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Posts Tagged ‘Golda Schultz’

Although Mozart’s operas are considered to be central to the repertoire of every opera house, this does not seem to apply to their casts. When one reads the archives of the world’s most important theatres, one will find operas like Così fan tutte featuring singers like Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Francisco Araiza or Ferruccio Furlanetto long after they were international stars. For some reason, those who would like to hear the world’s best singers in roles like Fiordiligi or Ferrando will need to resort to recordings like Colin Davis’s to know the sensation of hearing Montserrat Caballé and Nicolai Gedda dueting in Fra gli amplessi.

As it is, the team gathered by the Bavarian State Opera for this evening’s performance of Così fan tutte is quite above average for today’s standards. For instance, the lovely Golda Schultz offers a lesson in Mozartian singing in her impeccable phrasing, very long breath, beautiful pronunciation of the Italian language and real commitment to the text and dramatic situations. Moreover, her lyric soprano is all velvety and soars in effortless high notes. In a theatre the size of which Mozart saw his operas staged, she would leave nothing to be desired. But this is a voice that does not count with reserves of projection when a high (or low) note REALLY has to pierce through an orchestra in to the auditorium. I do have the impression that the sceneries without backdrop and open on the side must make things even more difficult to these singers. Her Dorabella, Rachael Wilson has a fruity yet finely focused mezzo that blossoms comfortably in her high notes and still retains resonance in her bottom range. Now and then she would hit the wrong notes, but one would blame a natural ebullience that has compensations in terms of acting. The blend of these two singers’ voices was the speacial featuring of this performance. Never in my experience, I’ve heard two sings float their high pianissimi in moments like Soave sia il vento as beautifully and integratedly as they have done tonight. Tara Erraught too is a mezzo with no problem with high notes. She can lighten her tone and even sound convincingly soubrettish, but the tonal quality is too grainy and even matronly in her middle register. This – and the fact that her Italian is artificial – prevented her from offering a truly valid performance in the key role of Despina.

Mauro Peter is one of the rare tenors today who seem happy to follow all the basic rules of Mozartian phrasing, but he is also the kind of tenor whose high register seems to spin backwards rather than forward from the passaggio up. Although he handles high-lying phrases (and passagework) effortlessly, the sound has very little chest resonance and brightness. Michael Nagy did not seem to be in a very good day, but that did not prevent him from offering a stylish Guglielmo, easy on the ear. Christopher Maltman’s forceful Alfonso involved a great deal of parlando effects, but he is the kind of singer who can always count on his charisma.

After an extremely cautious overture, Ivor Bolton seemed keen on trying to compensate by rushing his singers in a way that suggested insufficient rehearsal time. The level of mismatch between singers (including those of the chorus) and the orchestra was almost alarming for an important opera house, not to mention the mistakes. In order to adjust to a light-voiced cast, the orchestra was kept under leash in a way that tampered with clarity and often went beyond to the realms of the inexpressive. This is one of my favorite operas, but after Per pietà, I caught myself checking my watch every now and then.

Dieter Dorn’s 1993 staging is far more satisfying than his take on Le Nozze di Figaro for the same theatre. The sets – that could look less wobbly – are pleasant to look at and, although the original personenregie has been replaced by an assemblage of stock gestures, the whole cast scored high in the acting department and won over the audience in its sincere engagement.

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For performances at the Musikfest Bremen and the Beethovenfest Bonn, conductor Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie have prepared semi-staged performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio with dialogues replaced by Roccos Erzählung, a text written by literature historian Walter Jens for concerts conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (with Julia Varady, Peter Schreier and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) in Hohenems in 1986, here spoken by German actor Wolf Kahler. Although the story as seen by Rocco’s point-of-view, with fine imagery and some political content, is interesting in itself, it is far less scenically efficient than the libretto’s own dialogues. Moreover, the fact that scenes were interrupted so that Mr. Kahler could read the text had the unwelcome effect of preventing singers from steadily developing into the theatrical action, here reduced to basic movements, no costumes and no props other than the chairs reserved for the cast. It must be mentioned that, even if there were subtitles for Jens’s text, hearing it spoken in German for foreign audiences has far less impact than for Germans, who are able to enjoy Mr. Kahler’s talents. If one has in mind he did not use a microphone, there is much to praise there in any case.

I don’t have the impression that Maestro Järvi has an extensive experience as an opera conductor, having focused his career rather in symphonic repertoire. The fact that his tempi, accents and interpretative choices were almost invariably counter-intuitive for any singer would confirm my impression. This afternoon, his conducting of Beethoven’s masterpiece was bombastic, unsubtle, unclear, messy in ensembles, problematic for his soloists and not really flattering for his rough-sounding orchestra. It was basically overfast in a very awkward manner and occasionally made slow when things got really tangled (as in Er sterbe! Doch er soll erst wissen). As a result, the excitement was generally built from outside and did not seem an expressive feature but rather a byproduct. Truth be said, thanks also to the very commendable contribution of the chorus of the Tokyo College of Music, an exhilarating closing scene did finally pay off, earning these musicians enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The performances in Germany were supposed to have Emily Magee as Leonore, but she cancelled and was replaced by Cécile Perrin. I assume that these concerts in Yokohama might be her debut in this role. The fact that she was the only singer in the cast with her score (and the absence of any previous performance in Fidelio in her website) seem to confirm this assumption. This American soprano usually appears in jugendlich dramatisch roles, but has been flirting with heavier assignments these days. Although the percussive acuti and low notes of a legitimate dramatic soprano are really not within her possibilities, what she offers is reliable and perfectly acceptable (if not really exciting). Her asset in this role is her ability to spin clean, creamy lyrical phrasing when this is required, to excellent results in the canon quartet, for instance. Still, she needs to mature in the role. Even with her notes in hand, there were some wayward moments, most notably in her difficult aria. The role of Marzelline too had a different singer in Germany, Mojca Erdmann. For the Japanese tour, Christina Landshammer was originally announced, but finally and most felicitously replaced by South African soprano Golda Schultz. Ms. Schultz is a name to keep – she has a truly lovely velvety voice with soaring high notes on top of an irresistibly warm middle register, unfailing musicianship and sense of style and a winning personality. She was an ideal Marzelline and I hope to hear her again – and soon!

This is the first time I was able to listen to Burkhard Fritz in perfect health. When I first saw him,   being indisposed didn’t prevent him from singing quite impressively. I cannot say something similar of the second time. In any case, his performance this afternoon deserves nothing but praise. He sang with good taste and sensitivity, judiciously avoided excessive heroic quality finding the right touch of vulnerability and dealt with the intricacies of the testing part of Florestan without any hint of effort. Julian Prégardien too was very well cast as Jaquino. The role of Pizarro was originally cast in Germany with Evgeny Nikitin, who must have offered a powerful performance, but would be replaced in Japan by Falk Struckmann until the name Tom Fox was finally announced.  At this point in his career, the rust in his singing was entirely predictable. He still manages forceful top notes, but not really much beyond that. He is a clever singer, however, and knew to play his liabilities as characterization.  Dmitri Ivaschenko (Rocco) took some time to warm up, but even then his voice sounded a bit less focused than what I used to hear from him. But that’s comparing him to himself. The tone quality was never less than pleasant and dark and he was stylish and strong in articulation as always. Finally, Detlef Roth’s baritone is a bit on the high side for the role of Don Fernando.

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