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Posts Tagged ‘R. Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten’

Is there any other opera that inspires so much tolerance in the audience as Die Frau ohne Schatten? Everything is so impossibly difficult that one feels even grateful that singers, conductor, director, members of the orchestra et al have agreed to do this possibly for the same fee they would receive for, say, Carmen…  In any case, the Bavarian State Opera can certainly boast to have a new production against which there could be little competition this day. Of course, there are shortcomings – even Karajan’s 1964 recording from the Vienna State Opera has shortcomings (nota bene - he had Fritz Wunderlich for the Erscheinung eines Jünglings and Lucia Popp for the Stimme des Falken) – but the level of success of individual contribution is so high that you feel inclined to overlook that the sum of the parts is noticeably less impressive.

I have seen Adrianne Pieczonka as Ariadne, Arabella and the Marschallin and found her Straussian performances so far only intermittently satisfying. Her Kaiserin this evening was in an entirely other level: golden tone, noble phrasing, unfailing musicianship and the necessary mysterious glamor, you would find all these qualities in her singing this evening. Elena Pankratova is one of the most interesting Färberinen that I have ever heard (I’m including recordings here). Her voice has a cold, slightly metallic quality one would rather expect to find in the role of the Kaiserin. At first, one feels that her voice is two sizes smaller than the required dramatic soprano, but she is the kind of singer who doesn’t show all her trump cards right away; when you’d least expect, there would come solid low notes, powerful acuti, mezza voce and even commendable legato for lyric passages. She has no problem with high notes, but the composer’s unrealistic demands in act III understandably brought about some screechy moments. In any case, the way she could musically show the character’s development during the opera is the reason why she goes to my shortlist, presided by Christa Ludwig and Gwyneth Jones. At this stage of her career, it is very bold of Deborah Polaski to sing a role as demanding as the Amme, especially in its complete version. Although her soprano has always had a dark color and she always had to push a bit for her high b’s and c’s, that does not mean that she was a pushed-up mezzo – and one could hear that this evening. The lack of weight in the bottom of her range was compensated by a noticeable ease around the area where mezzos have their passaggio, what allowed her to be particularly smooth and clean. I don’t believe she was in a very good day though: the voice lacked focus and she had to go full powers to pierce through, what eventually tired her. And her last scene is probably the most demanding of all.

Johan Botha showed no difficulties in the role of the Emperor, producing consistently beefy, clarion sounds, but little variety. As it usually happens, nobody seemed to know what to do with this role. And I can only imagine that a singer needs some coaxing to care for giving that little extra that makes all the difference of the world in a role as ingrate as this one. When I first saw Wolfgang Koch’s Barak in Salzburg, I thought that he could be subtler. But then Barak was not subtle in that production. Now I see that, in normal circumstances, his performance in this role can be as benign as the composer and librettist conceived it. Considering his recent Wotans in Bayreuth, I expected his voice to sound a little bit more voluminous than this evening.  Last but not least, Sebastin Holecek was a very powerful Spirit Messenger.

Richard Strauss would be proud of his hometown opera’s orchestra. The Bayerische Staatsorchester offered this evening the dictionary definition of Straussian orchestral playing, offering crystalline, almost fairytale like sonorities and expressive solos throughout. Conductor Kirill Petrenko has followed Strauss’s conduct-it-as-if-it-were-Cosi-fan-tutte advice as a religious credo. He rarely unleashed a true orchestral forte, worked rather from tonal coloring and and brightness, never drowned his singers and offered the kind of clarity that would make following it with the score in hands really unnecessary. It was a performance of unusual musical elegance and intelligence. If I had not seen Thielemann conduct this opera in Salzburg as transparently as today and far more excitingly with a force-of-nature Vienna Philarmonic, I would have considered this evening the best FroSch live in the theatre in my experience. It is very important to stress that the disfiguring cuts that reduce the role of the Amme and make the long scene with the Empress in act III a bit abrupt have been opened out here. This involved a sizeable monologue very commendably dispatched by the non-native-speaker soprano. It was a long evening in a busy trip and I may have missed something, but I have the impression that a couple of tiny cosmetic cuts have made to accommodate the staging.

Well, if this evening had an advantage over the Salzburg Festspiel , this has to do with Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging. This came as a surprise for me. I have bad memories of his adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire in the Théâtre de l’Odéon, but here he offered more than compensation. This was probably the best staging of this acknowledgedly unstageable opera I have ever seen. Warlikowski proved depth of understanding of the libretto and, if the Freudian approach has been already tried by Robert Carsen in the Vienna State Opera, the consistent way with which the director used all scenic resources to portray the complex situations in the plot - especially the awkward changes in act II – was all but masterly. I am sorry to disappoint those who were expecting a concept too distant from the original story, for this was truly understandable (I mean, until act III, where at least he keeps interest going when every other director more or less gives up). Inspired by Alain Resnais’s L’Année Passée à Marienbad, the story is set in a cure resort where a rich woman (the Empress) traumatized by some sort of dramatic incident with her husband and in strong oblivion and denial of her life is put under the responsibility of a psychiatrist (the Amme) who has developed an unhealthy attachment to her patient. As some sort of therapeutic experiment, she is put in contact with the janitor’s wife – possibly an Internet bride from the East who has found her “looser” husband and new low-life life far below her expectations – whose marriage is getting dangerously close to a violent episode as the one we assume to have happened with the Empress. Once you understand that, Warlikowski does not try to bend the symbology - when the characters talk about a shadow, it’s really a shadow they are talking about. This eventually makes act III difficult – there is an elderly gentleman who is supposed to be Keikobad whose connections with the cure resort is hard to understand. The water of life is indeed a glass of water, but it is hard to make something out of that – especially because the whole “having babies”-moral is more or less it. I have noticed that lots of people have a problem with the “having babies”-issue. If you are interested in my opinion, I don’t believe that this is what Hofmannsthal was trying to say here – although “having babies” is the most elementary way of exerting the selflessness HvH was talking about.

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R. Strauss’s Frau ohne Schatten’s first studio recording has a legendary status – Karl Böhm tried to convince Decca’s Moritz Rosengarten to take profit of his excellent Vienna State Opera cast and record the opera for the first time. Rosengarten agreed to the proposal but offered him such a limited budget that the cast was obliged to sing for free in an unheated studio. The result, in experimental stereo sound, is the performance by which every other is judged. Including the one presented by the Salzburg Festival this evening. Why am I telling all this? Well, because director Christof Loy supposes that everyone in the audience knows that, even if it actually has intrinsically  nothing to do with the opera composed by Richard Strauss and written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

The plot of Frau ohne Schatten is one of the most complex in the whole repertoire, based on a wide-ranging and hermetic symbolism that addressed nonetheless some of the most important issues both in psychological and sociological levels at the time of its creation. If there is an opera that still needs a director to guide the audience through it, this is Frau ohne Schatten. It is a formidable task – those who are brave enough, such as David Pountney, have made a stab at it, most hide behind vague stylization, but Loy is the first director I have heard of who has given up before he tried. When Mary Zimmerman staged Bellini’s La Sonnambula as a rehearsal and portrayed all characters as singers et al, she met with harsh criticism, but I have to say that a) although Zimmerman did not really get the plot of La Sonnambula, it is a story a five-year-old kid would understand; and b) although Zimmerman’s concept was poorly developed, her stage direction itself was quite efficiently done, in the sense that there were well-defined characters, an imaginative use of the scenic space and actors acted well. I cannot say the same of this evening’s performance – the beautifully built scenery shows the Sofiensaal (where Solti’s Ring and not Böhm’s Frau ohne Schatten was recorded) prepared for recording sessions. Even if Loy explains very clearly his concept in the booklet – the Empress is a young singer who has to deal with her inner conflicts and mature as an artist through the experience of seeing a bitter aging diva (the Amme) trying to ruin the marriage of a younger colleague (Barak’s Wife) with prospects of success – what one basically sees is: singers with a score on a music stand while an engineer records it. The funny thing is that it is far less interesting than The Golden Ring documentary, where Birgit Nilsson, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Georg Solti are far more fascinating characters under God’s direction. Unlike some other members of the audience, I did not feel that I had to close my eyes to concentrate on the music, but – considering that the future of the euro is a bit uncertain right now – I feel sorry that so much money has been spent for exchange of insights below soap-opera level.

Under these circumstances, the audience certainly turned its attention to the musical side of the performance, and Christian Thielemann more than met the challenge. His performances of FroSch in the Deutsche Oper have left a very positive memory in Berlin and, if there is a composer in whose work the German conductor’s skills are not doubted, this is Richard Strauss. And this opera’s original orchestra is the Vienna State Opera Orchestra (both in the first performance and in the Böhm recording*). Therefore, hearing him conduct it with the Vienna Philharmonic has a special meaning. As he explained in the booklet, Richard Strauss’s music is so multilayered and dramatic that it requires from conductors the discipline to restrain themselves and let the music speak by itself. On listening to this evening’s performance, one could see that Thielemann really meant it. His approach is extremely respectful to the score, performed without cuts. It is at once full-toned (without being simply loud) and structurally transparent. He never forces the flow of this music and masterly knows how to build a climax. This evening, I have discovered many niceties in this work that I had previously never noticed. And it is doubly praiseworthy that one never felt a pedantic effort to highlight details, this happened quite naturally. To make things better, the orchestra was at its resplendent best, expressive solo passages, amazingly warm and rich sound picture and real commitment from the musicians. If Thielemann lacks Böhm extraordinary sense of “special effect”, it is probably because Böhm never felt he had to “respect” a score that he felt as his very own.

Considering the sense of care that the conductor obviously have with every little aspect of the score, it is most curious that he did not always care to follow the composer’s description of what kind of voice goes for each role.  For example, the Kaiserin is supposed to be a hoch dramatisch soprano and the Amme, a dramatic mezzo soprano. Anne Schwanewilms is probably the less dramatic soprano who ever sang the role of the Empress. Although her voice has a cutting edge, it just does not work here: her high register is pinched, fluttery and often thin; her low register is mostly left to imagination and she has the habit of pecking at notes or finishing them by a downwards portamento that I find quite unsettling. I understand that one wishes to hear a crystalline sound in this role – and Schwanewilms has it and is obviously a sensitive singer and also a good actress – but, overparted as she is here, every advantage can only be counted as such if you take too many things in consideration. I frankly thought Manuela Uhl in Berlin far more consistent (although she isn’t either a hoch dramatisch sopran, at least she is a jugendlich dramatisch soprano with properly supported flashing top notes). Other than this, I am not being ironic when I say that, this evening, she offered one of the most exciting accounts of the melodrama I have ever heard. As for Michaela Schuster, even if one can see she has all the right ideas about the role of the Amme, her voice is too light for it. If Strauss gave the Kaiserin a lighter orchestral texture to pierce through, such is not the case of the mezzo soprano part. It does require a hefty, bright, exciting voice. This evening, I too often had to add in my mind Grace Hofmann from Karajan’s recording to fill in the blanks of an overshadowed if charismatic singer. I must say, though, that friends who saw her in previous performances told me that today was below her standard in this run.

I have to confess I found Stephen Gould’s name in the cast list with some surprise. Although he is a singer who definitely finds no problems in being heard over a large orchestra, the role of the Kaiser requires a brighter and higher voice than his. It is also true that many a Siegmund-esque Heldentenor has tried it, usually with little success. Gould did sing better than most – he can keep a line in some unsingable parts (and he even sang “es ist anstatt ihrer” instead of the usual replacement “es ist für die Herrin”) – but he often had to operate carefully and couldn’t avoid the strain in the end of his second “aria”. Wolfgang Koch was a reliable Barak who lacked a tiny little bit velvetier and a nobler tone, as Johan Reuter’s in Berlin and Michael Volle’s in Zürich (to keep within recent performances). With the exception of a Thomas Johanns Mayer’s Messenger Spirit (clearly in a bad-voice day), minor roles were uniformly strongly cast: Rachel Frenkel was a very accurate Voice of the Falcon, Peter Sonn sang the “young man”‘s long lines without effort and Markus Brück, Steven Humes and Andreas Conrad were the best trio of Barak’s brothers I have ever heard. I leave the best for last – an incandescent Evelyn Herlitzius in the best performance of her life. Since the bad press she got in Bayreuth for Ortrud, I notice she has done a very serious effort of re-thinking her singing and the result is a far more relaxed tonal quality, a cleaner attack in softer dynamics and a warmer sound. Here all of them used to great effect – without any loss in her Nilson-esque missile-like acuti that could fill a hall twice larger than the Grossesfestspielhaus. She also acted with great sincerity and commitment.

*The Vienna Philharmonic, which comprised of members of the Opera orchestra, appears in some of Karl Böhm’s live recording’s (including the one released by DGG with Birgit Nilsson), Herbert von Karajan’s live recordings and both Georg Solti’s live and studio recording).

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Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Frank Miller? Director Kasper Holt seems to find a connection between the philosophical fairy-tale world of Die Frau ohne Schatten and neo-noir comics in his new production of R. Strauss’s opera for Copenhagen’s Royal Theater. Even if one finds hard to see that, one must acknowledge that using projections over a black screen and limiting the scenic action to individual spaces that work as panels on a page is a clever ideal when one does not really have the means to deal with the impossible special effects in the libretto. I just don’t see why the stage design should have a “Sin City” atmosphere that does not go with the plot. Images of Keikobad show him as some sort of mob big shot, while the Emperor and the Empress have golden crowns (they even sleep with it) and Barak’s Wife has a regular “Frau ohne Schatten”-costume. The incoherence involves acting styles too – the Empress acts as if she were playing children’s theatre, the Nurse goes for the Bette-Davis approach, Barak acts naturalistically, while the Emperor doesn’t act at all. I have the impression that the director really wanted to make a Frank Miller staging, then someone offered him Frau ohne Schatten and it had to do. It he had really tried, it could have been interesting. Some moments – such as the Empress’s nightmare or a particularly insightful and aesthetically compelling judgment scene – offered intelligent solutions where normally one is usually let down by unconvincing imagery.

I had never been in the new Copenhagen opera house before and cannot tell if the acoustics or conductor Michael Schønwandt were to blame for the strange sound picture: when playing alone, strings had a bright, pleasant sound, but the full orchestra sounded brassy and poorly blended. Singers’ voices could seem a bit drained of bloom (in Duisburg, Linda Watson sounded quite richer-toned in comparison). Woodwind had also no problem to preside over textures, but – even if the result was unusually structurally clean – the overall impression was of disjointedness. Lyric scenes worked very finely, though, for Schønwandt has a very particular way of producing flowing “cantabile” in his string section. In fact, after an excitingly well-shaped closing scene to act II, the whole performance seemed to find its focus. Act III was truly praiseworthy – the orchestral playing in the difficult melodrama was really thrilling and if around the end there were still some episodes of brassiness (and overloud percussion), conductor Michael Schønwandt had already sold you the concept.

I haven’t seen Sylvia Valayre in a while. Last time, I had the impression that she artificially darkened the tone to sound “dramatic”, but I don’t recall the worn out tone she had this evening. But for some Rysanek-like loud, full yet floating notes (high c’s and above were pretty solid), her soprano did not flow, often flapped in a bothersome way, shredded in her attempts at mezza voce, sounded hooty in the middle register and showed a bumpy break into unsubtle chest voice in the lower end of her range. Although there was no interpretation to speak of and the results were often unpleasant, it must be said that some tricky high-and-loud passages were adeptly handled. Maybe if she had tried the role earlier in her career, it could have worked better. Linda Watson’s performance was consistent with that of Duisburg: she is hardly electrifying, but sings the role with unusual finish and musicianship. In this production, the Dyer Wife is more vulnerable and almost regrets her fits of bitchiness soon after she had them – the approach works well for her temper and voice. Again, she was the best singer in the cast. Ildiko Szönyi has the elements of the part of the Nurse in her mezzo – she has a quick, clear delivery of the text, is capable of strong, focused low notes and can produce some piercing acuti when this is necessary. Unfortunately, all this is a bit chaotically handled and the final impression is of tentativeness. Pity – she is an intelligent performer and has something to say in this role.

I understand that Johnny van Hal frequently sings Heldentenor roles – he has a large voice all right – but I wonder if he was properly trained to deal with them. The voice has a glaringly open quality and his high notes sound squeezed and disconnected. His first appearance was hardly heroic or ardent. “Effortful” would be a good description. But then, the scene in the falconry showed an entirely different singer, phrasing with heady tones in an almost Mozartian way. Although nature probably gave him a Wagnerian voice, I couldn’t help noticing that he just feels more comfortable singing this lighter way. John Lundgren was a sensitive  and stylish Barak. He has a surprisingly dark and round bass-baritone and is able to retain this quality even in his high notes. Although the sound is not throaty, it is a tiny little bit muffled, what prevents him from piercing through when the orchestra is too loud or when singing with a dramatic soprano like Linda Watson.

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R. Strauss’s and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Die Frau ohne Schatten is a tour de force if there ever was one. It draws the line that separates men from boys and women from girls. If one has the intention to stage it or take part in a staging of this work, one must be more than prepared – one must be on the top of his or her game. Reading that the Deutsche Oper am Rhein has decided to stage it in the opera house in Duisburg, I must confess that the idea only seemed promising because an international team has been assembled. This is the kind of opera that cannot be assigned without consideration to ensemble singers, resident director and conductor.

I had seen only one staging by Guy Joosten before – a Roméo et Juliette at the Met, which was hardly earth-shattering, but, with a little help from the Met’s cash flow, beautiful enough. Not this FroSch, it looked downright cheap, poorly built, second-hand. Although Guy Joosten and his dramaturg, who must be his brother or something, seemed to have given a thought of two about the work and stated that the historical context of Hofmannsthal writing his fable in the context of WWI played a great role in their concept, what one sees on stage is so all-over-the-place that it is difficult to say anything. The set is basically a rotating black stadium tier – the upper part with the steps has a salvation-army bed which stands for the Emperor’s stately palace. It is only curious that under the tier, where Barak and his wife are supposed to live, there are purple and blue Arabian-Nights curtains everywhere. OK, this goes more of the less with the libretto and Barak is a dyer. But why then he wears a suit, drinks Budweiser, brings metallic gas balloons home when he is drunk (this Barak has a drinking problem…) and his brothers have a) a Mickey Mouse hat; b) a Chucky Doll mask and c) a Scream mask? Then there are too many examples of characters saying things that they are not doing: Barak and his wife have a long scene about him complaining about a broken mortar after she has warned him of a trespasser. But here he breaks nothing or does nothing at all. Besides a shrew, this Färberin sees things that do not exist. Joosten has seen pictures of dead people in WWI and everything is replaced by extras with bloodstained costumes. Is that all that he’s got? Unless he has given this production free of cost, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein has given away money of its limited budget for nothing. If Plato was right to say that necessity is the mother of invention, then she gave this production to adoption.

Although the Duisburger Philharmoniker (differently from the orchestra at La Scala) is a commited group of musicians, it is unfortunately not up to the herculean task imposed by Richard Strauss, especially the strings, which basically lacked tone throughout. When it has to produce a full sound, the result was often dry, sometimes awkward and often brassy. I was going to write that I would need to see Axel Kober conduct this work with a more seasoned orchestra before I said something, but then I’ve remembered that I did see him conduct FroSch last year in the Deutsche Oper. Although the results were far superior, they were not illuminating either. He does not master the sense of effect of a Karl Böhm and does not keep the proceedings going. The score finally seemed mechanical rather than complex.

Morenike Fadayomi has a rich-toned lyric soprano with some impressive resources: it is capable of heft, has easy top notes, floats adeptly in mezza voce and can keep a line with naturalness. Unfortunately these dramatic soprano (or even jugendlich dramatisch) emplois take her so often to her limits that one has some trouble to see how gifted she is. If she were singing Arabella or the Feldmarschallin rather than Salome or Aida, I bet she would be more of a household name, also because her acting skills are not negligible. As it is, although she acquitted herself quite well in the part trickiest moments, the sound was sometimes strained, sometimes squally, sometimes tremulous and hooty but for her rich-toned high notes. Although Linda Watson treaded carefully when the line took her above the stave and seemed entirely unconcerned in the interpretation department, she sang the role of the Färberin in her warm, spacious soprano without the stridence most singers display here. I would dare to say that her singing of the act 3 duet stands among the smoothest and most lyrical I have ever heard. Susan Maclean seemed not to be in her best voice and the comedy approach required from her robbed her performance of some of its incisiveness. That said, she has the measure of this role vocally and interpretatively. She finds no problem with the difficult writing, handles the text intelligently and produces both powerful chest notes and dramatic acuti at will. The semaphoric gestures, obvious in an almost childish way, chosen by the director are quite annoying, but Maclean showed her professionalism on performing them with miraculous conviction.

As in Zürich, Roberto Saccà’s tenor is far from ingratiating, but he sounds almost comfortable with the high-lying and exposed phrasing of the role of the Emperor. His flowing phrasing in the most strenuous passages is indeed praiseworthy. Tomasz Konieczny sang powerfully as Barak, but his metallic, tightly focused voice basically lacks the necessary warmth and roundness in this role. Maybe because the sound is so forward and driven, he found problem in softening when the composer required gentler dynamics. As I feared, the bad-guy voice that made his thrilling Alberich so intense was not his Alberich-voice, but basically his voice. As the director did not seem to know what to do with Barak (beside the drinking problem), Konieczny sometimes seemed a bit lost on stage too. Finally, James Bobby’s forceful, dark-toned Geisterbote deserves to be mentioned. A name to keep.

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Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten is one of the most formidable works in the operatic repertoire – it is like performing Mahler’s 6th Symphony with the cast of Verdi’s Il Trovatore and the scenography of Wagner’s Ring. These superhuman requirements demand the sympathetic ear of the audience and probably also some gratitude. It is such a monumental and unique masterpiece that being able to see it live at all is an unmissable opportunity. An opportunity we should probably thank the Deutsche Oper’s Intendantin, even if she also happens to be the stage director.

If there is a subject in Operatic Stage Direction course called “how to stage act III”, Kirsten Harms probably missed it. As in her Tannhäuser, although her acts 1 and 2 are not the most amazing things on the face of Earth, they are quite acceptable -  what she really ruins is the end. Here she tries to relate the plot to the time of the work’s creation – although the costumes suggest rather WWII, the action is set during WWI and we see the Empress and the Emperor living in a palace that looks like a hall in the Pergammonmuseum, while the Baraks live in their rather large and airy shanty. Since the sets are quite good-looking and the idea is not bad per se, I had no problem with that – but I confess I find Harms’s idea of deleting the plot’s magic elements self-defeating. As it is, the Empress and the Nurse’s scheming to get a shadow seems to be work exclusively on money. And I am not sure that this is the idea. But that is a detail compared to the fact that the Emperor here wird nicht zu Stein. He is kidnapped at night in front of the Empress’s eyes, who has no dream at all about that. Have I forgotten that the Nurse is executed by the Spirit Messenger? And that all the complex imagery imagined by Hofmannsthal to act III is reduced to a setting who seemed to be a rest from the closing tableau of an old production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut? Because Harms believes that, after act II, “nothing exists anymore, no imperial palace, no shelter for the impoverished; all dreams, all mistakes are over”. I am sorry – but that is not what the libretto says and it sounds just an excuse to justify the fact that the budget was used up in acts I and II.

Considering the economy of means on stage, one would feel inclined to turn to the pit to find riches of expression, but the truth is that Ulf Schirmer was a bit economical himself. He is a stylish Straussian who never forgot to play it “as if it were Così fan tutte”, keeping thus the proceedings extremely clean, elegant and transparent, but one could expect a bit more abundance of sound in the purely orchestral passages and a bit more Schwung in the highly dramatic situations of act II, for example. Lyric moments such as the Emperor’s act II scenes seriously lacked affection and forward movement.

Manuela Uhl does not exactly possess the hoher dramatische Sopran required in the score, but what she has does fine as well. Her jugendlich dramatisch voice has the necessary crystalline quality, she has easy top notes and knows how to spin a Straussian phrase, but exposed dramatic passages bring a touch of sourness and some flutter too. She is a committed actress, uttered a chilling “ich will nicht” and looks really well. Eva Johansson comes closer to the high dramatic soprano label and she can even floats high mezza voce, but her vocal production has many unstable and insecure moments. Because of her technical glitches, she is often too busy with the notes to find enough leeway to express anything.  The difficult end of act II found her really out of sorts and often off pitch. When Robert Brubaker first opened his mouth, the words “James King” occurred to me, but soon it became clear that the role is too high for his voice and strained him beyond any possibility of smoothness. On the other hand, Johan Reuter’s dark and rich bass-baritone fills Straussian lines sensitively and elegantly. I leave the best for last: yes, it is true that bête de scène Doris Soffel is not a dramatic mezzo soprano, but she is the kind of artist who makes it happens, regardless of what “it” is. She is not afraid of going larger than life, knows how to create dramatic impact and has an endless supply of forceful top notes. Finally, the Deutsche Oper should be praised for the high quality of singers in small roles, particularly Hulkar Sabirova in a series of key high soprano parts.

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