The eternal question

Paper or plastic?  Shaken or stirred?

How about Verdi or Wagner?  That was one big question tonight.  While some people chose to attend the opening of the COC’s Il trovatore, I opted for Wagner, namely Die Walküre.  Oh dear, …I’m better with the food questions….

The concert performance in the intimate confines of College St United Church was an opportunity for some wonderful singing.

There was Michael Robert-Broder singing a very different sort of Hunding.  In my experience the part is usually a brute, loud and scary.  How atypical then to have a Hunding who was capable of being loud but also soft, precisely in tune, and full of subtlety.   And since when does Sieglinde have an attractive husband? This was a fascinating & unexpected transgression.

Hunding was busy trying to scare his unexpected guest, namely the Siegmund of Lenard Whiting.  In the concert this was a tuxedoed Siegmund, sung with wonderfully clear diction and remarkable accuracy.  While Whiting might be a little light to sing Siegmund in a big venue with orchestra, he was just fine on this occasion, showing excellent stamina.

Wotan was the truly godlike presence of Andrew Tees, not only bringing power to the angry parts, gentle and musical pianissimos to the introspective parts in the second act, but also unexpected resourcefulness when confronted with a pianist re-writing chunks of Wagner.  Wotans are not usually expected to improvise their role, but my hat’s off to Tees, who sang with bold conviction.

One of the most exciting moments of the night came during the Ride of the Valkyries, when Margo Levae, Naomi Eberhard, Christine Turingia, Karen Bojti, Erin Armstrong, Dolores Tjart, Monica Zerbe and Olga Tylman provided, first the happy diversion that opens the act, followed by their rescue of Sieglinde and the powerful confrontation with Wotan that follows.

Alla Ossipova as Fricka was progressively more powerful with every line sung, a goddess to match Tees’ god.

Acts Two and Three were sung without intermission, which must have been taxing for all of the performers. I was impressed that they were able to carry on so ably.

I suppose my biggest question was how to reconcile my Pollyanna principles (that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all), with the desire to honour so many people who worked hard and did great work.  This bizarre review is one solution to that question.

I hope that if this offends anyone, they’ll not be harsh in their criticism.

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12 Responses to The eternal question

  1. I really do understand the Pollyanna dilemma

  2. lighthouse75 says:

    Offends??? No way! I’m a great Wagner fan and enjoy reading a review of a performance of his work. Having lived in Watertown NY for a year where my connection with classical music was via the CBC, I doubly enjoy your reviews from Canada. About a subtle Hunding: IMHO the great Wagnerian bass Karl Ridderbusch was tops in bringing a deeper dimension to Wagner’s so-called “villian” roles, e.g. Hunding but especially Hagen. His secret (I interviewed him once): He always strove to see the positive, the honorable side of these characters.

    • barczablog says:

      Thanks for this…. particularly for sharing about Ridderbusch, a singer who’s one of my favourites. It helps that he had such a gorgeous voice, that he could bring something more human into characters that would receive a one-dimensional portrayal from others without his vocal gift. Gottlob Frick or Josef Greindl –marvellous singers– were more conventional Hagens. I think Mr Robert-Broder has great potential.

  3. Valhalla says:

    Sorry Leslie but Lenard Whitening is not meant to be Siegmund. He was absolutely horrible last night throughout Act 1. He was straining his voice most of the time (especially during the Wintersturme aria.) I do agree with the rest of your assessment though.

    • barczablog says:

      I suppose you’re correct if we understand “not meant to be Siegmund” as a portrayal with a huge orchestra in a big venue. I found thatt Whiting’s singing often brought out the lyrical flow we don’t often hear in Siegmund, because the role can’t be sung with such subtlety in a big house with a big ensemble. Whether this was a conventional Siegmund or not, i found Whiting very musical, and as a fellow tenor, was very sympathetic to the ways he managed to get all those notes. Jon Vickers, in comparison, would sometimes sing parts of the role a bit flat, but we forgave him of course. Fact is, we sit through all those hours of Wagner, regardless of singers singing flat or sharp (not mentioning names), recognizing how fortunate we are to be there.

  4. ducadiposa says:

    You’re the second person I’ve heard from who attended this performance and enjoyed it. Sad to have missed it! I’m a little confused however by your Pollyana statement. You’ve given the performance a very positive review, and it seems sincere. Are you saying that you were trying to put a more positive spin on things than the performance deserved?

  5. barczablog says:

    I left out a lot. I have no desire to upset people with bad reviews, which accomplish nothing except to hurt people and take away their confidence. Honestly? at the conclusion of the piece i didn’t think i would post a review, but i wanted to honour the work of those who did such good jobs (most of them).

  6. Sue Harrison says:

    1st, between Trovatore and another opportunity to hear Die Walkure, it’s no contest! Walkure every time. My guess is that the Pollyanna effect hushed all mention of Sieglinde and Brunhilde — so perhaps I was fortunate to be absent. Leslie, thank you for your mention of Stephen Fry’s BBC documentary focusing on the tension some listeners experience between loving Wagner’s music vs. loathing his place along the political spectrum. YouTube still has this show available. It is a special treat for its thoughtful discussion of the issues and even more special for its glimpses of Fry’s passion for the music. I am always richer for any exposure to Stephen Fry.

  7. Pingback: TOC Fidelio | barczablog

  8. Pingback: Alla Ossipova: Memorial Benefit Concert | barczablog

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