RECENT: Find out about composers from unusual places, including Gerard Schurmann, Giya Kancheli, Nazib Zhiganov and Nodar Gabunia, about singing in cars, and meet Jim Hutton from the RLPO and some of our regular contributors in this eighty-minute February 2021 video.
Transmitted live from the grand Hessisches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, Germany, this Metropolitan Opera Wagnerians in Concert stream features sopranos Christine Goerke and Elza van den Heever, tenor Andreas Schager, and baritone Michael Volle, with pianist Craig Terry, in excerpts from Das Rheingold, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Parsifal, Die Walküre, Der fliegende Holländer and Die Frau ohne Schatten. It also contains Wagner's complete Wesendonck Lieder.
Wearing dark green silk, South African soprano Elza van den Heever opened the program with Elizabeth's joyous greeting to a Medieval hall, 'Dich teure Halle' (You, dear hall), from Tannhäuser. What a gorgeous hall/foyer she greeted in the Hessisches Staatstheater!
The Baroque Revival style theater first opened in 1894, but the foyer from which we see the concert was originally built in 1902. During World War II, the building was seriously damaged but it was rehabilitated shortly after the end of hostilities. Between 1975 and 1978, the auditorium was restored according to its historic model and its technical equipment was modernized. With 1,041 seats, the main hall is a little more than one quarter the size of the Met.
Robed in a spring-like print on black chiffon, Christine Goerke sang Richard Strauss's poignant 'Allerseelen' (All Souls Day) from his Op 10. In this song the singer wishes to be with her beloved as she once was in May.
In 1894, Heinrich Hart, a German dramatic critic and poet wrote the love poem Cäcilie and Strauss set it to music the same year. Although love may fade, songs retain their sweetness and this one is wonderfully satisfying when sung by Christine Goerke in 2021.
There are few sounds more pleasing to the ear than a great baritone singing Wagner's Hymn to Venus: The Evening Star. Michael Volle's bronze-tinged notes brought the solace of twilight to morning on the West Coast.
With the words 'Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater' from Act I of Die Walküre, heldentenor Andreas Schager as Siegmund sang radiantly of the sword his father, Wotan, gave him.
Then this concert offered something quite unusual. Each of the four artists sang one of the Wesendonck Lieder with van den Heever also performing the final song. Volle's 'Der Engel' (The Angel) was smooth and comforting. Schager's 'Stehe still!' (Stand Still) was full of restless energy as he sang of a day of wanting. Goerke's 'Schmerzen' (Pain) told of love that vanquished all. With the lightest crystal-clear tones, van den Heever sang of longing and unquenchable desire in 'Im Treibhaus' (In the Greenhouse) and the delight of dreams in 'Träume'.
Each artist having sung arias and songs, it was time for some duets. Volle as the Dutchman and van den Heever as Senta offered a lyrical rendition of 'Wirst du des Vaters Wahl nicht schelten?' (Aren't you going to object to your father's choice?) from Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.
Schager as Siegmund and Goerke as Sieglinde, not her usual role in Die Walküre, sang the monologs that follow each other at the end of Act I. He sang a robust 'Winterstürme' (The Storms of Winter). She responded with a glorious, full-bodied 'Du bist der Lenz' (You are Spring).
As Wotan celebrating the opening of his new home, Volle sang 'Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge' (In the evening the sun's eyes shine) from Wagner's Das Rheingold as he invited his wife to join him in Valhalla.
Schager returned as Parsifal to sing 'Nur eine Waffe taugt' (Only one weapon will suffice) with glinting high notes. Afterwards, van den Heever, as Elsa, in Wagner's Lohengrin, could be seen on the well-lit stairs. Goerke, as Ortrud, lurked in the darkness below, tempting the naïve young bride to ask her groom his name and origin. At first, their voices clang in dissonance, but they eventually blended as Elsa falls victim to Ortrud's evil scheme.
For me, Richard Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten will always bring back memories of the second night of the Met at Lincoln Center. It was Die Frau ohne Schatten's Met premiere. The opera ends with a quartet of jubilation which van den Heever, Goerke, Schager, Volle and pianist Terry achieved in this concert. Special kudos to Terry who brought a great deal of orchestral color to the accompaniment.
I enjoyed the concert and am sure readers will want to hear it.
Copyright © 12 May 2021