Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roaring our heads off

...for these two, Nina Stemme and Donald Runnicles (which also means the Deutsche Oper Berlin orchestra), in a shatteringly great Proms Salome. No need to add much to the rave over on The Arts Desk but I wanted to include a few more of Chris Christodoulou's photos, which arrived as usual punktlich not long after I got back from the Albert Hall last night.

The above came from him after I'd asked for a landscape of Nina, preferably with Donald, to lead. Before he fired them back, I'd already cropped the money shot, and unless he objects don't want to replace it. Hence the second home. There were also others I couldn't use over there. Doris Soffel, having made little impression on us as the Countess in the Zurich Queen of Spades, really had a ball with Herodias, and Runnicles let her hold on to her top A at 'schweigen!' for what seemed like an infinity. Here she is with Stemme.

I mentioned the shame about the slight dependence on scores and music stands from most of the men - Samuel Youn's Jokanaan honourably excepted - but this shows that character tenor Burkhard Ulrich wasn't beyond acting it out as Herod.

Cheers, too, for the Narraboth, Belgian Thomas Blondelle

and Ronnita Miller from St Petersburg, Florida, now a Deutsche Oper principal, as a lustrous 'Page'.

It was a company show, no doubt about it: what a team Runnicles has in Berlin. But ultimately it had to be Nina's night. Doesn't she look, in relaxed mode, like our own intense non-singing (as far as I know) actress Olivia Colman?

Oh, and if you're curious to know who the boors were behind us, shouting 'sit down!' when I rose unhesitatingly to my feet after the shield-crushing, I'll go so far as to say that the only one of them I recognised - and they were all obnoxious in their self-expression before the invisible curtain rose - was a distinguished and, by all accounts, Mensch-like singer who must have welcomed a few standing ovations himself in his time. Shame on them.

1/10 As outlined in a comment below, this was everything the following (last) night's Elektra was not. Ed Seckerson expresses everything I felt in his review for The Arts Desk, not least so eloquently nailing the problem of Christine Goerke's upper register. And he's also right to say that Felicity Palmer's Clytemnestra was the star of the evening. What's the caption here? 'Yes, I'm still better than you, my girl, even at 70'?

Even so, in an ideal dramatic world, Clytemnestra shouldn't be either so old or so visibly raddled. After all, she's the mother of a 20 year old girl, and her decay is inner. Which is why you'll never see a better portrayal than Waltraud Meier's in the great Patrice Chereau's last stand. In fact this is one of the most riveting opera DVDs ever made, and Evelyn Herlitzius - slight of frame, searing of voice - IS Elektra as far as I'm concerned. For some reason my BBC Music Mag five-star review isn't up on the erratic website, but need I say more here? Don't waste time on the iPlayer broadcast of the Prom; buy the DVD.


Howard Lane said...

Shame on them indeed. We didn't process to the RAH after the scintillating Maxfest at Cadogan Hall - Claire had kept her options open but decided against it. She has a ticket for tonight but is a bit under the weather, poor thing, so may have to relinquish it.

It's the i-player proms for me anyway this year - too distracted to get to the RAH sadly, and they are all online for a month. I know it's not the real thing but it is a great opportunity to hear (if not see) as much as possible. (The Max was a birthday treat.)

I was standing by the front door waiting for the others when he arrived. We smiled and exchanged hellos. No chance of him remembering me from when we had numerous chats at the St Magnus Festival back in, oh, '87 it must have been...

Looking forward to Salome immensely!

David said...

Alas, I have so given up on Max - had an epiphany of 'enough' after years of writing short notes for each new piece on the MaxOpus website run by the unhappy Arnolds - so it's a surprise to find you using the word 'scintillating'. I'll try and listen on the iPlayer.

Happy birthday, then. And sorry as I am to hear Claire's not well, if you read this, my godson might like her ticket, as I've only got a single one for Elektra tonight (she knows my mobile, or J's at least; I'm off out right now). On the other hand it would be good for him to join the Arena queue, more fitting for his age than sitting among the fogeys in relative comfort...

Susan Scheid said...

This time, to try and avoid the typos, I typed my quick comment out ahead to cut and paste it in! Here it is:

Your TAD review communicates the thrill of this performance in every line (not to mention the boorishness of the group behind you at the end). I loved this description, particularly: "Shrill clarinets and piccolo bored through the brain, horns reared up collective-cobra-like; the pinched high double-bass note as Salome, gasping inwardly, awaits Jokanaan’s execution that Strauss took from Berlioz had an eerie slide up to it, and dynamic refinement to spare."

David said...

Well, Sue, I feel lucky that I chose to write about last night. Ed Seckerson is covering the Elektra for TAD - I was sitting next but one to him - and we didn't need to compare notes to find it the negative image of Saturday's performance: sluggish conducting from Bychkov, a generalised Elektra in Christine Goerke, not very stable up top, approximate bit part players. What a shame.

I think a great performance could have ignited us again, but it's actually not idea to run two trailblazers on consecutive nights. Feuersnot, that underrated comic gem, would have worked better before Salome.

wanderer said...

I'm mad with envy. Nothing jaded about this rave. Having been lucky enough to have heard Stemme's (Gotterdammerung) Brunnhilde and Soffel's Klytemnestra, I can conflate these experiences with your report and the whole thing becomes very alive, indeed.

Shame about the Elektra. Unstable top is not what we heard here earlier this year with Goerke, on the contrary.

David said...

Well, wanderer, Goerke's Royal Opera Elektra was better earlier this year, but I just don't think she's ever been a flame-thrower up there (viz Gwyneth, Hildegard and even Eva Marton in their time, and Herlitzius is just stupendous in Chereau's production on one of the best opera DVDs ever).

It's the problem with so many dramatic sopranos, Jessye Norman included, that the middle range is so full and splendid but that means sacrificing richness up top. Somehow Stemme just knows what to do, technically; there doesn't seem a weak link in her armoury. Long may it remain so.

Of course the Parterre opera queens go crazy about Goerke: she fits the big-lady slot. But I wonder if she'll stay the course for her scheduled Brunnhildes.

David Damant said...

I venture on the first of these comments with some trepidation, but here goes

Great works of art are about the human predicament ( that is why they are great), and in the case of operas, plays and novels the story is only the skeleton on which the flesh of real purpose is hung. Hamlet is not a story about the Prince of Denmark, but about every man and his father. Wuthering Heights asks the question, what does the universe mean? (David Cecil). And in opera it is the music which is the analysis. So in most cases I am not very troubled with the plot, so long as it is a good skeleton. But the plot of Salome is too sick making.

On the other side of the weekend - Since reaching man's estate I have only wept twice, with floods of tears. Once was in the recognition scene in Electra ( not this performance), a masterpiece which certainly fulfills Aristotle's insight that a tragedy can purge the emotions with pity and fear, enabling one to achieve a catharsis

David said...

Reading the nearest Kurt Vonnegut came to an autobiography at the moment. He does wonderful graphs of various stories, with typically off-kilter commentaries. Cinderella starts way below the line, zooms up and then back down (but not as low as before) before zooming up and into infinity. Hamlet is just a straight line because we can't interpret good and bad, true and false. That I find fascinating. He means, of course, that this is true to life.

The flesh of real purpose in Salome undoubtedly emerges in the protagonist's Liebesverklaerung as Strauss interprets it. Yes, I did shed tears (see review) because there's such a terrible ache in the girl's sense of what might have been 'had you but looked on me, Jokanaan'. As in Elektra, emotions of sympathy and disgust can exist simultaneoisly in the world of music.

Susan Scheid said...

Too bad about Elektra. As you may remember, I saw Goerke in her "break-out" performance at the Met (Die Frau). At the time, I was there really because of Schwanewilms, so I was disappointed she wasn't appreciated more. On reflection, I did have to recognize what a powerful, and I would also say nuanced, performance Goerke turned in as the Dyer's Wife. I'm not as attuned to the issues you raise about mid-range and top notes, and I'll be listening for that in future performances--though the Met's season is so disappointing this year, and the tickets so wildly expensive, that I've signed on only for one: The Death of Klinghoffer. Just purchased, now that the labor-management dispute has been resolved. We saw Klinghoffer on its first run and thought it brilliant. Looking forward to the chance to see it again live, though I remain furious about the chickens**t behavior of Gelb in nixing the HD.

Susan Scheid said...

Also, as I've never seen either Elektra or Salome, I've noted the Elektra DVD you mention and want to make sure this is it: Last production staged by Patrice Chéreau, with Evelyn Herlitzius, Waltraud Meier as Clytemnestra, and Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Orchestre de Paris.

If you have a Salome DVD you'd recommend, I'd love to know. (Among other disappointments about the Met season, there is NO Strauss on offer.)

David said...

What is a big,ugly establishment like the Met for if not to put on the big, beautiful Strauss operas? And I only hope Klinghoffer gets to the run without further protests, highly likely in the current climate.

Yes, that's THE Elektra (by the way, I'm more inclined than Ed Seckerson to think that Goerke can do the subtleties, on the evidence of her Royal Opera performances). As for Salome on DVD, I don't quite know what to say: the Bondy with Malfitano and Terfel is strong, McVicar's staging is so powerful but Nadja Michael sings flat almost throughout; the old one with Stratas might be the best bet. Probably better still to stick to CD and my first allegiance, despite weird sound - Karajan with Behrens

Colin Dunn said...

Hello David,

Thank you for your wonderful blog about Salome. I was there - up in the gallery where I prommed it - and, after a vile week involved with Mother's care homes, found myself transported by the performance of Salome. I didn't get to sleep until 4.30 on Sunday morning. Marvellous stuff.

The orchestra was on incredible form. Bruce and I last heard them in Die Frau ohne Schatten in Berlin in 2009 which, as the phrase goes, blew us away.

David said...

I sympathise, Colin, with the Care Homes saga - the 'care' in this case being plural. I'm so far lucky with my obstinately independent ma (long may she remain so) but it's been a horror with J's. And visiting another's ma in a 'secure' home in Wiltshire made me even surer that I don't want to live to experience that: may I be sufficiently compos mentis to refuse it.

And, yes, the Salome was on another planet. Don't know if you saw my reply to the commenter on TAD, but I, too, didn't get to sleep until the wee small hours (probably about the same time, having gone to bed at 2 after feverishly writing it up). Probably the Elektra wasn't so bad, but it dwindled into insignificance after such a night. I still think that in practice the planning of the two together wasn't wise. Feuersnot and Salome, absolutely.