I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Germany this January and while I was there I also was able to see many Operas. As you may know, Germany has a rich history of Operatic performing, as well as composing, and I found it quite exhilarating to be in the same cities as so many great musicians had been, and seeing the same orchestras which perhaps at one point had been the collaborators (historically speaking) with some of the most notable Opera composers during the past three centuries.
In the spirit of brevity, I will describe my journey through Germany in terms of my Operatic experiences, so that you will be able to reap the largest rewards from my time there. And, hopefully, even though you were not there with me, it will be as though you were- and that way these wonderful performances will be able to reach you as an audience, and hopefully you will be spurred to make your own trip to Germany sometime soon, or at least to your local Opera theaters, where ever those may be.
The first opera I experienced was a production of Verdi's Rigoletto performed at the Komische Oper Berlin, which is a lovely Rococo-style theater located on Behrenstrasse, in the same neighborhood as the Russian Embassy, the British Embassy, and Cafe Einstein, among other notable landmarks in the Berlin landscape. I viewed this performance on Monday, the 28th of December from the top right hand corner of the balcony (but, it should be mentioned that since this theater is such a small theater- reminiscent of a jewelry box-being in the topmost balcony in no way hindered my ability to see or hear the action on stage). The performance was sung in German with German and English subtitles which were cleverly situated, I might add, on the back of the seat in front of you (similar to the Met, but these are actually on the seat back itself).
The singers were as follows: Christopher Robertson as Rigoletto, Julia Novikova as Gilda, Tilmann Roennebeck as Sparafucile/Monterone, David Williams as Graf von Ceprano, Christiane Oertel as Die Graefin von Ceprano/Maddalena/Giovanna, Hector Sandoval as Der Herzog von Mantua, Guenter Papendell as Marullo, and Christoph Spaeth as Borsa. The production was entirely modern and the costumes were seemingly from the 1950's and 60's, as there were suits with vests and then later monkey suits with monkey masks and clown suits with clown masks for the male chorus members, and seemingly run-of-the-mill working-class garb for the principals. It is important to note that the set was very minimal, a raked stage, and three monochromatic white walls (which were then color-changed with lighting) and therefore, costumes played a huge role in this production. Not only did they serve to project the intended characterization of each performer, but they also had to ignite the viewer's interest since the rest of the stage was so empty (minus a few set pieces when absolutely needed- a closet for Gilda to pop out of in the first Act, a descending staircase to indicate the jail, and a box for Gilda to creep out of when she dies). Rigoletto's costumes were certainly the most drastic in terms of contrast between his life at court (as the audience is supposed to view it through the eyes of the costume designer) and his life at home with Gilda. His first outfit is an impossibly humongous paper mache head (akin to a real-life bobble head figurine) with a grimacing smile on the front side and a crying frown on the back side, accompanied by a silver and white dress with a hoop skirt large enough to cover half the stage (since, when the chorus first enters, they actually climb out from under this very dress).
In regards to the singing, I am hard pressed to remember exactly what I thought since it was about two months ago, however, I do remember that I really liked Hector Sandoval as the Duke, and I also liked Christopher Robertson as Rigoletto.