Donizetti’s La Favorite at the Bayerische Staatsoper presents a cast of outstanding bel canto singers: star mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča as the seductive Léonor de Guzman, Matthew Polenzani as her desperate lover Fernand, and Mariusz Kwiecień as King Alphonse.
Numerous myths surround the historical figure of Léonore de Guzman, mistress of King Alfons XI of Castile, who becomes embroiled within an intrigue-laced political power play. Léonore, whose love for the King is revealed to be a farce, flings herself upon the young Fernand, who, for her sake, has eschewed the life of a monk in Santiago de Compostela. Yet, he is unaware of her status as a mistress, thus allowing the pair to become victims of a conspiratorial trial of strength between church and state, which in the end denies the couple even the hope of a joint future after death.
Amélie Niermeyer transforms the tragedy of the female role torn between spiritual and secular values into “a concentrated and intense drama […] with high acting quality” (Münchner Merkur). This contrast is highlighted by enormous architectural box structures that continually transport the characters between the convent and the royal palace, emphasizing the influence each party has on the current scene.
The “fabulous Elīna Garanča […] sings beautifully and emotionally restrained, leaving the audience deeply moved during her dying scene”, while Matthew Polenzani, in his debut as Fernand, scores with superb singing and acting, “reaching high tones with ease” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Mariusz Kwiecień “convinces with the proper dandified arrogance and impressive acting”, while conductor Karel Mark Chichon completes the musically fantastic performance by “getting the most out of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, impressively bringing out the dark, viscous sounds of the score and following the soloists with great intuition” (BR Klassik).