Concert Review: Classics at the Red Sea Festival

Valery Gergiev deserves better than Eilat's hangar, which at times seemed to undermine the performer's efforts.

valery gergiev 88 224 (photo credit: )
valery gergiev 88 224
(photo credit: )
Classics at the Red Sea Festival Mariinsky Theater's Orchestra and Chorus Artistic Director: Valery Gergiev Eilat January 3-5 If there was one lesson to be learned from this round of the Red Sea Festival, it would be this: Eilat must have a concert hall of its own. Performers as brilliant as Valery Gergiev and Ivo Pogorelich deserve much better than Eilat's hangar, which at times almost seemed to undermine the performers' efforts. The festival opened with a concert version of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, one of the most well-known Russian operas. The performance made traveling all the way to Eilat worthwhile. In short, Gergiev's orchestra and choir proved superb. Brilliant, lush and uncommonly sonorous, they sounded like no Israeli ensemble could ever dream of sounding. The same was true of some of the women soloists, namely those singing the roles of Tatyana and Filippyevna - who could easily be singled out as the evening's stars. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the male soloists, some of whom could barely be heard at times. But in all, it showed in every single note that this piece is the Mariinsky's bread and butter. The wonderful performance, however, was disturbed by the humming of the heaters. While background noise sure beats freezing, listening to such a sublime performance under such poor conditions was less than ideal. The following evening featured Mahler's Third Symphony; this time, luckily, the blowers were turned off. This, too, was a triumphant performance, especially regarding the orchestral movements. The vocal element was weaker, and I suspect this was partly due to insufficient rehearsals. However, the glorious execution of the final movement fully compensated for the other flaws. AS THE program included many day concerts, Saturday afternoon featured a recital by the famed pianist Ivo Pogorelich. This was an event many would prefer to forget, as almost everything went wrong. Staging it in the hangar was a miserable decision, as the wind blowing through the curtains didn't allow the piano's sound to come through. The program chosen - two Beethoven sonatas and his famous "Für Elise" - was much too mellow and introspective for such a venue, which called for more colorful and grandiose works. And the reading was utterly introverted and often peculiar. While the performance was actually very interesting and may have sounded wonderful in a proper hall, the hangar's acoustic chaos of squeaky chairs, rustling curtains and random car alarms from outside was, to put it mildly, flawed. Presenting the full-fledged Mariinsky house again, the final evening offered an unforgettable rendition of Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust. Titled as a "dramatic legend in four parts" and lasting almost three hours, this unusual French composition could easily have become tiresome. But not this time. Gergiev and his ensemble presented it so majestically that there wasn't a dull moment. The only hitch was the tenor, who sang the title role: His voice had nice color, but was too small and was unimpressive. But other than this minor point the piece was, in my opinion, the crest of the whole festival. Ending in 10 minutes which could only be described as sublime, the rendition yielded a long standing ovation and lent the entire event a great aftertaste.