AULD LANG RHINE
© Sam H. Shirakawa
Musikalische Leitung Markus Stenz / Inszenierung Uwe Eric Laufenberg / Bühne und Kostüme Tobias Hoheisel / Licht Wolfgang Göbbel / Video Falko Sternberg / Dramaturgie Georg Kehren / Chorleitung Andrew Ollivant
Hans Sachs, Schuster Wolfgang Brendel
Veit Pogner, Goldschmied Bjarni Thor Kristinsson
Kunz Vogelgesang, Kürschner Martin Finke
Konrad Nachtigall, Spengler Wilfried Staber
Sixtus Beckmesser, Stadtschreiber Johannes Martin Kränzle
Fritz Kothner, Bäcker Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
Balthasar Zorn, Zinngießer Alexander Fedin
Ulrich Eißlinger, Gewürzkrämer John Heuzenroeder
Augustin Moser, Schneider Werner Sindemann
Hermann Ortel, Seifensieder Ulrich Hielscher
Hans Schwarz, Strumpfwirker Nico Wouterse
Hans Foltz, Kupferschmied Dennis Wilgenhof
Walther von Stolzing, ein junger Ritter aus Franken Marco Jentzsch
David, Sachsens Lehrbube Martin Koch
Eva, Pogners Tochter Barbara Haveman
Magdalene, Evas Amme Dalia Schaechter
Ein Nachtwächter Young Doo Park
Chor der Oper Köln
|Oper Köln in Offenbach Platz is closing for extensive renovation, budgeted at 253 million euros ($318 million). (Photo: Sam H. Shirakawa)|
Cologne Opera closed down its landmarked home in Offenbach Platz on 7 June with a performance of Meistersinger, the same work that opened the venue in 1957.
A festive evening, even if it wasn't nearly as emotional as, say, the closing night of the Old Met because the closure is temporary. (The Opera is relocating to the Musical Dome behind Cologne Cathedral for the next two and a half years.) But I couldn’t help wondering if Cologne's Opera House in Offenbach Platz would ever open for business again. The opera theater and the adjacent Cologne Playhouse are undergoing a complete overhaul, budgeted currently at 253 million euros ($318 m). That's a lot of money for upgrading a pair of spaces that doesn't include a sports arena. Add near-panic over the euro crisis, the debt crisis and the incipient crisis in confidence, and ask yourself if the politicos holding the cookie jar might be tempted to snatch a biscuit here and there until the jar is empty or if the project may ultimately prove too expensive to complete.
|Meistersinger Act II (Photo Klaus Lefebvre)|
For subscribers and regulars at an opera house with a resident company, such fixed casting has pluses and minuses. Singers can grow, grow stale or grow inferior, even within three seasons, and the audience can wax enthralled or wane away. Fortunately, at this performance, at least, all the singers old and new were in fine form, and the house was nearly sold out.
Toward the beginning of his career Brendel was mentioned in the same breath with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. After hearing them back-to-back on the same stage on successive nights in 1977 in Munich, I found the comparison fair. No less so now, despite a smidgen of rhythmic slip-ups during the third act. Over the past 15 years, I’ve heard Brendel as Sachs four times; each one different, each masterful. But this performance was by far his best to date. As I wrote of him in Leipzig two years ago, he is arguably the finest Sachs before the public today.
For someone who is far better known for his Beckmesser, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen sang Kothner as though he rarely performs anything else. All the more astonishing because he too was a last-minute replacement. Ketelsen is another happy case of a superb singer becoming a formidable artist.
Martin Koch’s headstrong but amiable David now shows more fulfillment than promise, combining rock-solid technique, unerring musicality and ease of physical movement. His challenge is to become even more interesting instead of lapsing into mere efficiency.
Why Barbara Haveman marred an otherwise compelling portrayal of Eva Pogner by dropping the B-natural trill on “...werben weiss!” at the end of the Prize Song is a mystery as well as a disappointment.
Perhaps inspired by Brendel’s sovereign presence, Marco Jentzsch delivered an impassioned von Stolzing, demonstrating the fruits of hard work on the part since his tentative showing at the premiere of the current production nearly three years ago. The voice has acquired a sweetness in the mid range and filled out at the bottom, but it can turn somewhat wiry under pressure at the top. Given his basketball champ height, agreeable looks and graceful comportment, Jentzsch has what it takes to compete in the big leagues, providing he chucks that gut he’s getting, nurses his voice and resists bouncing around Greater Germania as Walther. The opera gods gave him fair warning, when he lost his voice recently in Berlin during the final scene. As Erda would caution, Weiche!
|Johannes Martin Kränzle (Oper Köln)|
Dalia Schecter, also from the original cast, repeated Magdalene with more freedom and leger than she evinced previously. Bjarni Thor Kristinsson, meanwhile, has accrued booming resonance since I last heard him. When talents such as Kristinsson sing Pogner, you regret that Wagner didn’t compose more for the part.
Young Doo Park’s Nightwatchman intimated a Pogner in the making.
|Eric Uwe Laufenberg|
|Markus Stenz (Photo: Catrin Moritz)|
The Cologne Opera has been home and way station to many distinguished singers and conductors, long before the City of Cologne first took it over in 1904. It should remain so, at any cost.
Graphics: Sam H. Shirakawa
Labels: Barbara Haveman, Cologne Opera, Die Meistersinger, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Ketelsen, Markus Stenz, Oper Köln, Sam H. Shirakawa, Uwe Eric Laufenberg, Wagner, Wolfgang Brendel. Jentzsch. Kristinsson