Friday, January 27, 2012


Deutsche Oper Berlin
21 January 2012 

© Sam H. Shirakawa

Klaus Florian Vogt

It wasn’t until I heard the booing at the end of the performance that I believed what I had heard from the stage: a Tosca at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in which the star tenor wasn’t concentrating, wasn’t prepared or just wasn’t there. Klaus Florian Vogt is one of the great tenors of our time, but he apparently has a masochistic streak. And back-seat sadists were out en force to oblige him on 21 January. Hate to say it, but he deserved the bird he got: gaffes, rhythmic vagaries, the anemic “Vittoria!” and so on. Vogt -- a paragon of Wagner-lite and Strauss-medium -- has just started making forays into the basic Italian repertoire. In my view, Cavaradosi is an ill-advised starting point for him. If he wants to jump out of the box going up against the spectres of de Stefano, Corelli, Pavarotti et al, I say, go for it. But at least know the part backwards before entering a hornet’s nest like the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Given some of the craven Cavaradossis I’ve endured, it wasn’t all bad or even that awful. But place Vogt's virtual no-show against this background: at Dussman, Berlin’s cultural supermarket in Friedrich Strasse, they’re adorning the windows with Vogt’s first big-label (Sony) recital disc. He’ll be signing this weekend. The posters trumpeting the CD with a ghastly image of Vogt gripping a Templar sword and sporting Grail drag are in your face all over town. He's been a star for nearly a decade, but he's really Big Time now -- joining Kaufmann and Grigolo at the head table.

The timing couldn’t be more propitious: his appearance is set between two mega-events without competing with either one -- Berlin Fashion Week is just ending, while preps for the upcoming Berlin Film Festival are in full swing. I don’t know if he’s making the rounds of the national breakfast shows, talking at TV anchors, most of whom have no idea who he is and couldn’t care less. But given what he perped last Saturday night, it would be fit penance if he did.

Come to think of it, it was that bad and worse than awful, because Vogt can deliver and did not. He may not be suited for Cavaradossi, but he can make the role suit him. Maybe he should try warming up with Pinkerton or Rinuccio.

Tatjana Serjan
George Gagnidze

What ameliorated a performance made nearly catastrophic by Vogt’s diffidence, were the incisive presences of Tatjana Serjan as Tosca and George Gagnidze as Scarpia. Serjan rightly performed as though Vogt wasn’t there, but her Floria was nonetheless impassioned, focused and pitched perfectly. Gagnidze was the perfect foil for them both. He is a huge man with an outsized baritone that projected refined brutality and psychotic superiority in every phrase.

Matthias Foremny

Matthias Foremny had some interesting ideas, but his hands were full keeping the orchestra in sync with Vogt.

The Boleslaw Barlog production from 1969 is ideally set up to accommodate multiple cast changes. It should never be replaced.

Having had my life enriched by the sound of many incredible voices, I’ve also become sensitized to the sound that audiences make when they respond to those voices. The quality of the booing Vogt received last Saturday is worrisome -- that sickly bovine moan of the accursed that’s heard with predictable regularity in every music mecca. These booers travel in packs and have their favorite targets. It would be a shame if Vogt became their new scapegoat. Such pests tend to persist.

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