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The opera evokes both dramatic and comic elements, making it a challenge not only to the singers but also the conductor. A critic once said that you can tell a conductor's worth in Ballo by how well they are able to musically evoke the drama of the last act: can they underscore it orchestrally so that the audience is left with such an emotional outburst of music that, as the dying Riccardo forgives his assassin Renato, they cannot help but at least end up with a lump in their throats?

The dying Riccardo (Enrique Ambrosio) forgives Renato (Dimitri Kharitonov). Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin
The dying Riccardo (Enrique Ambrosio) forgives Renato (Dimitri Kharitonov). Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin

I asked around after the performance, and most visitors reported that they did, which means that von Kerssenbrock had done her job. But not only there: she is, as her reputation already has it, a conductor who goes the extra mile. She handles chorus, soloists and orchestra at once, each of them with what seems to be 100% individual attention, and heaven knows how she manages to have her eyes and baton everywhere at once, but she makes sure that every note is played or sung precisely as it should be. As in previous years, she abstains from typical female chichi conducting, her approach to baton and orchestra is no-nonsense, precise, and tuned to the finest nuances -- the orchestra is used here or there to support a singer's problem areas if needed, while she expertly calls back her instrumentalists to showcase vocal brilliance in others. The orchestra and singers tell me she is such a perfectionist that rehearsals went on and on, until she got it precisely right, long hours that, they all say, are well worth the while for the end result. That she is also very pretty and graceful is a fact that von Kerssenbrock accepts, but she does not use it to showcase herself. In her utter professionalism, only the music counts, and this is good.

Cornelia von Kerssenbrock thanks her orchestra. Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin
Cornelia von Kerssenbrock thanks her orchestra. Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin

As for the production, the opera, as usual at Immling, is put on in the indoor riding school, which has surprisingly good acoustics. The stage setting is interesting, with some highlights like a slow-motion play during the ball, or a hood-clad 'Ha-Ha-Ha' chorus wandering through the audience to and from the stage, but it is not as spectacular or gripping as those productions that are under the directorship of von Kerssenbrock's sister Verena, who was in charge of the Tosca we saw here a few years back.

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Copyright © 16 August 2007 Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany

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