lietofinelondon

Principally Flawed

In Classical Music, Opera, Review, Richard Wagner on July 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

Review – Siegfried (Opera North, The Lowry, Saturday 6 July 2013)

Siegfried – Mati Turi
Mime – Richard Roberts
Wanderer – Michael Druiett
Alberich – Jo Pohlheim
Fafner – Mats Almgren
Woodbird – Fflur Wyn
Erda – Ceri Williams
Brünnhilde – Annalena Persson

Vocal Consultants – Dame Anne Evans & Sir John Tomlinson

Staging & Design Concept – Peter Mumford

Orchestra of Opera North
Conductor – Richard Farnes

While Opera North’s Siegfried was an improvement on last year’s Die Walküre, it still remained far from a totally convincing performance on the whole.

It seems that the main impediment remains casting and like last year the strongest performances came from the singers in the smaller roles.

Jo Pohlheim’s performance as Alberich towered above the other male singers in the cast. His wonderfully dark, resonant base rose effortlessly above the orchestra and with diction was clear and precise making his characterisation of Alberich sharply etched. His repertoire includes both Wotan himself and Wozzeck and I would image that these would both be performances worth booking tickets for. Personally though, I didn’t get the gloves.

Fflur Wyn – who I admired in Opera North’s production of La Clemenza di Tito – continued to impress. She has a warm yet bright soprano with a vocal agility that made the role seemingly effortless as she glided through the Woodbird’s music. It’s a tricky role and perhaps Farnes could have given her a little more ebb and flow but it didn’t faze her at all. Definitely Ms Wyn is someone to keep and a look out for. Similarly Ceri Williams’ dusky and rich voice was perfectly suited to Erda and proved more than a match vocally for Wotan in the Third Act.

Problems with both intonation and diction marred what was otherwise a strong performance of Fafner from Mats Algrem who was of suitably pitch-black tone. Admittedly Fafner in Siegfried is a rather thankless role in Siegfried and I would like to hear either his Hunding or Hagen.

After Michael Druiett’s fine performance in Das Rheingold his Wanderer was disappointing. At the time I wondered if he had the heft for ‘later’ Wotan and sadly it proved he did not. A rather two-dimensional characterisation was not helped by a lack of both colour and depth in his singing on this occasion and more than once he was out-gunned by the orchestra despite Farnes’ sensitivity to an extent not suffered by the rest of the ensemble. Indeed at times the lower end of his range seemed to disappear altogether. Most tellingly, his confrontation with his nemesis Alberich left me wanting not so much a role reversal but two Alberich’s and no Wotan. His subsequent confrontation with his ‘grandson’ in the Third Act was only slightly alleviated by a slightly weaker than expected performance by Siegfried at that precise moment. Perhaps for the full cycle Opera North might consider casting Jo Pohlheim for the full cycle?

Similarly the reason for casting Annalena Persson as Brünnhilde continues to elude me completely. Even in this somewhat limited appearance, Persson was uneven in tone and distractingly shrill – almost squally – in her upper range. It seemed that she had forsake vocal accuracy for individual top notes that were less gleaming that brittle. Fortunately she is not cast in Opera North’s Götterdämmerung and having now seen two of her three Brünnhildes a year apart doesn’t fill me with confidence that this is a she should continue to sing.

And so to the two main protagonists.

I admired Richard Roberts’ original Mime in Das Rheingold. At the time I said it was no cipher yet in Siegfried while there were moments when that Mime re-appeared – for example just before his demise – for the most part it seemed to be missing for large parts of his performance. Vocally there wasn’t quite enough characterisation or colour and while his diction was good, he didn’t seem to revel in the particular German than Wagner scribed for this character much in the way that he wrote for Alberich.

And clearly Mati Turi has it in him to be a great Siegfried. One day. He received good notices for his performance at Longborough and there is no doubt that on the whole his Siegfried for Opera North was strong. However for me there was a question about his pacing of the role. Giving his all in the First Act, where his singing was full and round with beautiful phrasing and dynamic control, three quarters through the Second Act it did seem that his voice was tiring. And while the longer interval between the second and third Acts would have helped, his first entry in the final Act – his confrontation with Wotan – sounded for the most part snatched, almost as if he was deliberately saving himself for the closing scenes. And perhaps he was, because there was clearly a greater shine to his voice for most of his scene with Brünnhilde. Overall while his voice is clear and pretty even throughout its range, I did wont for a bit more light and shade and a more finely tuned interpretation of the role. All this I am sure is not far off and it’s a shame that he will not be singing Siegfried in next year’s Götterdämmerung.

Stage-wise, Peter Mumford continued with his smart – if now somewhat predictable – design concept. Seen a year apart they remain effective without being distracting, but I do wonder how quickly they will go from effective and non-distracting to tedious end-to-end when the complete cycle is performed over a single week or so.

But finally plaudits must go to Farnes and the Orchestra of Opera North. Farnes – bar a small slip in momentum during the initial meeting of the young lovers – had got to grip with the sweep and overall architecture of Siegfried. Tempos were well judged throughout and he pulled out the orchestral detail and allowed the leitmotivs to shine through without too much over emphasis. And this attention to detail resulted in some luminous playing from the orchestra and bar a single moment already mentioned, he was sensitive accompanist to the singers. And special mention must go to the Robert Ashworth for his exemplary solo in the Second Act, but throughout the ensemble playing was of the highest standard from start to finish. For example, the way Farnes singled out the harp line in the first act, and thebeautifully placed wind and brass chords just before Brünnhilde’s awakening.

Ultimately however this Siegfried continued to demonstrate similar fault lines – although not as deep – as last year’s Die Walküre. While Farnes’ grip of the third opera in the cycle was impressive, casting the principle roles remains Opera North’s biggest challenge. With Alwyn Mellor as their final Brünnhilde and Daniel Brenna perhaps they might have cracked it.

Advertisements
  1. […] North continued with their own Ring cycle but sadly their Siegfried continued to suffer from casting issues first heard in its Die Walküre the previous year. Their […]

  2. […] incredible Das Rheingold was followed by a more disappointing Die Walküre and Siegfried but the final performance of Götterdämmerung in Leeds dissipated any previous concerns with […]

Let me know what you think ...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Subitolove

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

Good Music Speaks

A music blog written by Rich Brown

Kurt Nemes' Classical Music Almanac

( A love affair with music)

Gareth's Culture and Travel Blog

Sharing my cultural and travel experiences

The Oxford Culture Review

"I have nothing to say, and I am saying it" - John Cage

The Passacaglia Test

The provision and purview of classical music

Peter Hoesing

...a musicologist examining diverse artistic media in critical perspective

OBERTO

Oxford Brookes: Exploring Research Trends in Opera

%d bloggers like this: