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I’ll start positively with a contemporary opera by Detlev Glanert, Oceane which was premiered at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin last year and was recorded live. It isn’t the most original of themes – an engimatic woman called Oceane arrives in a community by the sea, causes a stir, then leaves without trace. There are deep similarities with other operas such as Rusalka and Pelléas et Mélisande, with their water-based imagery and mysterious and damaged female protagonists. In Glanert’s version the community is preparing for a summer ball at the local hotel, and it is here where Oceane shocks the community with her frenzied dancing, consequently ensnaring a local man with her unreachable persona and erratic behavior, before vanishing, one assumes into the sea; who knows? Glanert’s music is very approachable – the opening of the opera is stunning, with the soprano voice emerging from washes of choral sound, and the orchestral effects for sea and storm are exquisite. It is tonal and rhythmic and the music sings well, with the vocal line supported on the orchestral cushion. Donald Runnicles’ conducting makes the most of Glanert’s orchestral textures, and the cast is strong. Maria Bengtsson’s soprano is excellent in the title role, and she copes effortlessly with Glanert’s writing for her, which emphasizes the top and bottom of the voice, so she is deliberately pushed to vocal extremes. Her technical assurance and silvery tone are perfect. As Martin, dazzled by Oceane, Nikolai Schukoff’s tenor is kept more to the middle of his voice, and he sounds strong and confident. Other singers include the seemingly indestructible Doris Soffel, with her stalwart mezzo, Christoph Pohl’s elegant baritone and Albert Pesendorfer’s solid bass. Nicole Haslett copes well with Kristina’s coloratura, but it’s one of those roles like the Fiakermilli in Arabella, fun at first but soon grating.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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