Better than the rating, but definitely better musically than it is visually
Opera and operetta has always been a lifelong passion for me. Simplicius is not one of Strauss' best, it has characteristically fantastic music but a silly story(The Gypsy Baron and especially Die Fledermaus are much stronger operettas), but even when Strauss is not at his best his music is still worth a lesson. This production is not an amazing one and is not going to be for everyone, but I do think it is better than the rating here(though if anybody dislikes it, I can definitely understand).
I have to admit that I wasn't a fan of the production values or staging. Granted I have definitely seen much worse, but the staging did have touches that I, and quite possibly quite a few other people, didn't see the point of- though admittedly there are some entertaining moments as well and the choreography is quite good- and while there are certainly some imaginative moments for an operetta production for my tastes they were too expressionistic and I would have preferred something more sumptuous. Martin Zyssert sings very well, but in terms of his interpretation I too think that he could have done with more childlike mischief.
On the plus side, there is nothing to fault musically. The orchestral playing has the lushness and lilting style needed for Strauss' "The Waltz King" waltz-like rhythms and scoring, while the chorus are animated and well balanced vocally and Franz Welser-Most keeping things moving along very nicely. The singing is just great. The three standouts were Martina Janckova, Piotr Beczala and Liliana Nikiteanu. Janckova has a voice that is at home in both opera and operetta, and more than holds her own on stage. I have always been a fan of Beczala's honeyed tone and great musicality and phrasing, and all of those are here as well as an appealing and unforced stage presence. Nikiteanu as ever is a commanding actress and sings with her usual creamy richness.
That is not to dispute Michael Volle, Elizabeth Magnussen and Oliver Widmer either. Volle is very good vocally and dramatically, though I do think he has been better elsewhere and in heavier roles than here. Magnussen sings with a beauty of tone and is very charming, while Widmer shows a warm sonorous baritone voice if perhaps not quite embodying his role. Overall, a decent production that will divide its audience I think. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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