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Posts Tagged ‘Andreas’

Although my experience of watching Claus Guth’s production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung for the Staatsoper Hamburg back in 2010 was thought-provoking, I had never had the opportunity of seeing other installments of the Ring at the Gänsemarkt until this evening’s presentation of Siegfried. As expected, the staging offers an intelligent approach to specific issues of this libretto while keeping coherence with the concept shown in the Tetralogy’s last opera. The backbone of Guth’s idea is the burden of History as a paralyzing element in a structure of power in contrast to the unfettering and dangerous effect of ignorance. Here we see Siegfried achieve everything the gods could not because he is entirely free from the constraints in which Wotan tangled himself by building the world. This is why he can also destroy it so easily. He has not real involvement with anyone or anything, because that is how he was raised, unaware even of his own history. He is incapable of fear because ultimately he has nothing to lose.

I have seen Kent Nagano conduct Siegfried once in Munich, and my impression was that Wagner is not his repertoire. This has been confirmed by this evening’s performance. It is true that back in the Bayerische Staatsoper Siegfried was the most successful item in the package, mainly because Mr. Nagano’s low-testosterone conducting sheds an interesting light in Wagner’s highest-testosterone score. With a help of the unusually poised singing offered by the cast, the American conductor led an almost Mozartian view of a music often referred to as raw and heavy. The problem is that after a while, one could see that what seemed to be legato was indistinct phrasing, what sounded like elegance was lack of accent and what passed for clarity was nothing but an indecision of what to highlight and when. Although the house acoustics made for an almost ideal balance of voices and orchestra, the orchestral sound itself was not particularly expressive or even exciting. The final bars in the closing scene, instead of portraying any sense of building exhilaration, sounded frankly awkward and bureaucratic.

The shining feature of this performance was, without any shadow of doubt, Andreas Schager’s firm-toned, unfatigable Siegfried. The penetrating quality of his tenor and his ability to boost power without making violence to phrasing made everything he sang sound like music. Nevertheless, Mr. Schager never made the mistake of making his Siegfried too chic. He is not the most gifted actor in the operatic scene, but his natural boyishness and goofiness make him particularly convincing here. Moreover, he seems to be having fun – in a role usually seen and heard as impossible to pull off. This is also the first time I hear a Mime who is not louder than the tenor in the title role. That is hardly Jürgen Sacher’s fault, who sang healthily and intelligently, albeit in too a Charaktertenor-ish way. Maybe it is a matter of taste, but I believe that the role gains a lot by being sung straight. I’ve had some trouble in recognizing in John Lundgren the singer I heard in Bayreuth. Here his Wanderer sounded so rich and dark that one would rather label him as a bass in a bassbaritone role. It is true that some high notes were a bit short in steam, but that was forgivable in this context. He sustained the illusion really well until the last act, when his voice lost some of the admirable darkness. Then the lack of a squillo became more of a problem. In any case, his was a cleanly-sung and musical take on the part. Although Jochen Schmeckenbecher’s baritone is a couple of sizes smaller than the role of Alberich, he sings it with welcome vehemence and forcefulness, not to mention the snarling and acting with the voice that always add zest to this part. Doris Soffel is an admirable veteran whose technical mastery allows her to get away with the low tessitura, but Erda requires a contralto voice. Elbenita Kajtazi was a very clear and fresh-toned Waldvogel.

This is the first time I’ve seen Lise Lindstrom. I had heard her on Youtube sing dramatic roles such as Turandot and Elektra and imagined myself something very different from what I heard this evening. Maybe it is the toil of a consistent diet of heavy parts on a light voice, but live she sounded hard-pressed and edgy in exposed acuti, hard to hear in low-lying passages and ill-at-ease as rule. After she warmed, she could bring a pleasant lyric quality to her singing, but the nasal, reined-in vocal production made her sound uninvolved and small-scaled. In her defense, she really made something of the trills, her rendition of the text was admirably clear and she could often give an impression of youth, also in her personal appearance. But she is not really an actress.

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