KLAUS FLORIAN VOGT CONCERT
Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie / Marco Comin
4 February 2013
© SAM H. SHIRAKAWA
|Klaus Florian Vogt|
In bygone days, opera singers giving recitals usually were heard speaking only when announcing their encores or a change in program. Now, they’re given to introducing every piece they’re about to sing, comment on the work they just finished, and recite what they had for lunch and where. Some are really good at getting up close to their audiences. As I've already reported, Vittorio Grigolo works the crowd like a veteran saloon singer.
Klaus Florian Vogt tried his voice at public speaking during his concert this week in Cologne, backed up by the North-West German Philharmonic under the able direction of Marco Comin. With a wireless microphone in hand and a glass of water ever at the ready, Vogt offered patter about his program and even spoke endearingly of his family at one point. While he appeared ill at ease in stepping out of his comfort zone, it was clear -- to me at least -- that he has raconteur potential. Given his ultra-reserved north German upbringing (he’s from Schleswig-Holstein), though, it may take a few more auditions before a producer dares to propose him for guest-hosting a pie-in-the-sky project like "Singing with the Stars."
What strikes me about his introductions, though, is not the message but the medium. To hear his speaking voice, you’d never think he’s an opera singer, not to mention one of the finest tenors before the public today. His soft inflections have a distinctly baritonal resonance; he doesn’t speak “above the voice.” Consequently, that signature sapidity in his singing sounded almost as though his Doppelgänger were doing the vocals.
Vogt’s program consisted of eight arias and scenes from operas, most of which he has sung in staged productions. The first half opened up a confect of German and Italian favorites: Max’s aria from Der Freischütz, “Dies Bildnes ist bezaubern schön” from Zauberflöte, “Quando le sere al placido” from Luisa Miller and “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca. In the second half, Vogt got down to business: Bleeding chunks of Wagner -- The Trial Song from Meistersinger, Siegmund’s two set pieces from Act One of Die Walküre and the Grail Narrative from Lohengrin.
These selections were separated by overtures from Freischütz, Luisa Miller and Lohengrin, led by Comin, who displayed his versatility in two essential areas of the basic operatic repertory. The 37 year-old Venetian native is having plenty of opportunities to develop his interpretive capabilities beginning this season in Munich, where he's taken charge as Chief Conductor at the Gärtnerplatz State Theater.
Comin's assurance on the podium enabled Vogt to lighten up a bit with two encores: a heartfelt “Ach, so fromm” from Martha and the hum-along “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from The Land of Smiles.
If you were hoping for something really novel from Vogt, as much as I was, you might have been disappointed. In opting for “E lucevan le stelle” in lieu of the programmed Flower Song from Carmen, Vogt even denyed the largely geriatric crowd at the Philharmonie the chance to hear him sing in French. (Which may or may not have been a good thing.) But what is remarkable about Vogt at this stage of his career, when most of his contemporaries are undergoing some kind of vocal menopause, is that his voice remains much the same in timbre and range as it did a decade ago, when I first heard him as Lohengrin in Bremen. His lower register has gained some depth and his top seems to be acquiring amplitude. But that youthful demi-seraphic peel that so mesmerized back then is still distinctly palpable, despite occasional edginess around G-A. His singing diction remains as effortlessly clear as his spoken enunciation.
By the same token, the evening as a whole was typical of the sameness characterizing the deciduous parade of programs that file into and out of concert halls around the world every season. There was little sense of occasion, save the tacit awareness that a star was in town, which, in the timing of Vogt’s appearance, amounted to a missed opportunity: Sony has just released Vogt’s new recording of Wagner excerpts, but this was known almost exclusively to those who bought a program booklet. Only those who read the fine print on the advert for the new recording were aware that he would be signing purchased copies after the concert in the foyer. I didn’t stick around to see how many people queued up for his autograph. But one thing is clear: Vogt made no shameless attempts at flogging his foyer appearance from the stage. That may have been classy restraint, and, as the grandmother of a childhood friend used to say, “very sehr.” But such North German reserve must have irritated the bejeesus out of Sony executives in attendance.
If Vogt is to become a popular concert attraction, and he could, he needs a pint of Barnum in his blood and a magnum of Kölsch by his water glass. Neither soft-shoe routines nor sideshows are called for, but neither is same-old same-old. The muses have been generous in endowing Klaus Florian Vogt with the wherewithal for prompting his audiences to wonder. That may not be enough anymore. Say, Can That Boy Foxtrot?