The Bartered Bride in Aachen

The Bartered Bride given in a German translation in Aachen may seem an odd choice for a British opera excursionist but, after Bieito’s awful Mahagonny in Antwerp (see my blog of 1st July), it came as a blessed relief. Responsible for the production was the young French director BĂ©atrice LachaussĂ©e. None of the German Konzeptregie for her; rather a faithful presentation of the original, with a lively, pleasant, lightly humorous account of how a scheme for an arranged marriage can be outwitted. Set in the 1950s (designers Dominique Wiesbauer and Nele Ellegiers), its strength lay in the unexaggerated characterisation of the participants, including the chorus villagers. The popularity of Smetana’s piece tends to mask its considerable musical qualities. The freshness of melody, the occasional harmonic tension, the poignant phrasing were all there in Justus Thorau’s reading of the score; it also had conviction and energy. He was the undoubted star of the evening and, only thirty, he has a bright future ahead of him. As Kezal, Woon-jo Choi impressed with his warm baritone. In the other leading roles Katharina Hagopian as Marenka and Chris Lysack as Jenik had no difficulty in gaining the audience’s sympathy but vocally lacked the lyricism which these roles demand.