Monday, April 27, 2009

Go, Hagen! Get the ring back!

I have been noodged (never know how to spell that) to write a few syllables about Gotterdammerung. Since everyone has seen this production elevnty times, I won't go on and on about the visuals, only I must pause to recant. I've always bitched about the Schenk Walkuere, or at least since 1997 I have, but the minute everything went kablooey after that very long sit that comes two operas later, I thought, mortifyingly: gosh, it's too bad they're not keeping this around. Ah well, you don't come here for consistency, now do you? MFI is all about Berlinian hedgehoggery, in a (hedge)pig's eye. Except I totally got that backward.

If I begin to review post-curtain ovations, you may put me out to pasture*, but it's hard not to comment on the extra fervor that attends Ring curtain calls. Especially for Levine, of course. But all around, they're preposterously loud, and why shouldn't they be? Makes it feel as if there's a cult of the Ring, or perhaps a cult of Levine, and really I do think everyone deserves a cult at some point, or most people.

Am I making it up that the loudest of all, among the singers, was for Jon Tomlinson? Loudest anyway if you do some math involving inverse proportionality and a 1-to-10 scale of how big a putz the character is. Tomlinson's vocal estate was described to me at intermission as "post-vocal" and it's hard to work up many objections to this, but depending on your disposition toward everything-but-the-paper-fan-moustache** villainry, it's...I find it impossible to take my ears off him, you know? He has that old school vocal patina that just sounds right to me in Wagner. And I guess to some other people as well.

Hey should I ruin something for you forever? Would that be fun? It was also pointed out to me at selfsame intermission that there's this one part where it really sounds a lot like the chorus is singing "Go, Hagen! Go, Hagen! Get the ring back!" If you hear it now, it you will never unhear it.

If only Christian Franz had been given such a pep talk. Not to say he was a failure in the role or anything, but he had certain indisputable inadequacies. Everything was spent by Act III and of course Wagner, being something of a prick even if you don't count the whole holocaust thing***, wrote Siegfried's most lyrical music to be sung after three hours of basically beating his lungs against a rock. Still, some manage it better than Franz, whose recalling of the Forest Bird's music was, oh, moderately painful. There's a way to make this music work even if your voice is worn or ugly to begin with, viz: Bernd Aldenhoff in the Knappertsbusch Gotterdammerung I basically never shut up about. Franz seemed maybe to have given up by Act III, took a very cursory lunge at the (terribly unfairly scheduled) C, sang Siegfried's death like walking on a broken wasn't enough.

The thing about Dalayman is that if the whole voice were like the top fifth or so, she'd be so good that even the most intolerable opera queens would have to stop wailing for long enough to listen. It's big and solid and warm, and she throws it around with considerable emotion. It must be said, though, that it fades rapidly in some of the mid range that's always up against a squadron of trombones or something in Wagner. Anyway, taking into account this limitation, it was a satisfying account of the role and makes me wonder in a not very specific way about other roles she might be great in. Sadist that I occasionally am, I think immediately of the roles that frequently get croaked on top like maybe Elektra but that would have the same problems. Just i wish someone with an unhideous voice would sing it, right? Last time I heard it at the Met I think it was Schnaut. 'Nuff said.

And with that, though there are more singers who contributed importantly to a B+ afternoon of opera, I am basically out of commentary. And out of season, come to think of it. Over the summer there's bound to be something, though, unless there isn't. Glimmerglass can be so unalluring these days, though the Caramoor Semiramide is of some interest--not least because everyone keeps pointing out to me that Brownlee is an exceptional artist, and I keep missing him. I don't know. Feel free to suggest things. I can occasionally be coaxed out of the house.

*I know, why now? When I've reviewed everything down to the brownies, stopping short of critiquing the little paper cones from which one drinks water from the water fountains In Memorium Ezio Pinza. Which are rather difficult to detach from the stack.

**You must pay the rent on Valhalla! I can't pay the rent on Valhalla! You must pay the rent on Valhalla! I can't pay the rent on Valhalla!

***I am emphatically kidding. Antisemitism didn't begin with Wagner, and the much repeated fact that he was Hitler's favorite composer rises only to the level of trivia. Every bad person loves some good things. I'm sure W. had a favorite composer. Ok, bad example.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Uh...Maury? It looked better before it got green.

That said, why no mention of Levine, who was fantastic?? Great conducting, which I don't say about him all that often.

JSU said...

Lehar was actually Hitler's favorite, or am I misremembering?

quoth the maven said...

W's anti-semitism was, in fact, pretty toxic. And I'm not alone in thinking that Alberich, Mime, Beckmesser and Klingsor contain elements of anti-semitic stereotype.

Maury D'annato said...

Lisa: it got green like a year and a half ago!

I'm never the go-to person for conducting reportage, I'm afraid. At gunpoint I'd say it was very good but not as exciting as Gergiev, but it's relatively rare that I have a deeply-felt reaction to conducting.

Maury D'annato said...

JSU: honestly I don't know. If it's not true that Wagner was Hitler's fave, it's an oft-repeated falsehood. More to the point for me is that it doesn't matter. He probably had a favorite flavor of ice cream, too. For which I may be called out since ice cream cannot sow racial hatred. I'm just not sure music can in any important way, either. Wagner may have been a symptom of antisemitic cultural currents and later a favorite of the people who actuall acted on these in unfathomable ways, but music never killed a Jew. (Or Catholic. Or homosexual.) For what it's worth, taking this into the present, I have no interest in Jamaican dancehall, and find the people who write it repugnant, but if in 100 years someone finds it beautiful, I won't haunt and shake my gory locks at that person. Hopefully he or she will be living in a world where things are better, as things are better now, with respect to the place of the Jews in the world, than they were in 1939. I hope I have made sense.

Maury D'annato said...

Quoth: that goes for you too!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Year and a half ago?? That's what I get for using a feed reader!!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Lehar may have been Hitler's favorite living composer? I've actually heard Bruckner was Hitler's favorite composer composer.

But yeah, this is an idiotic game—it's like the girl in my 6th grade who kept her friends ranked and numbered (best friend, 2nd best friend, 3rd best friend)—though now that I think of it, wouldn't that be SO Hitler???

Man, I hate that guy. Hitler.

Maury D'annato said...

DJ, let's start a facebook group: I Bet I Can Fine One Million People Who Don't Like Hitler.

winpal said...

Maury, that could be quite lucrative, but how would it be enforced?

David said...

Just as people used to board-up windows in England to avoid window tax, we would all have to start pretending to admire Hitler to avoid the 'don't like Hitler' fine. Sales of Mein Kampf would rocket, together with recordings of Lehar and/or Wagner and/or Bruckner.