharmoniker and giving meaning to each accent and change of tempo,” while radio station Deutsche Welle found it “Buoyant, intimate, fizzing with life.”
As for the performers on stage, Bachtrack asserted that “It’s difficult to believe Salzburg could have cast this Così any better.” The Frankfurter Rundschau declared the singing “a revelation, both in terms of individual performances and as a harmonious ensemble,” while the Salzburger Nachrichten admired “An ideal ensemble in a consummately balanced interpretation of Mozart’s experiment in love and life.”
The UK’s Opera magazine wrote that: “In a beautifully balanced cast Johannes Martin Kränzle was a more sceptical than cynical Don Alfonso. Elsa Dreisig’s luminous Fiordiligi and Marianne Crebassa’s feisty Dorabella were as well contrasted as Bogdan Volkov’s mellifluous Ferrando and Andrè Schuen’s vigorous Guglielmo, while Lea Desandre was a perky Despina.” Germany’s Orpheus magazine observed that “Elsa Dreisig and Marianne Crebassa made superb vocal sisters, singing with refinement as a pair and each sensationally good in her own right. Their male counterparts were in no way lacking by comparison: rising star baritone Andrè Schuen sang and acted the role of Guglielmo with the appropriate youthful swagger, while the perfect tenor lyricism of Bogdan Volkov … brought tears to one’s eyes. Johannes Martin Kränzle excelled as a warm, mellifluous, dandified Don Alfonso and Lea Desandre’s bubbly Despina captivated with her intensity.”
The Salzburg Festival’s artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser sums up the entire enterprise in an eloquent statement: “…Cosi fan tutte as we have seldom experienced it: overwhelmingly beautiful and adroit, and of profound refinement and elegance. We are delighted that this production – which allows audiences to hear and experience the miracle of Mozart in all its delicacy and grace, and realised with the greatest theatrical and musical intelligence – is now available on DVD.”
05 November 2019
Elsa Dreisig teams up with American pianist Jonathan Ware to serve "an inner journey through the seasons of the soul"
“Phenomenally good … Dreisig’s voice [is] youthful yet assured, agile yet fluid, and powerful through its entire range … We can certainly expect much more to come from this singer,” wrote BBC Music Magazine in its five-star review of Miroir(s), Elsa Dreisig’s debut album of operatic arias and scenes. It was subsequently nominated for two top awards, Gramophone and Opus Klassik.
The young French soprano has now teamed up with American pianist Jonathan Ware for a recital of songs by Richard Strauss, Sergey Rachmaninov and Henri Duparc. It takes its name from one of Strauss’ best-loved songs, ‘Morgen’. As Elsa Dresig point out: “’Morgen’ means tomorrow, but it also means the morning and, in a poetic sense, the East … where everything starts or starts anew.”
Strauss wrote ‘Morgen’ in 1894, when he was just 30 years old, but it is music from the end of his life, 1948, that traces a thematic thread through this album: the Vier letzte Lieder or Four Last Songs. These glorious songs are best known in their sumptuous orchestral version and are generally performed as a single work (though that was not necessarily how Strauss conceived them). Here, Jonathan Ware accompanies Elsa Dreisig on the piano and the four songs are interspersed through a recital programme that includes 17 other numbers (both songs and pieces for solo piano) and which highlights thematic connections and reflections.
For instance, it starts with Duparc’s famous setting of Baudelaire’s ‘L’invitation au voyage’, summoning the listener on a journey. Then comes the exhilarating, airborne ‘Frühling’ (Spring) from the Vier letzte Lieder. Appropriately, this is followed by two flower songs – Rachmaninov’s ‘Daisies’ and Strauss’s ‘Malven’ (Mallows), the last work he ever wrote, which only came to light in 1984 after the death of its dedicatee, the great soprano Maria Jeritza. Then comes another song by Duparc, the sensuous Phidylé, which evokes a woodland setting and the colours and scents of hyacinths, violets and roses. As Elsa Dreisig says, “Morgen is an inner journey through the seasons of the soul.”
Jonathan Ware explains that: "For this recital, Elsa and I chose three composers who each wrote in instantly recognizable styles – Strauss, Rachmaninov and Duparc.” (Born in 1864, 1873 and 1848 respectively, they represent different aspects of late Romanticism.) “While each composer had his own distinctive sound world, the three shared a penchant for rich harmonies, soaring melodic invention, and an almost kaleidoscopic approach to making light and colour audible … The Vier letzte Lieder … serve as signposts for our own inward journey through the seasons of life. Along our own journey we are assured that even as winter’s coldest winds blow, spring will come, just as we know that after night’s deepest darkness wakes the new brightness of morning."
15 May 2018
Franco-Danish soprano Elsa Dreisig signs exclusive recording contract with Erato
Soprano Elsa Dreisig has signed an exclusive recording contract with Erato, with her debut album to be released in October 2018.
The signing comes as the natural next step for the Franco-Danish soprano who, at just 26 years of age, has already been crowned winner of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia (2016), Vocal Discovery of France’s Victoires de la Musique Classique and Opernwelt’s Young Artist of the Year.
Dreisig’s original programme explores how different composers have approached the same great heroines: the Salomé of Massenet and Richard Strauss, the Manon of Massenet and Puccini; Gounod’s Juliette illuminated by little-known composer Daniel Steinbel’s Roméo et Juliette – each dual portrait bringing dramatic and musical insights to some of the greatest female roles of French, Italian and German opera. The album was recorded in Montpellier, France, with the Orchestre national Montpellier Occitanie Pyrénées Méditerranée and Danish conductor Michael Schönwandt.
Elsa Dreisig said: ‘I am extremely fortunate to be guided by Erato for my first album. The label has given me a tremendous amount of support, dedication and above all freedom – the freedom to record a daring debut that reflects my desires and decisions; freedom to explore, experiment and take risks. This kind of openness is so rare these days. I’m delighted that this wonderful adventure with Erato will begin with this album, and I’m already excited to look ahead to more projects on the horizon.
‘For my debut album I chose to plunge into the unknown: I have only sang four of these arias on stage previously and the album features two world-premiere recordings. With this debut I hope to give a sense of my journey as an artist: a musical reflection of my passion and the internal flame that drives me. Rather than simply mirroring the repertoire I’m currently singing on stage, it’s a perspective on the future.’
Alain Lanceron, President of Warner Classics & Erato, added: ‘With a slew of international prizes to her name – Operalia, Neue Stimmen and Les Victoires de la Musique Classique among others – and an impressive start to her career at such a young age, Elsa Dreisig has emerged as a free spirit in the new generation of opera stars. Her daring choices, her eclectic repertoire and an artistry that both embraces and transcends tradition, are all in evidence in the debut recital album she unveils in the Autumn. Erato welcomes a new singular personality to our artistic family, where she is bound to take her place among the greats.’
ABOUT ELSA DREISIG
The renowned vocal competition Operalia awarded Elsa Dreisig First Prize as best female singer of 2016. The same year she was named Vocal Discovery of the prestigious Victoires de la Musique Classique and the highly esteemed magazine Opernwelt granted her the sought-after mention as Young Artist of the Year. In 2017 she was awarded Young Opera Artist of the Year in Denmark’s Copenhagen Opera Festival. As early as 2015, Elsa Dreisig had been awarded both Second Prize of the Queen Sonja Competition in Oslo as well as First Prize and Audience Prize of the New Voices Competition of the Bertelsmann Foundation in Gütersloh. From 2015 through 2017 she was a member of the opera studio of the Berlin State Opera where she has since performed leading roles such as Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) and Euridice (Orfeo ed Euridice). Further engagements within the same period included no less than her debut with the Opéra national de Paris (Pamina), the Zurich Opera (Musetta in La Boheme) and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence (Micaëla in Carmen). Her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in Berlin, Salzburg, Lucerne and Paris (Haydn’s Die Schöpfung) was hailed a sensation. Since 2017/18 she has been an ensemble member of the Berlin State Opera, taking on the roles of Gretchen (Schumann's Szenen aus Goethes Faust at the re-opening of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden), Gretel (Haensel and Gretel) and Violetta (La Traviata). In May 2018 she sings Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), followed by Zerlina (Don Giovanni) in June 2019, both for the Opéra national de Paris, and next year also takes the title role of Manon in a new production for Zürich Opera. Elsa Dreisig graduated from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris.