Small picture of Donizetti




Wagner's Die Feen

Oper Leipzig, Leipzig, February 16  - May 24, 2013.

Photographs by Kristin Nijhof and Tom Schulze, © Oper Leipzig, courtesy of Oper Leipzig

Report by Russell Burdekin


Wagner is not usually featured on this site but this, his first completed opera, is contemporary with Bellini and Donizetti and is an interesting contrast particularly in this delightful production in Leipzig (who turned it down when it was originally offered in 1834).  Significantly, Wagner’s later preoccupations with the medieval period and in non-mortal worlds are already to the fore. Essentially it is about the trials and tribulations of Arindal, a medieval king, and Ada, a fairy, before they eventually are able to settle down together. Wagner’s music is surprisingly mature and rewarding while offering occasional echoes of past composers and hinting particularly of Rienzi but also, at one point, of the agitated start of Die Walküre.

Here the production by the French/Canadian director/designer team of Renaud Doucet and André Barbe did not start too auspiciously.  A family is gathered for a meal during the rather long (Wagner started as he meant to continue) overture and there was some rather stilted acting to pass the time.  However, it became apparent that the husband, dressed in a cardigan of a most revolting shade of orange, is about to settle down with his CD libretto to listen to a broadcast of  Die Feen from Leipzig. From this point the production never puts a foot wrong. He becomes immersed in the opera and morphs into Arindal, when his role arises, and stays in the role for almost the remainder of the opera.  As he is sat in his lounge, the fairy kingdom suddenly appears above him, its staging having the feel of a “pop up” book and its inhabitants in Beidermeier costume.  As the plot proceeds various fairies including Ada also enter the lounge: are they for “real” or is it all in his imagination?  At other times, the lounge rises to reveal Arindal’s kingdom below, the inhabitants of which are in medieval costumes.  As the plot plays out, the different locales takes centre stage with the associated sets moving up or down.  Finally, the Fairy King, here a Wagner like figure descending from the ceiling suspended from a butterfly,  sets everything right; in the opera Arindal becomes immortal but here the husband is left with his wife on the settee while an indignant Ada and the other fairies all go back to fairyland.

Arnold Bezuyan found the role of Arindal a bit hard going from time to time but generally coped well enough while Christiane Libor was outstanding as Ada and the chorus and other roles were well sung.  It perhaps goes without saying that the Gewandhausorchester under Ulf Schirmer was excellent.

The production was tailored around Leipzig Opera’s technical facilities and is not intended to appear anywhere else, although it is to be given in a concert performance at the Oberfrankenhalle, Bayreuth.  The production is part of Leipzig’s attempt to highlight Wagner as a native of the city and may explain why they were prepared to fund such an expensive production despite only five performances. Unfortunately, they have not made a DVD, which I find baffling.  Although in no way profound, the production was fluent, energetic, colourful, clear and witty and caught the spirit of the piece to perfection.

Another review can be seen at, while  places the opera within a wider context of Leipzig's Wagner bi-centenary celebrations.


The Team

Der Feenkönig / Groma - Igor Durlovski / Sejong Chang

Ada - Christiane Libor

Drolla - Jennifer Porto

Arindal - Arnold Bezuyen

Gernot - Milcho Borovinov

Farzana - Jean Broekhuizen

Zemina - Viktorija Kaminskaite

Morald - Detlef Roth

Lora - Eun Yee You

Gunther - Guy Mannheim

Harald - Roland Schubert

Bote - Tae Hee Kwon


Gewandhausorchester and Chor der Oper Leipzig


Musikalische Leitung - Ulf Schirmer

Inszenierung - Renaud Doucet

Bühne, Kostüme - André Barbe

Choreinstudierung - Alessandro Zuppardo

Dramaturgie - Marita Müller



Kirsten Nijhof © Oper Leipzig

The fairy kingdom



                                                      Kirsten Nijhof © Oper Leipzig




Tom Schulze©Oper Leipzig

"Arindal", immersed in his listening and Ada




Kirsten Nijhof © Oper Leipzig

The fairy kingdom with Ada and Arindal's children



Kirsten Nijhof © Oper Leipzig

Morald and Lora (Arindal's sister) who eventually succeed to Arindal's kingdom



Kirsten Nijhof © Oper Leipzig

The Fairy King (looking rather like a young Wagner) descends to ensure a happy ending