Monday, May 04, 2009

Selective Listening

Sam Shirakawa heard the Met's first Götterdämmerung of the season, but he didn't see it. He explains:

WAGNER: GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG
METROPOLITAN OPERA
25 APRIL 2009 Season Premiere

Have you ever felt glad that you didn’t get into an opera performance you really wanted to attend?

Through quirks of fortune, I was unable get to the Metropolitan Opera’s first performance this season of Götterdämmerung--which happened to take place on last Saturday´s broadcast matinee. So I tuned in to the radio at home--late--just in time for the Brünnhilde-Siegfried Duet that caps off the Prologue.

Ugh!

In my recent report on the Met’s first Siegfried of the season, I said that Christian Franz in the eponymous role had learned to refrain from squawking out notes, an annoying proclivity that had marred his previous performances, when I had heard him elsewhere as Siegfried.

I spoke too soon.

Apart from barking out note-less words here, there, and a lot, Franz was also afflicted on this occasion with a nasty wobble that often straddled at least two semi-tones.
Incipient motion sickness I was beginning to experience from that wobble was little helped by Katerina Dalayman’s squally Brünnhilde. She hit the top C in the duet squarely on target, but her mid-size voice appeared to be laboring fruitlessly under the weight of the role.

What to do?

Listening via radio or computer allows you do other things at the same time or just tune out. So, I opted for the latter and went outside to enjoy a beautiful spring afternoon--pitying, from time to time, those sea-worthy Wagnerites consigned to stay afloat in their seats at the Met.

When I returned home, the live performance was over, but a delayed transmission of the third act was about to begin online by way of a European station [Editor: Ireland's Lyric FM]. The Rhine Maidens were in good shape. A good omen maybe? If it was, Franz’ pneumatic delivery of the Hunting Narrative fell short of it. Some tender moments, yes, but I nonetheless found myself craving Siegfried's demise.
The Funeral Music came as an ear-cleanser. Levine’s Spell held the Met Orchestra in thrall. Great playing.

The phone rang, so I didn’t hear much until Brünnhilde’s Big Moment.
Dalayman had the energy for her Immolation Scene but not the gravitas. Rarely have I been so grateful for Brünnhilde to catch fire; this is no role for a pleasant, pushed-up mezzo. Several years ago, I heard Dalayman as Lisa in Pique Dame in Munich, and she was wonderful. She should stick with roles in which she sounds wonderful.

Judging from snippets I heard, John Tomlinson as Hagen was a study in malevolence, Margaret Jane Wray was a good Gutrune and Iain Paterson, making his Met debut as Gunther, was a revelation--a singer on the threshold. Don’t be surprised if he soon becomes a star Amfortas, Dutchman, and, of course, Sachs.

I am told the Schenk/Schneider-Siemsen/Langenfass production is not being dismantled after this season. Is the Met hedging its bets on the new production of the Ring, set for 2010? No matter. If the news proves true: O tidings of comfort!

© Sam Shirakawa

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