Monday, January 07, 2008

God(s) I've missed Wagner

Just tuned in halfway through "Du bist der Lenz...nein, nein, du bist der Lenz, Nein, wirklich, DU bist der Lenz, ich insistiere." I think Upstate Julie Brown is liveblogging, so maybe I will, too. So far I'm just really pleased with Adrienne Pieczonka, who has a pretty solid sound with some vulnerability to it, and who also just did the Rysanek scream at the, er, unsheathing. Forbis, while lacking some of the suavity we've gotten used to with Domingo has a very gratifying virility. This is going well. More as it unfolds.

...and the crowd misses Wagner, too. I've heard the end of the act sound a bit more ecstatic but [he added later] some of the melancholic stuff with Brunnhilde & Pops is rewardingly rich and pensive.

I'm not going to go on about James Morris, I guess, because that wouldn't be sporting.

Gasteen is a singer I enjoyed immensely as Elektra, with the caveat that the top is a mess. It's still a mess, though starting with hojotoho is nobody's idea of a good time. So far, I'd still rather hear her than Eaglen, for the reason that probably goes without saying: she's singing a role, not notes.

Excellent role for Blythe, who is very word-attentive. Ok, more in a bit.

Oh, sorry. It appears people are reading and commenting and I'm half nodding despite a terrific performance, including (who always admits when he's wrong? Maury does) some very committed, if woolly, sounds from Morris. It's just, as I was saying not three minutes ago, "act ii of walkuere is interminable, like a cheap uruguayan pinot noir." I know, that doesn't make ANY sense at all, but in context, it did, as much as anything I say.

Longeurs: a word invented for Wotan's monologues. And I can't say Morris was thrilling there, but it's wordy stuff, in the worst way. Yeah, Wagner, gift horse, whatever, the outer acts are much more thrilling, aren't they? Or am I just missing something? I bought the Andrew Porter translation to listen along with sometime because I figure a singing translation (while sometimes embarrassing) at least removes the dilemma of which kind of mediation you want, to some extent: read the German and understand not enough, or read the English and it doesn't fit. Anyway the great thing about Wagner as librettist is that enough of it is WTF-inducing that you can sort of indulge in willing suspension of serious-taking, and just say "either this bit sucked in the original or it is translated in a clumsy way, and I shall never know."

A Furtwangler-mad friend of mine used to grow positively livid about Levine's Wagner, referring to his style as "curatorial," but whatever you may think of that, he's certainly made this an orchestra that plays Wagner as if it were the Haydn "Surprise!" Symphony. (Exclamation point, mine, and ironic. It's actually not that surprising.) Some gratitude is due to the universe for that. Ok, back to active listening. It gets exciting again here I think.

Ok wow, I didn't know it was Margaret Juntwait DDS, but she is sure as hell pulling teeth in this interview. This lady is doubtless wonderful at her job, but I think at the point that we were reduced to her critiquing MJ's pronunciation of the Valkyries' names, perhaps they could have yanked someone out of the audience. p.s. operas she'd like to hear more? Die Freschutz, huh? Yeah, wow that would be terrific, call me when that happens. I'll be picking out what magazines to bring and possibly programming playlists on my ipod. See now at this point Die Freischutz always turns out to be someone's favorite and I feel like a cad, but...I'm having a hard time believing Die Freischutz is anyone's favorite opera.

Did I mention I like the outer acts much, much better than Act II? Probably. Did I also mention Satan or someone made me stay up 'ti 2 watching Valley of the Dolls which I don't even really love? So I'm actually going to bed after a little bit of this act. But it looks a bit like you guys went to bed, too, so it's probably alright.


Burns said...

Keep it coming, I'm reading!

Kevin said...

very cool. glad i checked the blogosphere. I agree on most comments. I am very happy to hear a non-Eaglen after Seattle too, but now the reason is not of what many have already said, but because I hear her performance in a different, not worse, light (or ear).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the updates - I go next Monday. For those a little less Sirius, WQXR 96.3 and Channel 13 are broadcasting the BPOs Mahler 9 (Rattle) and something from Gustavo (Tall Lanky Super Curly Hair Cheekbones) Dudamel tonight.

The first movement is going well. Mahler has an irregular heart-beat, and that set the tone for the evening, but the whole orchestra is doing its best to Klimt-gild us to death. Oh, wait the timpani just hammered out the F#-A-B-A theme. Gotta run.

FYI - my word verification on this site was Ojesvtjz. Is she singing this year at the MET?

gerbear said...

Thanks for the live blogging. Sorry to hear you aren't likely to stay to the end. Act 2-3 intermission features not audible on my computer - it sounded like the orchestra pit microphone was left on and all I got to hear was 30ish minutes of instruments warming up, mostly for the 'ride' by the sounds of it. Act 3 is coming in fine.

Even though it's apparently not popular among opera enthusiasts, I've always really liked James Morris' Wotan, perhaps because I like his dramatic interpretation which carries, even with audio-only.

Henry Holland said...

Speaking of the BPO tympanist as Anon was, he's really cute. I missed the first 10 minutes or so, but it's going well so far. Mein Gott, what an orchestra!

Nick Name said...

Blythe seems to be singing a bit flat much of the time; I noticed it in her Frugola last season and last week year in BALLO. I hear that she fell tonight onstage while singing Fricka.

Maury D'annato said...

Nick: huh, Blythe is someone I respect rather than adore, but I can't say I've ever noticed pitch problems.

Will said...

Wotan's monolog may not be for everyone but in the hands of a good singing actor, it's a tremendous piece of theater. This is where a good director is also a huge help to the singer.

Of course, performing the opera in a good English translation would help both the singer and the audience tremendously.

Maury D'annato said...

Will: I can imagine liking it with Jon Tomlinson doing it. In a different production. At the Met, chez Schenk, delivered by Morris, it's like death. I think the stage directors don't know what to do with it, and I can't blame them; the whole gestalt of the production is so timid and lifeless. God, I hate it when people use the word "gestalt," and I'm not even sure it's the word I wanted.

Will said...

Maury--gestalt may not be the most accurate word but I know what you mean and I agree. Twice at Bayreuth Theo Adam and John Tomlinson, indeed) it was riveting. But the Shenck production was essentially DOA and hasn't improved with repeating.

Alex said...

I feel like that Wotan speech is almost celebrated for its sleep inducing effects. But it's really awfully interesting dramatically as the kernel of the whole Wotan dilemma goes, and when someone really works it and one ends up engaging with it, I think it can be riveting.

General agreement about Act II being the weak link, but that seems to be later Wagner's MO sometimes, doesn't it? Some gems here and there in the middle acts of Meistersinger, Siegfried, Gdams, but mostly they get plot work done. Tristan and Parsifal don't fit, clearly, but there's not that much story to move in either.

Anonymous Soprano said...

This is so off topic but... how do you even approach pronouncing the name Pieczonka?

Polish, right?

Anonymous said...

Did she call it "Die Freischutz" (as opposed to "Der") or was that your bad? "Die Freischutzerin" could be a fun twist... Enough pedantry, I'd love to see "Der Freischütz" done "more" as opposed to roughly "never" in the US.

rysanekfreak said...

Dear Maury, you know I love you and I read you all the time, but she did NOT do "the Rysanek scream" when Siegmund popped the champagne cork (or whatever he does in this particular staging). She did "a scream." Let's leave it at that.

If you didn't stay to the end of the Sirius, then you missed MJ referring to LISA Gasteen as LINDA numerous times, and being corrected by Will numerous times.

Maury D'annato said...

Anon: absolutely my German error, not that of the native speaker. This is why Russian is such a wonderful language: 99% of the time, the grammatical gender morphologically announces itself so you don't have to memorize.

Maury D'annato said...

AnonSopran, Polish is not one of mine, but I can tell you that cz is /ch/ and that all words are stressed on the second to last syllable. So my best guess is pyeh-CHON-ka.

Maury D'annato said...

R-freak: well, I suppose I meant "the Leonie Rysanek Memorial Scream," i.e. at this point if one screams at all, it's a tribute, knowing or not, to Rysanek, to whom that effect belongs in perpetuity. Better?

Will said...

The lady may have a Polish but she's Canadian.

There's some serious evidence that while my beloved Leonie gave what certainly will have been the most visceral scream, that it was done at Bayreuth in the late 1920s. I believe the soprano credited is Nanny Larsen-Todsen.

Nick Name said...

Maury, if you can get hold of a recording of the recent BALLO broadcast, listen to Blythe. She's slightly under the note much of the time. I asked a singer-friend of mine who has been in a couple of productions with Blythe and she agreed that Blythe has a tendency to flat.I like Blythe's sound but that Ulrica was disappointing.

Hans Lick said...

I don't get -- no I really don't -- people who don't love Act II of Walkuere. Okay, if they don't like Wagner, they won't like Act II of W, but if they DO, or claim they do ... I mean, WHAT dull spots? There isn't time for any dull spots. It's not Act I, but it's so ... all the backstory you could ever need for Act I, plus the verklaerung of Brunnhilde during her duet with Siegmund for goshsakes.

Morris was so good in this 20 years ago (when no one really thought he could sing Wagner because ... wasn't he, like, bel canto dude?) and so unfortunate in that Hans Sachs last year ... I'm not looking forward to that part of next Monday. But still. It's so good.

As usual, I will wish they'd just skip the Ride in Act III and go on to B&S's entrance. As Shaw so rightly said, the Ride is the most unforgivable thing Wagner ever did. But then B&S enter and it's all heaven till the very end.

Eaglen was intolerable; I had no trouble pretending she just didn't exist at all, and I skipped the last Seattle Ring because I knew it would make me wretched. Now that even Speight agrees (the War of Jenkins' Ear), let's just drop it.

I daresay Gasteen will be imperfect -- but she won't be Eaglen. Or Eszter Kovacs! (Be snide; be very snide.) At least I won't have to close my eyes and think of Rita Hunter.

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