Posts Tagged ‘Peter Bronder’

Siegfried, Staatsoper Berlin, Schiller Theater, April 2013

8 April, 2013

The first two operas of this cycle experienced slight problems: orchestra lights failed a couple of times during Rheingold, and stage backdrop lighting flashed and failed in Walküre. But Siegfried saw a more serious disruption when the eponymous hero failed to show up for Act I. Why, we were not told, but the role was admirably sung from the wings by Andreas Schager, with an assistant stage manager going through the motions on stage. So vocally effective was Schager that Daniel Barenboim brought him on for a special curtain call at the end of the act, and the audience roared their appreciation.

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Canadian tenor Lance Ryan thankfully turned up for Act II, which was just as well since Schager was singing in a concert performance of Zauberflöte with the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle later the same evening. At the end of Act II, Ryan declined a solo curtain call, and at the end of the opera, after a superb performance in Act III, the restrained applause marked audience disapproval for his early absence.  But he was exceptionally good, and I regret not hearing him in all three acts. His final scene with Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde produced glorious singing, and his Sei mein! followed by her beautifully gentle Oh Siegfried! Dein war ich von je! was a moving moment.

Forging the sword

Forging the sword

Of course Daniel Barenboim in the orchestra pit was the magician bringing Wagner’s great moments to fulfilment, and this third episode of the Ring was a musical triumph. Peter Bronder sang and acted strongly as the ill-favoured Mime, and Norwegian bass-baritone Terje Stensvold gave a commanding performance as The Wanderer.

Mikhail Petrenko sang a strong Fafner from behind the stage, but here we find one of the problems in this Guy Cassiers production. The dragon was portrayed by five dancers wafting a vast printed silk sheet, but since the voice came from elsewhere this lacked conviction, and after the dragon’s death they attached themselves to Siegfried, making interminably dull geometric patterns with five swords. The dismemberment of voice and body had already occurred to the Woodbird, with a double performing insipid and unmusical movements on stage while the singing Woodbird (Rinnat Moriah, a perfectly handsome young woman) was off-stage.

Siegfried and dancers

Siegfried and dancers

Good lighting and sets, except that the forging of the sword was essentially done by atmospheric lighting and seven flat screen videos, plus a few tap-taps in the upstairs part of the set, as if a saucepan were being mended. Otherwise I liked the intriguing design for Mime’s home, which Wotan navigated with admirable aplomb as it turned from horizontal to vertical. Forest lighting was wonderful, and the meeting of Alberich and the Wanderer in Act II was very effective. If the superfluously irritating dancers had been absent, this act would have been perfect — they were not there in Walküre, and I’m sure most of us hope for the same with Götterdämmerung.

This performance was on April 7, and the final instalment of The Ring takes place on April 10.

Advertisements

Salome, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, May 2012

1 June, 2012

With superb vocal power and control from Angela Denoke as Salome, and thrilling sound from the orchestra under the direction of Andris Nelsons, it doesn’t get any better than this.

The executioner with the head, all images ROH/ Clive Barda

This was the second revival of David McVicar’s production, first seen in 2008, and Angela Denoke’s second turn at the title role, since her earlier appearance in 2010. As the opera progressed she only got better, and after Herod has offered her everything … ending in desperation with the veil of the Tabernacle, the final repeat of her demand, “Gib mir den Kopf des Jokanaan” (Give me the head of Jokanaan) was hugely powerful. After she gets the head, her voice blended most beautifully with the orchestra. Beauty and horror combine, and following her final words that the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death she lies down with the head. Duncan Meadows as Naaman the executioner sits with his back to the horror being played out, but finally he turns … slowly … in disgust, and when Herod gives the command he breaks her neck.

Herod, Herodias and others

There are some fine aspects to this production, and the blood is cleverly done. She first gets it on her dress by putting her arms round the executioner, but as she nurses the head there is more and more of it. And the moment when the prophet first comes out of the cistern, and is knocked over by one of the soldiers, is very well judged. But it is absurd the way one of the soldiers keeps aiming a rifle at him. He does this particularly when Jokanaan is trying to get away from Salome, yet no-one draws seems to care when she puts her head in his lap. Surely that is the moment of danger for the princess, if there is one. And should the gun go off when there is no immediate danger to Salome, the soldier is a dead man. Herod has given strict instructions the prophet is not to be harmed.

Salome and Herod, end of the dance

But the singing is glorious. Stig Andersen gave a wonderful portrayal of Herod, and he and Rosalind Plowright as Herodias were both excellent. Egils Silinš was a fine Jokanaan, his voice coming across very clearly when he’s in the cistern, though it seems to come from elsewhere. Will Hartman sang beautifully as Narraboth, but in this revival his death occurred quietly in the background, unlike the first revival, which was a pity. Scott Wilde and Alan Ewing both sang well as first and second soldier, Peter Bronder was superb as the first Jew, and Andrew Greenan came over well as the first Nazarene, describing the miracles of Jesus. It was a strong cast, working well as a team, and held together beautifully by Andris Nelsons, who drew enormous power and lyricism from the huge orchestra.

Diners upstairs invisible from the Amphi

The lighting was brighter in this revival, which was good, but from the front of the Amphitheatre only the legs of the upstairs diners can be seen, and the backdrops to the dance are barely visible. But go for the music and the singing — they’re terrific.

Performances continue until June 16 — for details click here.