CARL NIELSEN Saul og David
07 July 2016
The performances are on the whole impressive. Johan Reuter is one of today’s top baritones and he gives a thoroughly committed performance in the title role. Niels Jorgen Riis has a tenor that glows ecstatically; his voice, ideal for the role, makes up for the fact that he hardly looks like the boy David. (But any boyish performer would be unlikely to be able to handle the vocal aspect.)
Jonathan is the other tenor role; Michael Kristensen is fine when placed advantageously re the microphones (live performance recording has its pitfalls). Bass Morten Stauggard is most impressive as Samuel. The young Norwegian baritone, Leif Jone Olberg, displays a notably attractive voice as Abner.
The focus of the work is power relationships among men as one of the protagonists falls apart. This doesn’t leave much room for the love interest (David arguably has two such - and a sister and brother to boot). Ann Petersen is a sympathetic Michal despite her glossy fashionista appearance.
Acts II and IV have orchestral preludes which provide the music for dance interludes. These do not come across very clearly but the choreography action seems to be inspired by Kurt Jooss’s The Green Table of 1932 as it portrays the futility of multicultural diplomacy.
Overall Saul and David is a powerful work that succeeds in its aim of expressing a mythic tale despite a production that goes off base at times. It’s a pity that the DVD is so flawed.