Richard Wagner, Wagnergala, Staatsoper Berlin, Schillertheater
Gala performance 12th MarchFor one night, and one night only, the Staatsoper Berlin invited to Gala honouring the great Richard Wagner including scenes from his operas sung by some of the best Wagner singers of our times. The cast and the programme really made it impossible not to come and so I decided to take this short trip to the German capital and check out the performance.
The Staatskapelle Berlin was playing throughout the evening conducted by Simone Young who showed perfect and strict control over everything with a very economic and clear conducting style. I have rarely see someone conduct with such clarity and accuracy! The Staatskapelle followed her lead very well with passionate playing and especially a great range of volume and colours. Except of a few less nice moments of the brass section everything sounded marvelous and proved the high level of the orchestra. Also the Staatsopernchor Berlin did a great job during the two choir scenes. First they sang a wonderful rendition of the Entry of the Guests from Tannhäuser with such solemnity and joy that it was simply breathtaking. In the second part of the evening they returned for the "Wach auf" scene which they also sang very well and passionately.
The soloists were Anne Schwanewilms, Camilla Nylund, Waltraud Meier, Nikolai Schukoff (jumping in for Burkhard Fritz), Wolfgang Koch and René Pape. Schwanewilms openend the evening with a rendition of the famous Hallenarie from Tannhäuser. Her crystal clear soprano voice has this certain fragility and innocence in its timbre which sounds glorious, but also seems dangerously close to crack. However, she sang the aria very beautifully without any problems. I liked her singing as Elsa way more because it just suited her voice much better with its bright slender timbre. Singing with her was Waltraud Meier as Ortrud. I have to admit that Meier was the main reason for me to come to the gala because she simply is a legend and a national treasure. Of course the quality of tone might not be as good as 10 years ago, but she still captures the audience with her electric stage presence. I have never ever experienced such an exciting charisma with any other singer. Meier just nailed the fierce scene with Elsa with a stormy performance of "Entweihte Götter" as well as the previous scene with Telramund, sung by Wolfgang Koch. Koch did a very good job with his dark and flexible baritone voice. I think he was outstanding as Telramund and also gave a great rendition of the dutchman's monologue later. He is definitely one of the leading Wagner baritones and especially in the evil roles he has this certain viciousness in his timbre.
Nikolai Schukoff was singing the Parsifal scene from act 2 with his powerful youthful tenor voice. I have not heard of him before, but I will definitely remember his name now. He combines piercing power with an elegant bright tenor timbre and great flexibility. Even better than his Parsifal, was his performance as Siegmund together with Camilla Nylund as Sieglinde. This might have been the best rendition of the 3rd scene from Walküre act 1 I have ever heard. Schukoff did a great job and was definitely an outstanding Siegmund, but Nylund simply gave a flawless performance. Not only does her beautiful voice sound lovely, she also seemed to perfectly understand every single line of the role. Nylund continuously became one of the leading Wagner & Strauss sopranos of our time and is definitely one of the most musically talented singers out there. BRAVA!
Last but not least, René Pape joined the ensemble of singers with two scenes. First he was singing the Fliedermonolog from Meistersinger with such theatricality that it simply was a joy to listen to him. Every word was pronounced so meaningful and the range of his colours is just incredible. However, his performance as Wotan in Wotan's farewell was even more intense. Marking the end of the evening it was a performance that clearly earns the adjective legendary. His Wotan combines authority, emotion, melancholy as well as anger and disappointment. I thought he was brilliant and finished the performance with nobility and class.
Alltogether it really was a glorious evening and really showed that the age of great singing is definitely not over yet. Without doubt this performance earns full 10 stars thanks to the electric performances of all singers!
Reviewed by Daniel Url