The Kungliga Operan in Stockholm has swiftly revived Christof Loy’s production, which marked the Swedish première of Fedora in Scandinavia in 2016. The title role is now performed by soprano Malin Byström, one of the most exciting and successful Swedish singers on today’s operatic scene. Her performance was a great success, her voice proving to be well suited to verismo, and her interpretation exciting and captivating. Her unusual voice defies strict Fach definitions: it has definite lyric qualities (she’s not a drammatico), but the colour is deep and full of nuances. The size of her soprano borders on the heroic, and her dramatic abilities suit post-romantic roles. Byström's remarkable performance was supported by her natural charisma and impressive stage presence, enhanced by the beautiful costumes (Herbert Murauer). She exuded star quality.

Malin Byström (Fedora) © Markus Gårder
Malin Byström (Fedora)
© Markus Gårder

Fedora’s plot is a crime story with strong romantic implications. Princess Fedora Romazov’s beloved fiancé is murdered in St Petersburg by nihilists (or so it seems), and she vows vengeance. She follows his alleged murderer, Loris Ipanov, to Paris, where he falls in love with her, and she exploits his love to extract a confession. During this confession, he tells a very different story: he killed Fedora’s fiancé in self-defence, after finding him in flagrante delicto with his own wife. Fedora believes him (he has a letter as proof), and they become lovers. But she has already denounced him to the Muscovite authorities, and her report ultimately causes the death of his innocent brother, and his mother dies of grief shortly thereafter. After these events, Loris realises that she is the cause of the destruction of his family, and she commits suicide. Christof Loy's production has not improved since its premiere; some of the videos were effective, but others less so. Overall, the production serves the story, but it didn’t particularly help to narrate it.

The orchestra, under the baton of Eugene Tzigane, gave a passionate and effective performance, describing the different atmospheres with commitment and generosity. Tzigane managed the crescendo of the tension in the last act with mastery, building up slowly and carefully, but with relentless suspense, from the disclosure of Loris’ family tragedy to Fedora’s suicide.

Daniel Johansson (Loris) and Malin Byström (Fedora) © Markus Gårder
Daniel Johansson (Loris) and Malin Byström (Fedora)
© Markus Gårder

The two main protagonists, Byström herself and tenor Daniel Johansson transformed the final scenes into the highlight of the performance. Johansson’s tenor is powerful and generous, well supported, with strong and bright high notes. The colour of his voice may not be strongly characterized, but he matched Byström’s commitment and stage presence with remarkable confidence. The two of them shared the stage as equals, bringing to life a believable couple of young, doomed lovers. During the unravelling of the plot, they cranked up the emotional involvement, revelling in Giordano’s somewhat sentimental melodies, but always with great elegance and credibility. The result was tears from yours truly: I was sincerely moved. Why Fedora is not a staple feature of the repertoire is a mystery. Yes, Giordano’s music is self-indulgent, the orchestration at times aims for easy effects, and the story is over the top; but all of this is no less true of Tosca.

Ola Eliasson (De Siriex) and Marianne Hellgren Staykov (Olga) © Markus Gårder
Ola Eliasson (De Siriex) and Marianne Hellgren Staykov (Olga)
© Markus Gårder

The rest of the cast was composed of local singers. Marianne Hellgren Staykov was an appropriately fresh and sparkling Olga, matched by an equally bubbly Ola Eliasson as De Siriex. At times, their voices had trouble cutting through the orchestral texture, but they both did a good job in their arias, providing some comic relief to the drama. John Erik Eleby deserves mention as Cirillo, the sled driver, for his solo moment in the first act, while Martin Virin played the piano in the second act with romantic passion as Boleslao Lazinski, alleged relative of Chopin.

The performance, run without intervals, was greeted with resounding cheers by the Stockholm audience: a well-deserved success.