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Nobody has to cry for Argentina because of the World Cup: they still have Daniel Barenboim, who brought them not the championship, but the Deutsche Staatsoper for a Gastspiel at the Teatro Colón involving a whole series of Brahms symphonies and Harry Kupfer’s staging of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.

I have seen Barenboim conduct Tristan at the Lindenoper and at the Schiller-Theater, but the experience of hearing him in a different venue, especially in the famous acoustics of the Colón, made the experience of listening to the Argentinian maestro in this work even more illuminating.
In my opinion, Barenboim has no rivals in this score, unless we are speaking of recordings by the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan or Karl Böhm. This evening’s performance was probably the most balanced Tristan I have ever heard from Barenboim, if not necessarily the most emotionally overwhelming. The more spacious and analytic acoustics may have something to do with that: one could hear an ant walking on stage. In terms of clarity, it felt like reading the score, but the sound picture was a bit more distant than one would experience in smaller venues such as those used by the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin. In any case, after a prelude in which the maestro took a while to fit in the brass section, the first act moved with a daringly – and difficult to pull off – gradual heightening of tension. There was no Birgit Nilsson or Jon Vickers in the cast and at first the atmosphere seemed almost casual in airy orchestral sound and leisurely tempi. Only when Tristan and Isolde were alone at last, the audience could feel that this was a culmination of an unbroken line that started on the first bar in the prelude.
Act 2 flowed most naturally in unexaggerated buoyancy and plenty of leeway for lyricism. The entrance of King Marke felt therefore like a reality shock. Truth be said, that scene lacked pathos and had to be electroshocked back to life in the last five minutes.  The final act, unfortunately, involved some adjustments to help singers, but one has to admire the conductor’s mastery in making the orchestra his main soloist nonetheless. The musicians in the pit alone were able to tell everything you need to know about Tristan’s spiritual anguish, and the strings, in soft yet rich sound, sang the Liebestod in a way that made the soprano unnecessary.
Anja Kampe is a singer I like in spite of her hard-to-overlook imperfections. Today both her assets and liabilities were pretty much in evidence. Her sensuous-toned soprano, particular warm in its lower reaches, is apt for the role of Isolde and she produced some powerful acuti when necessary, but she lacks projection and the middle register was often hard to hear. She is an expressive artist who never fails to communicate the meaning of the text in her singing either through tone coloring or word-pointing and offered many new insights. I was satisfied with the trade-off, but grey tonal quality and effort finally turned me off. The Liebestod sounded as if she was marking, and, well, as the saying goes, if you mess the last act, then you’ve messed the whole opera. In terms of acting, I confess I’ve seen a more dignified and feminine Waltraud Meier in it, and Ms. Kampe sounded a tad prosaic in comparison.
Angela Denoke is my first soprano Brangäne, and this evening I could understand why there are advocates of casting a high voice there. First, the role sounds less regal and some testing passages (such as the warnings in act 2) easier and more natural. Denoke has had her ups and downs I n her career and she seems to have found a middle ground this evening. Her voice is still appealingly natural in sound, but she sounds a bit desperate when things get high and loud. Then she sounds hooty and pitch can be approximative. In compensation, she has very clear diction and acts famously. I would often find myself looking at her when other singers were in charge.
I have to confess that I was not eager to hear Peter Seiffert as Tristan once more. I had seen him both at the Deutsche Oper and in the Staatsoper in Berlin and it never ended very well. This evening, however, he was in good voice and avoided as much as he could to force his high g’s in an open tone as he has done as Siegmund in Salzburg . For the first two acts, he sang in youthful voice and with a welcome lyric quality and I even hoped he would go through act 3 unscathed. To his defense, I can say that once things went awry around his second big “monologue”, he was admirably cold-blooded enough to recover and sing more or less what he had to sing until his death scene. In terms of acting,  the interaction with the soprano and the baritone seemed to have had an effect on him. Although one still cannot use the word “engagement”, this showed undeniable improvement.
Boaz Daniel (Kurwenal) beefs up his baritone, but he sings with unshakable focus and has a very likable personality. Moreover, his voice, even darkened, is pleasant. Unfortunately, Kwangchul Youn was in an off-day and sang the part of King Marke in a tremulous and grainy voice.

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Although Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier had already been performed in São Paulo before, first by a visiting German theatre on tour in 1959 and 10 years ago in concert with Anne Schwanewilms and the OSESP, this run of performances in the Theatro Municipal are its first local production. Even if Richard Strauss himself conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in Brazil in the 1920’s, this was not enough to make him a household name in opera houses deeply rooted in Italian tradition, such as those in Rio or São Paulo. There have been occasional incursions in his operatic works, especially Elektra and Salome, and the new Rosenkavalier might represent a renewed interest in the music of the Bavarian composer in these shores.

Roberto Minczuk is an experienced conductor in this repertoire who has been nurtured in the right tradition in his days in the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. This evening he has shown his deep understanding of the score in a performance that flowed in natural tempi, structural clarity, preference for warm sonorities and feeling for highlighting the Hauptstimme in almost Mozartian dialogue with his singers. The fact that the complex writing challenged his orchestra was never an issue in terms of putting across his vision. One could see that his strings left a lot to be desired in terms of articulation, but whenever it has to produce a key effect, such as in the closing of acts 1 and 3, this was never an impediment, even if one could wish for improvement. In any case, the brass section offered playing above its usual level and blended naturally with woodwind.
If act 1 lacked some atmosphere in the Marschallin’s monologue (the house orchestra’s strings tend to loose color in softer dynamics), the delivery of the silver rose proved to be the major misfire in the evening. In the slower pace chosen by Mr. Minczuk, a soprano ill at ease and meager orchestral sound just hanged fire. The ensuing duet showed everyone in better form. Act 3 made me think of Karl Böhm’s Dresden recording in the way it integrated comic and lyric moments. It can sound a bit all over the place, but not this evening, crowned by a final trio that built up steadily in a slower pace in a powerful conclusion.
I am not so enthusiastic about Pablo Maritano’s staging, the bureaucratic sets and anachronistic and often ugly costumes of which did not added up to any particular dramatic purpose other than fitting into a limited budget. The Personenregie tended to be overbusy, but the director benefited from the cast’s above-average acting skills. To his credit, he seems to have read the libretto from scratch and offered some fresh ideas. I have particularly enjoyed the end of act 1. Here the Marschallin sings very expressive music while she explains transportation arrangements. This has always puzzled me, but not this evening. As conceived by Mr. Maritano, the Marschallin is just trying to prevent an emotional breakdown by keeping things as objective as possible. When she is finally alone, she can’t hold back her tears anymore.
Argentinian soprano Carla Filipic Holm has acted here and elsewhere very convincingly. She has an expressive face and, although her voice and attitude are rather Germanic, one can see her South American emotional generosity behind that. This has made her a particularly multidimensional Marschallin. In terms of singing, Ms. Filipic has a creamy tubular soprano à la Angela Denoke that soars in high mezzo voce without effort but and yet can acquire  a splash of hootiness at moments. She is sometimes a bit imprecise with pitch, especially in the end of phrases and her delivery of the text is not truly clear. Yet she knows the style and can produce beautiful sounds, such as in the opening phase of the final trio.
I have always enjoyed the artistry of Brazilian mezzo Luisa Francesconi, especially in Mozart, and was curious about this Straussian venture or hers. It is true that her voice is a bit on the light side for the role, but her fruity, firm-toned voice is appealing, her diction is crystalline and her German is very good. She floats pianissimo beautifully and, if she can sound cautious in exposed high notes, she compensates with ideal illusion of boyhood (she actually looks very “handsome” as Octavian) and her Mariandl was quite effective.
Elena Gorshunova’s soprano is pretty enough for Sophie, but she doesn’t master the art of high mezza voce and messed things up in the beginning of act 2 and at the end of the opera. Elsewhere, she could be s little bit more engaging if she were a little bit more engaged, especially in the acting department.
Dirk Aleschus knows everything one is supposed to know about the role of Baron Ochs, but at its present state his bass lacks tone and volume, especially in both ends of his range and he can be really imprecise in what regards intonation. He is a funny guy and had the audience at his side nonetheless.
Annina, Valzacchi and Faninal are not minor roles and require singers more adept than those cast for these performances. This was a serious if not major drawback in the overall effectiveness of this evening’s performance.

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For someone who has fallen out of love with Verdi’s La Traviata, it seems that I have been writing about it more regularly that I would prefer. As Violetta Valéry says herself, the heart has nothing to do with it, but rather a morbid curiosity to see a singer in a part that requires everything a singer can do. Last time, I had a ticket to see Sonya Yoncheva in Berlin, but she cancelled the first performance and I wouldn’t see this of all operas twice in the same week, especially with a soprano I had never heard about. A ticket for another performance with Yoncheva was bought and that was it.

Some months later, on listening to an exquisite rendition of Rachmaninov’s song Zdes choroso with the 2015 Cardiff Singer of the World first prize winner Nadine Koutcher, I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to hear her on stage. That was the moment I realized that she was the stand-in for Yoncheva I had snobbed in Berlin.

After a failed attempt to see her as Amenaide in Santiago de Chile, I’ve finally had the opportunity to settle this affair when the Theatro Municipal de São Paulo cast her in the title role of Verdi’s La Traviata, a coproduction with the Fundação Clóvis Salgado in Belo Horizonte. Veteran director Jorge Takla concocted a very traditional performance the wow factor of which is Cássio Brasil’s glamorous costumes framed by Nicolás Boni’s pale-colored elegant sets. Everything else is predictable but for the unusual omnipresence of ballet dancers throughout the third act. Their choreography during the prelude was of dubious effect, but the idea grew on me when their rather outlandish presence brought about an unsettling touch to the prevailing coziness.

Ms. Koutcher’s control and focus in an extra slow account of Télaïre’s Tristes apprêts in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux conducted by Teodor Currentzis made me expect a performance of absolute purity of tone and polish of phrasing. However, expectations are a tricky thing. Although the Belorussian soprano is a model of clear diction and is incapable of doing anything unmusical, the voice has an acidulous tonal quality and lacks core, often sounding a bit tremulous. Her act 1 was more efficient than exhilarating. By the end of Sempre libera, there was a hint of effort, what is understandable for a voice a bit on the small side for the role.

Act 2 was surprisingly bureaucratic and monochromatic, the use of portamento more calculated than spontaneous. Curiously, act 3 seems to have pressed all the right buttons on the evening’s prima donna. Only then she caressed her lines with genuine feeling and even the instability added credibility to the character’s decaying health. To this point, her acting had more to do with looking and moving with charm (something she has indeed), but here she read her letter in idiomatic Italian and with the languor of someone who has already said farewell to this world. She also handled her dying scene in the most musical and effective manner. 

I saw tenor Fernando Portari as Alfredo in 2001 in Rio (with Eteri Lamoris and Eduard Tumagian) and even back then was not very convinced this showed him in advantage. Seventeen years later, he seems in better control of his instrument, offering beautiful mezza voce and reasonable flexibility, but the tone is even more nasal and open than it was and the overall impression of a Charaktenor in a lyric role. He also looks too old for the part and hams in dangerous levels.

Baritone Paulo Szot too is somewhat overparted as Germont, père, but his technique is admirable. His Mozartian baritone has a splash of Hermann Prey in its velvetiness and yet he could  shift for a while to fifth gear to emulate a Verdian voice. By the end of his long duet with the soprano he was evidently tired and the voice started to grate and have its wooly moments. In any case, in spite of two episodes of wayward intonation, he sang with unusual rhythmic accuracy, sensitivity and imagination. The way he colored the second version of Di Provenza Il mare is truly praiseworthy.

Maestro Roberto Minczuk‘s heroic intent of treating the score with the respect a conductor shows to a symphony by Beethoven is even more laudable in view of the limitations of the house orchestra. Given the restricted volume of his soloists, he kept the sound picture almost chamber-like and took profit of the extra transparency to highlight orchestral solos in almost concertante perspective with the singers and tried to be faithful to the composer’s instructions in terms of dynamics without affectations. However, strings lacked tone throughout and resented extremes of dynamics while his woodwinds seemed unable to scale down. This particular problem ruined an otherwise well-judged prelude to act 1. Other than this, the only moment in which his concept seemed problematic was the concertato in the end of act 2, when the pace was simply too slow and unfit for a soprano who lacked the reserves of power to preside over the ensemble as she should.

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Semiramide is Rossini’s most successful opera seria stravaganza, and this does not mean it is one of his most popular operas. First, it is long. Second, it is expensive in terms of production. Third, good luck casting it…! It is often staged to please the appetites of a bel canto diva, but the Met has history with it, glamorously opened with Patti and Melba. Many decades later, there was Marilyn Horne in the primo uomo role and the Met had less stellar sopranos such as Lella Cuberli and Christine Weidinger on the billboard. Of course, there was June Anderson for the video release. There, one can also see John Copley’s fantasy Assyria, the staging still in use in the present run of performances.

It is no coincidence that the one time I could see Semiramide (in concert performance) the prima donna was no other than Angela Meade. I had never seen (or heard) her before and was impressed by the roundness, volume and flexibility. Then the voice had a Margaret Price-ish quality now almost entirey lost. The “almost” is the key word here. Since then, I had seen Ms. Meade as Lucrezia Contarini and the Trovatore Leonora and noticed some tonal harshness that made her voice more formidable than pleasing. In a recent interview, she said that her voice was meant to sing Semiramide and, listening to her singing today, I agree with her. It has sounded almost as well as it did 9 years ago. Although the harshness is occasionally still there – and one could wish for a little bit more affection and cantabile – hearing that big voice sail through scales, roulades and all kind of difficult coloratura is truly exciting. Hers is not a flashing personality and, as much as last time, she makes the part convincing by adapting it to her personality. Here one believes she regrets the whole affair with Assur and the plot to kill her husband. There is a splash of Lucrezia Borgia (Victor Hugo’s, not the real one…) here in the sense of a lost soul desperately trying to be someone’s angel.

Elizabeth DeShong, in the role of Arsace, was one of this performance’s most shining features. When she first started singing, the words “Lucia Valentini-Terrani” came to my mind. This is a warm, fruity, charming voice, more comfortable in the contralto end of her mezzo, that produces Rossini fioriture to the manner born. She has very good Italian and delivers some of her lines chillingly. Her tonal quality, rhythmic precision and crispy textual delivery make her ideal in trouser roles, although the physique is not very convincing. I definitely want to hear more from Ms. DeShong.

To make things even more exciting, Mexican tenor Javier Camarena brought the house down with his dulcet tenor capable of supersonic coloratura and the firmest and brightest in alts in the market. Most tenors in this repertoire sound a bit whiny, but Mr. Camarena was convincingly heroic throughout. Bravo.

Ildar Abdrazakov is the Met’s resident Rossini basso. If his voice is a bit grainy, it is big enough and his coloratura is decent enough. Well, it is more than that, but I am trying not to compare him with Samuel Ramey. It would be unrealistic. Ryan Speedo Green was a powerful Oroe too. I wish, however, that the chorus could be half as good as the soloists.

Although the video shows some larger-than-life personalities, the revival is more believable in its intent of portraying these characters as people. Of course, it all looks museologic and clichéed, but that’s what this revival is about. Maurizio Benini’s conducting, reliable as it was, still made Rossini sound a bit museologic too. One expect to hear this repertoire with a little bit more spirit and energy these days.

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The revival of Patrice Chéreau’s production of R. Strauss’s Elektra is supposed to be the informal beginning of the Met’s new era. It features the house’s Brünnhilde-to-be, the new music director and even involves the debut of a German Kunstdiva to replace Waltraud Meier’s Klytämnestra. If it ultimately proved to be everything but exciting, let’s hope that the future is going to gain momentum at some point.

I had never seen Christine Goerke in the theatre before this evening and only knew her Elektra from a 2015 broadcast from Boston. As caught by the microphones, the voice sounded that of a mezzo soprano with an upper extension produced rather by will power than by nature. In any case, monochromatic and labored as it sounded, this seemed a plausible voice for the role. Some would have described famous Elektras from the past with words like these. Live at the theatre, it is a whole diferent story. First, it projects poorly. Other than in the lower reaches, it is hard to hear and the high notes are bottled up, fluttery and rattling. It must be mentioned that the extreme acuti, such as the high c’s fare better than most of the high g’s and a’s, although the amount of pressure involved is almost disturbing. Second, the tonal quality is greyish and variety is only achieved by means of distortion. Sometimes, a note starts off full but then a shrill, nasal quality creeps in as a vain attempt of producing a cutting edge. Third, although there are moments when one can see the potential of Straussian phrasing in more lyrical passages as long as they don’t climb up too far up from middle register, what one hears most of the time is a note squeezed in right after the one before.

Although Ms. Goerke is being marketed as the next hochdramatisch soprano, this is a voice that is not comfortable with either the high or the dramatic and, in its present fabricated state, it is hard to tell where its comfort zone is. In defense of Ms. Goerke, she did not look nervous, tired or desperate about anything she had to sing during the whole evening and her word pointing was apt and insightful. Even without the help of tonal variety, she was able to share some interesting ideas about her character and to suggest that Elektra was probably a young woman, what makes sense in the context of this staging. In terms of acting, her commitment is undeniable, but there were many moments when one had the impression she was repeating the Spielleiter’s blocking without fully understanding why. This made her Elektra unusually self-possessed and in control. There was nothing wild  in her acting, what made the final scene quite anticlimactic.

It must be said the new Spielleiter did not seem keen as the assistant to the late Mr. Chéreau on reproducing the director’s power of implying  a lot with very little. Today the stage looked busy and grandiloquent.

This evening Chrysothemis, South-African soprano Elza van den Heever sounded refreshingly bright in comparison to her Elektra, albeit in a glassy and green-toned way. She did not seem challenged by the high tessitura, but did not offer the kind of lyric expansion Straussian sopranos supply in the part’s key moments either. As much as Waltraud Meier, Michaela Schuster’s mezzo is not particularly rich in its lower register. She too sounded small-scaled in the Met’s large auditorium and her expressionistic take on the role looked out of context in this production. Alan Held’s Orest was two sizes larger than his colleagues, but his voice is rather on the rusty side these days and there is some lack of dramatic concentration, a problem shared by Jay Hunter Morris as Aegysth, who is still a bit at a loss with the German language. Among the smaller roles, Tichina Vaughan, a regular in German opera houses, could not help standing out with her spacious and firm low notes and clarity of purpose.

When it comes to Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s conducting, it is hard to say much in the context of his lightweight cast. The orchestra had to be kept on tight rein and the conductor’s fondness for rounding off sharp angles made it all sound very polite and sanitized. When some punch was unavoidable, the orchestra seemed ill at ease and abrupt. If it is true that R. Strauss once said that a conductor should navigate this as if it had been written by Mozart,  let’s not forget that Mozart’s music written for Electra (in Idomeneo) is anything but pretty and light.

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Although my experience with Sonya Yoncheva began quite off the beaten track when she sang Rameau in a gala concert with Emmanuelle Haïm and the Concert d’Astrée, it has since then taken me to some of the most pedestrian corners of the repertoire. Although I do like more than a couple of moments in Verdi’s La Traviata and Puccini’s La Bohème, having to sit through a whole performance and dealing with carnival scenes is something of a challenge for me – a challenge I only take on when it means the opportunity to see a singer of special interest.

Ms. Yoncheva’s Violetta Valéry in Berlin was a performance musically and dramatically sophisticated if not truly emotionally sincere, and I felt curious to see what she would make of Mimì, a role incompatible to mannerism and intellectualization. My first surprise this evening involved the very sound of her voice. While her Violetta had a touch of Callas in its tanginess, the soft-edged yet bright quality of her Mimì has more than a splash of Mirella Freni, especially in the youthful forward and light sounds she consistently produced in her middle register. If she did not suggest the same degree of spontaneity and naturalness of Ms. Freni (who does anyway?), this Bulgarian soprano offered a performance immune to criticism in its balance of musical and theatrical values. She even manages to infuse some spirit in a character that tends to the silly goose.

Vocally, Ms. Yoncheva has no trouble projecting into the big hall and usually presided over ensembles without much effort. There is only one element that elicits concern: the fact that her high notes more often than not flap in a way that might suggest wobble in the future. Some may say it is the frequentation of heavy roles, but I am not sure. I just hope this is something she is willing to look into.

My second source of interest this evening was tenor Michael Fabiano, whom I had never seen before. Based on what I had read and seen on YouTube, I was expecting some sort of stentorian voice used rather crudely if quite healthily. And this was very inconsistent to my impression live in the theatre this evening. To start with, I had the impression that he was not in his best voice today. He had to work hard for his high notes, the high c in his aria a bit colorless and labored and a couple of other notes below true pitch.

The voice itself is quite different from what I expected too: it is not big and it is also pleasantly darker than in recordings. In order to give it an edge, he often resorts to nasalization in a way that robs it of naturalness and charm. Although his phrasing is not really flowing and somewhat emphatic, it is also clean and more varied in coloring than he usually is credited for. Curiously, it is not very Italianate, even if his Italian is very good.

Susanna Phillips’s Musetta too lacks Italian quality. Her blond soprano only sounds at ease in this music when the singer manages to Mozartian-ize it. When the writing requires the brighter edge that is the hallmark of a soprano born in Italy, she is either hard to listen or awkward. Although she has acquitted herself quite commendably with her character, I have the impression that this is not the kind of role close to her own personality and temper.

Lucas Meachum’s baritone has a warm velvety quality and, even if short in its lower reaches, is sizable enough. He is also funny without exaggeration, but the lifeless Italian is a drawback. David Pershall was a firm-toned Schaunard, and Matthew Rose was a reliable Colline who could do with a little bit more emotional engagement in his aria.

At first, I had the impression that conductor Marco Armiliato did not seem in good understanding with his cast. The orchestra was often too loud and the tempo seemed to be timed to highlight the kind of expressive phrasing only his prima donna seemed ready to deliver. Later, he would find various levels of success in adjusting the sounds on stage and in the pit. It must be noted, however, that the orchestra did sound richer and more distinctive than under many a more famous conductor visiting the Lincoln Center.

I had seen the Zeffirelli production only once 2005 maybe (Ruth Ann Swenson and Franco Lopardo) and it looked grander and more beautiful in my memory. This evening, only the scene when Mimì visits Marcello in the osteria caused an impression in me in its soft blue Monet-like palette.

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It has been a while since I last wrote about a Liederabend and I had forgotten how difficult this is. Although an opera is something to be seen, it does not come close to a Liederabend in what regards the interaction between audience and singer. The lights are on, there is nothing to distract those in the hall and nowhere for the singer to hide. If a recital does not work out, one feels too involved and unwilling to dismiss the recitalist. One would rather blame the occasion. One could say that all chamber music concerts are supposed to feel the same way, but I would dare to say that a Liederabend exposes the soloist in a way a pianist or a violinist could not even imagine. It is like a group therapy session when you have to tell about your private life in front of 100 people.

Then there is the problem of writing about the accompanying pianist. Even if one tries really hard to be original, all reviewers write the same things about them, for the truth is that they fall into very simple categories: bad and good, the bad ones generally being those who resent not being the Schwerpunkt of the evening.

Again, it has been a while since I last attended a Liederabend. This actually reminds me that probably the first really echter Liederabend (i.e., 100% German art songs, no opera arias, no French mélodies, no 7 canciones populares españolas and no Cole Porter) I have ever seen featured Dorothea Röschmann back in 2004 (?). Those days she used to sing Handel and Bach and her big role was Susanna. This was before the Elsas, the Desdemonas, the Agathes. It could have been another life.

In her present state, Ms. Röschmann’s soprano has lost nothing in firmness, but the touch of velvetiness that made her Nanetta quite distinctive has developed into almost mezzo-ish fulness of tone. Her high notes have lost their former purity but now sound rather forceful in a way that one would easily call “operatic”. This was more evident in the opening Schubert items. Her Mignon Lieder had a Wagnerian scale that tampered a bit with textual clarity. When it comes to Schubert sopranos, one expects an instrumental quality that involve absolute clarity and spontaneity in high-lying passages. Is it coincidence that all famous sopranos in this repertoire usually are those who sing Bach? With her now vibrant and climactic high notes, Ms. Röschmann would have to work hard for Bachian style these days. In Kennst du das Land…, some passages sounded downright gutsy and unsubtle, but the omnipresent intensity somehow made Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt unusually coherent and visceral as the text suggests.

Ms. Röschmann’s emotional generosity and richness of voice proved to be more appropriate for the bolder brushstokes required by Schumann’s songs. Rarely have the Lieder in Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart sounded as regal and powerful as in this evening’s performance, probably the highlights of this concert. Mahler’s Rückert Lieder lacked Innigkeit and their long lines exposed the fact that the singer does not have a particularly long breath, often separating article from nouns and even sylables from the same word.

I was going to write something about the Wesendonck Lieder, but I have to be honest about what I expect from a singer here: if she is not Régine Crespin, than I just don’t like it. It is stupid, but my heart is not open to reasoning here. I would say that what I heard this evening sounded really distant from the sensuousness, tonal variety and glamor of Crespin, even if its emotional engagement did hit the right spot in two or three moments.

If I were to be honest, the encores, when the singer visibly felt elated by the audience’s response, were far more convincing: Liszt’s Es muss ein Wunderbares sein showed more intimacy than almost anything sung before that, Wolf’s In der Frühe similarly subtle and haunting. I confess I personally take the point of view of Schumann’s lotus flower and partake of its thrill of being bathed by moonlight, but Ms. Röschmann’s more objective view was refreshing for a change.

Now the pianist. In what regards unity of vision, Malcolm Martineau proved to be in perfect understanding with the singer. His Schubert was grandly Romantic as hers, his Mahler sounded short-breathed too in a way that one aches to hear it in the orchestral version and the Wagner reminded the audience that the piano goes into the percussion rather than the string instruments. You don’t have to guess that the Schumann was his best playing in the evening.

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