Leigh, Man of La Mancha

I do not believe I have seen Mitch Leigh‘s Man of La Mancha since I was a child, and I have certainly never seen it before performed in German.  But I got a special offer for a ticket to see it at the Volksoper, so… my destiny called and I went.

Cervantes’ story is timeless.  So this minimal, vaguely modern staging worked to allow the players to develop the plot, presented with good humor all around.  The stage was built out over the pit, with the orchestra submerged behind the stage facing away from the audience, really just providing background (under conductor Lorenz Aichner).  Under these circumstances, my main quibble was that they miked the cast, which was disconcerting (not to mention defeating the purpose of hearing a live performance) and totally unnecessary.  Voices came from incorrect angles and sometimes gave several members of the cast an excuse to mumble their lines rather than acting them.

The simplification and twist of the plot works in this format, but can often come across as thin – there is actually very little there.  So it is worth going for the fine music by Leigh.  Great acting, however, can make the setting rise.

In this case, the mostly nondescript cast played along and was satisfactory.  At its helm, and the only truly notable member, was the Volksoper’s own Director Robert Meyer, who has done a fantastic job leading this house since he took over in 2007 (his contract has been extended until 2022).  He portrayed the tragi-comic Don Quijote with full emotion and intelligence, particularly when confronted by the Knight of the Mirrors when Quijote is forced to recognize his own farce and then again in the final death scene.

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