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Jubilee concert #DNO: unnecessary flexing of muscles

'I feel cheated,' said the man next to me as we left the auditorium at ten to nine-thirty. He had come all the way from Tilburg to the Stopera for the concert that concluded the National Opera's 50th anniversary on Wednesday 29 June. 'It will take me even longer than the concert lasted, including intermission,' he grumbled. He also had little to say about the offering itself. And that while all around us the audience stood on their seats to cheer on the internationally renowned soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek.

I sympathised with the Tilburg opera lover: neither the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra nor Westbroek lived up to the considerably inflated expectations beforehand. Conductor Marc Albrecht did lead his men through the music of Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz and Richard Strauss very energetically, but lacked the right feeling and finesse to bring them across really convincingly.

Village chapel

Dramatically jabbing his cane and furiously mowing his arms, he starts to look more and more like the caricature of Dudley Moore, who in the film 10 the blonde stunner Bo Derek tries to impress. You wish Albrecht cared a bit more about his interpretation than how he comes across to the audience. Well the overture shines through to Rienzi by Wagner already did not excel in subtlety, but during this opening piece, the Rotterdammers at times looked twistedly like a village chapel.

The scene from Les Troyens, in which Queen Dido realises she is going to lose her beloved Aenaes forever, did not come off well. Berlioz's colourful orchestration, which flawlessly illustrates every emotion of the tragic heroine, got bogged down in muscular display. Welcome exception was the empathetically played contrabassoon solo to the aria 'Je vais mourir'.


Eva-Maria Westbroek sang as if she were not in the Stopera, but in the Ziggodome. Moreover, her vibrato was very generous, and her French unintelligible. Only in the more reflective, more intimate passages did she slow down a bit, but there was no empathy there either. More convincing were mezzo-soprano Eva Kroon as Dido's sister and baritone Harry Teeuwen as the court poet, who sang their supporting roles from the wings.

The veil dance presented after the break from Salome by Richard Strauss lacked sophistication. The spicy, sensual fin-de-siècle perfume was missing, even in the snake-charming solos of oboe and flute, which are normally so compelling. Again, for Westbroek, the adage applied: loud, louder loudest. That we are dealing here with an adolescent girl, who barely knows what she has done and still desires love even from the severed head of Jochanaän, did not become clear for a moment.

Was there no bright spot then?

It certainly does. Even literally and figuratively: the video set by Momma Hinrichs and Torge Møller (FettFilm). The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra begins the overture to Rienzi against a completely black background. Then a red stripe makes its way down the middle of the canvas, followed by another and another, until the entire backdrop is covered. Next to each stripe, seemingly hand-scratched zigzag figures light up, until you finally imagine yourself in a dark forest.

Seven curtains - seven veils

Then the 'forest' slides open and turns out to be a virtual curtain. It reveals a projection of horizontal blue stripes, as if we are on the sea; a hushed and evocative image. During the scene from Les Troyens a virtual picture frame sinks down, after which the 'painting' itself turns as blue as Westbroek's dress. At the end, this window swallows her up and she disappears into the darkness, an apt depiction of her suicide.

During Salome's veil dance, the 'curtains' slide away six times to reveal a new layer each time. The seven layers are exactly the number of veils Salome casts off to seduce her stepfather, again a simple but poignant find.

In these days of visual excess, FettFilm's subtle work is a breath of fresh air. Hopefully this will inspire Albrecht to find a more subtle tone at the second and final concert on Friday 1 July.

Good to know
More information and tickets can be found via this link.

1 thought on “Jubileumconcert #DNO: onnodig spierballenvertoon”

  1. Oi, what a painful comment, 'wonder if there's an NPO recording of that too....

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Thea Derks

Thea Derks studied English and Musicology. In 1996, she completed her studies in musicology cum laude at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in contemporary music and in 2014 published the critically acclaimed biography 'Reinbert de Leeuw: man or melody'. Four years on, she completed 'An ox on the roof: modern music in vogevlucht', aimed especially at the interested layperson. You buy it here: In 2020, the 3rd edition of the Reinbertbio appeared,with 2 additional chapters describing the period 2014-2020. These also appeared separately as Final Chord.View Author posts

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