Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Antonin Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant (Šelma Sedlák)

What an enjoyable opportunity to encounter Dvořák’s sixth opera, Šelma Sedlák¸or The Cunning Peasant!

Idomeneo, Royal Opera

Whether biblical parable or mythological moralising, it’s all the same really: human hubris, humility, sacrifice and redemption.

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs — Opera Rara, London

Opera Rara brought a rare performance of Donizetti’s first opera for the Paris Opera to the Royal Festival Hall on 4 November 2014, following recording sessions for the opera.

Luca Pisaroni in San Diego

Bass baritone, Luca Pisaroni, known to opera lovers throughout the world for his excellence in Mozart roles, offered San Diego vocal aficionados a double treat on October 28th: his mellifluous voice, and a recital of German songs.

La bohème, ENO

Jonathan Miller’s production of La bohème for ENO, shared with Cincinnati Opera, sits uneasily, at least as revived by Natascha Metherell, between comedy and tragedy.

Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall - Liszt, Strauss and Schubert

Any Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau performance is superb, but this Wigmore Hall recital surprised, too. Boesch's Schubert is wonderful, but this time, it was his Liszt and Strauss songs which stood out. This year at the Wigmore Hall, we've heard a lot of Liszt and a lot of Richard Strauss everywhere, establishing high standards, but this was special.

Wexford Festival 2014

The weather was auspicious for Wexford Festival Opera’s first-night firework display — mild, clear and calm. But, as the rainbow rockets exploded over the River Slaney, even bigger bangs were being made down at the quayside.

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

20 Jan 2008

Die Walküre at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera audience loves its Wagner, and the management for the last several decades has, alas, made sure we aren’t spoiled: it’s a rare season that gets more than two production revivals of Wagner, and some years there have been none.

Richard Wagner: Die Walküre

Brünnhilde: Lisa Gasteen; Sieglinde: Adrianne Pieczonka; Fricka: Stephanie Blythe; Siegmund: Clifton Forbis; Wotan: James Morris; Hunding: Mikhail Petrenko.
Metropolitan Opera: conducted by Lorin Maazel. Performance of January 14.

Above: Adrianne Pieczonka (Sieglinde) and Clifton Forbis (Siegmund)
All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

A dearth of major Wagnerian voices might be, has been, blamed … but other companies do better … or so it seems to us New York Wagnerians.

The current revival of Die Walküre, always the most popular of the Ring operas, is impressively satisfying: none of the singers are bad, some of them are great, only one of them is even stout (Stephanie Blythe, who, however, sings like the goddess she plays and moves in a stately, never clumsy, manner), while an unfamiliar hand on the podium brings out some unfamiliar colors from the depths of this shimmering score.

The weakest link in the cast was Clifton Forbis, the Siegmund — his gravelly, forced quality, an ill-supported top, no lyricism in the “Winterstürme,” all made this a woeful Wehwalt. The only time he sang with much power was the cry of “Walse! Walse!” — something about this shout seemed to align his throat properly for the first — and last — time all night. In rather striking contrast, Adrianne Pieczonka, a slim, girlish Sieglinde, sang with a full tone a bit beyond complete control, and was underpowered only in the “triumph of woman” explosion in Act III. She might be starting on the road to a major interpretation; Forbis, however, seems simply miscast.

James Morris had a Mozart and bel canto background when he first essayed Wotan twenty years ago — and was then widely expected to fail. Instead, he thrilled all ears, and he has owned the part ever since. (Could his bel canto experience be responsible?) Wobbles in his Hans Sachs last year made me wonder if his Valhalla sun had set, but he was in fine voice during the second performance of the run of Walküres, a little dryer than the lustrous hue of old, no doubt, but wobble-free, in command of the full range of notes and dynamics, and an experienced actor of this figure who attains tragic stature through tardy self-knowledge.

Lisa Gasteen, a star of Rings from London to Vienna to Adelaide, made her first essay at the title role of this opera in New York. She sang, it was announced, with a sore throat, and one would like to credit that for the general weakness of her voice above the staff that began with her first war-cry and continued to the end of the night. But Wagner was not a high-note composer, and the rest of her voice was lovely, beautifully produced, full of deep emotion.

Walkure-_scene_Pieczonka___.pngA scene from Wagner's “Die Walküre” with Adrianne Pieczonka as Sieglinde and Clifton Forbis as Siegmund.

She also cuts a handsome figure and bounds about the rocky sets with youthful athleticism, as a hard-riding warrior goddess ought to — but how many do? In the orchestra, I had doubts about the size of the voice when it came to filling the Met, and friends who sat upstairs shared them, but this was an honorable attempt that gave much pleasure. If her health on Monday is not the reason for her weak top, however, she is hardly the woman to sing the higher Brünnhilde of Siegfried. This experience of her made one interested in hearing her under optimum circumstances and in many roles. (A revival of Frau ohne Schatten would suit her nicely — she’s sung both soprano leads in Germany.)

Walkure-_scene_0086.pngA scene from Wagner's “Die Walküre” with (from left) James Morris as Wotan, Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, and Lisa Gasteen as Brünnhilde

Among the smaller roles, Mikhail Petrenko was especially striking — joining the lengthy list of Hundings whom one wishes had more to do, or big juicy roles in something else in the very near future. (Whatever became of Stephen Milling?) Kelly Cae Hogan, a singer new to me, was first off the mark among the valkyries, and one wished her war-cry, clear and focused and bright, had somehow been substituted for Gasteen’s cautious one; the rest of the gang were also happy choices.

The stage direction seemed to have been tightened, and was especially well synchronized at such tricky moments as Siegmund’s death (and Sieglinde’s flight) and the valkyrie ensembles. The diction all around was exceptional, precise without being intrusive. Lighting for this production seems to be getting steadily dimmer — which makes things like the magic fire all the more effective.

Lorin Maazel’s approach to Wagner was vivid and the pace snappier than we are used to, which rather heightened the excitement of a happy occasion. As at every great Wagner performance, one heard things, instrumental colors, one had never noticed before. Consider, for instance, Wagner’s use of kettledrums for everything but beating time: enhancing this, emphasizing that, pointing words or other instruments, a sudden insertion of ominous texture in the midst of a leitmotiv associated with things not ominous — insofar as anything in the Ring is free from shadow.

John Yohalem

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):