Although I have already seen live transmissions from the Met of productions I had actually seen live, I don’t remember having ever watched one so close after seeing it there at the Met before this evening. The opening night, as reported below was eventful to say the least – Kaufmann was nervous, Westbroek was in very poor voice and nervous (or ill, as officially announced), Voigt had an accident with “the machine” in the day she decided to sing Brünnhilde for the very first time… Of course, in the last performance of the run most of this initial problems have been dealt with and my impression is that the audience this evening had a far better show than I had last month. I am not only sure if those who saw only the transmission really got a faithful idea of what happened live.
To start with, the way microphones have recorded it all voices sound more or less the same size. And this is somehow unfair to Stephanie Blythe and Hans-Peter König, for the volume and power of those voices were very much an important part of the thrill of their singing. Today in the movie theatre Kaufmann sounded as loud as Blythe – while my recollection is that even the ailing Westbroek was substantially louder than him. In any case, although Siegmund still sounds a bit low for him, free from the pressure of a role debut, he sang more spontaneously today and far more smoothly in act I. As for Westbroek, will it sound mean if I say that I preferred Margaret Jane Wray’s 3rd act? She is a good, solid singer – but considering that she is not a dramatic soprano and that, as a lyric soprano, she lacks flexibility and dynamic variety, I wonder what kinds of roles she intends to sing in the future. Her Elisabeth at the Covent Garden was more about vigor than subtlety.
In my original post, I have already praised Bryn Terfel’s detailed interpretation, but during the run it has developed into something sharper and even more perceptive. Although I can think of a couple of richer-voiced Wotans these days, none of them really offer something as complex and so revelatory in terms of comprehension of the text. I still dislike Deborah Voigt’s unappealing tonal quality in the middle register, absolute lack of variety and imagination, but I must acknowledge that she too is now more comfortable than in the opening night, when she often had to brace for her high notes. That said, this evening, with the help of close up, one could feel how emotionally engaged she was in her last scene and how efficient her chemistry with Terfel is. Their father/daughter relationship was particularly palpable – and that is quite rare.
Although James Levine’s has his disturbingly slow moments (Todverkündung will probably end next week…), the orchestra – at least with the help of microphones – produced a more positive sound. I confess I found that, while the live performance mostly left me cold, the transmission had a couple of beautiful moments. On the other hand, the camerawork was fussy, we were often showed unnecessary things (Kaufmann fighting to untie his hair* or slobbering, stagehands etc), close ups in moments when a larger angle would show the scenery more advantageously etc.
* I know it is silly, but why is it not Sieglinde who unties his hair? This would make more sense while she says that he is like spring for her etc than having Siegmund worried about his hairstyle while someone says all this to him.