Thursday, 2 December 2010
Peter Hofmann: off to Valhalla
Yes, he was a very 70s/80s kind of crossover guy with a spectacular mullet (the LP above, by the way, with the then Mrs H, is rather good), and the voice wore out quickly under heldentenor strain but, gosh, was Peter Hofmann handsome of form and voice as Siegmund in the revelatory Chereau production of Wagner's Ring at Bayreuth. He died earlier this week, at the very untimely age of 66, and if there's a hall for heroes out there, he'll be part of it.
Vivid memories flooded back of how I came to know the Ring, an act a week on television, as a student in early 1980s Edinburgh. How we used to look forward to the next instalment of our operatic soap, as did over a million others. I remember being so worked up after Dame Gwyneth's curses as Brunnhilde in Act 2 of Gotterdammerung that I had to run around the New Town block a couple of times afterwards (ah, youth!) And there was the revelation that, after tricksy Rheingold, Act 1 of Walkure contained the most passionate love music ever. Not sure if I'd heard Jessye Norman and then Linda Esther Gray sing Sieglinde in concert at the Usher Hall by then, but Chereau's Ring was the full dramatic thing, and how electric seemed the connection between Jeanine Altmeyer and Hofmann. Darn it, they even looked like brother and sister with their pleading close-together eyes.
Alas, YouTube only has the two set-pieces and not the magnificent pulling of the sword from the tree. So probably the best choice is the reaction of Hofmann's life-devoted hero to the death-announcement of Jones's Brunnhilde in Act 2.
While we're on the subject of commemorations, I should say that yesterday did not pass unobserved; nice young people were out in force selling AIDS ribbons for the Terence Higgins Trust. Will has several poignant connections to make on his blog.
I'll just leave it at a nasty piece of negativity: the award for Shit of the Year must be shared equally between Cardinal Bertone ('I have been told recently that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. That is the problem', April 2010) and Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, the head of the Belgian church, for his published remark that AIDS was 'a sort of inherent justice' for a promiscuous lifestyle. Typically, it was his spokesman, describing him as a motorist driving the wrong way when everyone else is travelling in the opposite direction, who resigned; as far as I know the Archbishop is still squatting toad-like in his powerful position. Only in the Catholic Church...
And a reminder that the memorial concert for our dear Noelle Mann takes place next Wednesday in the Queen Elizabeth Hall: a fabulous programme, including perhaps the greatest living interpreter of Prokofiev's Sixth Piano Sonata, Dmitry Alexeev, reprising his 2003 performance and Goldsmiths forces tackling the colossal Semero Ikh cantata. I'll be singing in the choir for the two Russian liturgical pieces, remembering Kalina days with Noelle in charge. Further details here on the Arts Desk, with links to booking. There's also a gathering at Deptford Town Hall the following evening to remember Noelle in words.