Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

La bohème, Opera Holland Park

Ever since a friend was reported as having said he would like something in return for modern-dress Shakespeare (how quaint that term seems now, as if anyone would bat an eyelid!), namely an Elizabethan-dress staging of Look Back in Anger, I have been curious about the possibilities of ‘down-dating’, as I suppose we might call it. Rarely, if ever, do we see it, though.

Holland Festival: Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Amsterdam

Leading a very muscular Dutch Radio Philharmonic, Principal Conductor Markus Stenz brilliantly delivered Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with a superb Florian Boesch in the lead and a mesmerising Asmik Grigorian as Marie his wife.

Pietro Mascagni: Iris

There can’t be that many operas that start with an extended solo for double bass. At Holland Park, the eerie, angular melody for lone bass player which opens Pietro Mascagni’s Iris immediately unsettled the relaxed mood of the summer evening.

L’italiana in Algeri, Garsington Opera

George Souglides’ set for Will Tuckett’s new production of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri at Garsington would surely have delighted Liberace.

Carmen in San Francisco

Calixto Bieito is always news, Carmen with a good cast is always news. So here is the news.

Eugene Onegin, Garsington Opera

Distinguished theatre director Michael Boyd’s first operatic outing was his brilliant re-invention of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo for the Royal Opera at the Roundhouse in 2015, so what he did next was always going to rouse interest.

Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane and Alexandre bis

Although Bohuslav Martinů’s short operas Ariane and Alexandre bis date from 1958 and 1937 respectively, there was a distinct tint of 1920s Parisian surrealism about director Rodula Gaitanou’s double bill, as presented by the postgraduate students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Lohengrin, Dresden

The eyes of the opera world turned recently to Dresden—the city where Wagner premiered his Rienzi, Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser—for an important performance of Lohengrin. For once in Germany it was not about the staging.

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Glyndebourne

Having been privileged already to see in little over two months two great productions of Die Meistersinger, one in Paris (Stefan Herheim) and one in Munich (David Bösch), I was unable to resist the prospect of a third staging, at Glyndebourne.

The Threepenny Opera, London

‘Mack does bad things.’ The tabloid headline that convinces Rory Kinnear’s surly, sharp-suited Macheath that it might be time to take a short holiday epitomizes the cold, understated menace of Rufus Norris’s production of Simon Stephens’ new adaptation of The Threepenny Opera at the Olivier Theatre.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Elza van den Heever (soprano) [Photo © Rozarii Lynch]
19 Aug 2008

Singers from South Africa and Sweden win Seattle Wagner Competition

A soprano originally from South Africa and a tenor from Sweden sang their way to top honors in the 2008 International Wagner Competition staged by the Seattle Opera on August 16 in Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, the company's handsome home.

Seattle Opera’s International Wagner Competition
August 16, 2008, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

Above: Elza van den Heever (soprano)
All photos © Rozarii Lynch courtesy of Seattle Opera

 

At the finals Elza van den Heever, a former Adler fellow at the San Francisco Opera, sang "Dich, teure Halle" from Tannhäuser and "Einsam in trüben Tagen" from Lohengrin. Sweden's Michael Weinius, winner of Gösta Winbergh and Birgit Nilsson prizes in his homeland, sang Walther's "Preislied" from Die Meistersinger and "Amfortas! Die Wunde" from Wagner's final opera Parsifal.

Van den Heever, a woman of tall elegance, gained praise in 2007 when she replaced the scheduled Donna Anna in a San Francisco Don Giovanni. She sang her first aria with the requisite exuberance and underscored the poignant melancholy of Elsa's recollections.

Michael_Weinius.pngMichael Weinius (tenor)
Weinius brings the richness of the baritone that he once was to his work as a tenor and his choice of the Parsifal excerpt documented the intellect that goes into his work. Whether, however, his voice is large enough for American houses remains to be seen. In the 2900-seat McCaw he was at best adequate.

Van den Heever and Weinius each received an award of $15,000 — along with prestige that will greatly further their careers. At the finals Van den Heever was also voted Audience Favorite. The German mezzo, Nadine Weissmann, was chosen its favorite by the members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the program.

Nadine_Weissmann.pngNadine Weissmann (mezzo-soprano)
At the finals Weissmann sang "Weiche, Wotan, Weiche" from Das Rheingold and Waltraute's narrative from Götterdämmerung. Weissman, who has sung several supporting roles in Wagner performances, is also highly regarded for her incarnation of Carmen. At the competition it was her command of the tragic undertones of Waltraute's account that was impressive.

Further finalists were American tenor Erin Caves, already a familiar figure in German opera houses, tenor Jason Collins, who has sung numerous supporting roles at Seattle Opera, Australian mezzo Deborah Humble, a member of the Hamburg Opera, British bass-baritone Darren Jeffery and Dresden bass Peter Lobert.

"The judges agreed that we had eight fine finalists," said OS general director Speight Jenkins in announcing the winners on the McCaw stage. " I feel that the level was even higher this year than in the first competition in 2006," said Jenkins." It was a hard-fought decision for the two winners, but a great one."

Israel's Ascher Fisch, SO principal guest conductor, was on the podium for the finals. He opened the program with an appropriately festive account of the Meistersinger Overture.

Jenkins and Fisch selected 30 semi-finalists from the 50 singers who had submitted audition recordings. They chose the eight finalists from this group at auditions in Munich and New York. The singers were between 25 and 39 years old and had not appeared in more than one major Wagner role in a major opera house. These competitiors arrived in Seattle a week before the finals for coaching with SO staff members David McDade and Philip Kelsey and also with Fisch.

Judges for the 2008 competition were Hans-Joachim Frey, general director of Theater Bremen, Wagner superstar Ben Heppner, tenor Peter Kazaras, now artistic director of SO's Young Artists Program, Pamela Rosenberg, former general director of San Francisco Opera and now managing director of the Berlin Philharmonic, Stephen Wadsworth, director of six SO Wagner stagings, and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, great-granddaughter of the composer and Bayreuth artistic consultant.

Founded in 1963, the Seattle has gained a reputation as one of the world's leading Wagner companies. Three production of the entire Ring des Nibelungen have been performed by the SO in 35 cycles since 1975.

The competition was made possible by a grant Seattle's Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. The Simonyi grant also supports other education outreach at Seattle Opera.

Detailed information on the program can be found on the Seattle Opera website, http://www.seattleopera.org.


Adding to the artistic excitement of the competition was the August 14 recital by Ben Heppner that brought a crowd to McCaw Hall. Born and raised in neighboring British Columbia, Heppner sang his first Walther von Stolzing in a Seattle Opera Meistersinger in 1989. He has been closely associated with the company since then and made his role debut as Tristan there in 1998. Unfortunately, at the recital Heppner was suffering from the effects of an laryngitis attack two days earlier and was not in best voice.

In the German section that opened the program — Wagner's "Wesendonck" Lieder, plus songs by Schubert and List, his voice sounded strained and metallic and was capable of only limited dynamic coloring. Far better were the five songs by Henri Duparc that opened the second half of the program. Here Heppner again sang with radiant warmth.

Heppner then turned master entertainer in several English-language songs. He tore off his tie, opened his collar and engaged the audience — to its delight — in easy banter between such favorites as Earnest Charles' "Let My Song Fill Your Heart" and "The House on the Hill," along with Sigmund Romberg's "Serenade" and Oley Speaks' "Sylvia." And although he sang Nicholas Brodzky's "Be My Love" with dedication, his work with the song did not cause elders in the audience to forget the manner in which Mario Lanza had belted out this once-popular song.

In half a dozen encores Heppner included two of Wagner's "greatest hits:" Sigmund's "Winterstürme" from Walküre and Walther's "Preislied" from Meistersinger. Lehar's "Yours is My Heart Alone" was warmly welcomed by the audience.

Heppner_Seattle.pngBen Heppner and Asher Fisch in Recital

Yet one worries about the difficulties that frequent plague Heppner — such as the Tristan cancellations at the Metropolitan Opera last season. At only 52, he should still be free of such problems.

In the recital Heppner's impressive partner at the piano was SO principal conductor Asher Fisch, SO artist of the year in 2006/2007 and for over a decade music director of Tel Aviv's Israel Opera.

The two artists performed on a stage set for Verdi's Aïda, which removed them from the front of the McCaw stage.

Wes Blomster

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):