lietofinelondon

Posts Tagged ‘Ekaterina Gubanova’

O hehrstes Wunder!

In BBC Proms, Classical Music, Opera, Review, Richard Wagner on July 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

Review – Die Walküre (BBC Prom – Tuesday 23 July 2013)

Wotan – Bryn Terfel
Brünnhilde – Nina Stemme
Siegmund – Simon O’Neill
Sieglinde – Anja Kampe
Hunding – Eric Halfvarson
Fricka – Ekaterina Gubanova
Gerhilde – Sonja Mühleck soprano
Ortlinde – Carola Höhn
Waltraute – Ivonne Fuchs
Schwertleite – Anaïk Morel
Helmwige – Susan Foster
Siegrune – Leann Sandel-Pantaleo
Grimgerde – Anna Lapkovskaja
Rossweisse – Simone Schröder

Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim (Conductor)

Sieglinde’s O hehrstes Wunder said it all.

On the strength of the first two performances and if the BBC is smart it will find a way to issue this Prom Ring cycle on CD or download.

Clearly Das Rheingold was simply the warm-up because on the second night of the BBC Proms’ first ever complete Ring cycle, Daniel Barenboim, a second-to-none cast and the Staatskapelle Berlin delivered a Die Walküre of such intensity that I haven’t personally experienced either on stage or in concert performance.

The quality of the performances, the playing and the acting on that limited stage all came together in a perfect moment.

It brought back memories of that night in 2005 and a single, isolated performance of Die Walküre. However the emotional intensity of the Berliners performance exceeded even the emotional temperature of that evening.

And Bryn Terfel sung in both. I will admit, I have never truly been convinced by his Wotan – until last night.

Having also seen him at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan I have always felt that there was that final ‘something’ missing. Not so of his Wotan on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall. Perhaps it was because he was stripped bare of the distractions of a stage setting that his performance was incredible. Vocally he chartered the descent of Wotan from arrogant God to loving and distraught father. Every phrase was thought through and convincingly delivered – the words always clear, his voice marvelously shaded, the phrasing beautifully shaped, his singing always incredibly expressive. His was a Wotan worth reckoning with – from his incredible scene with Fricka to his final showdown and heartrending breakdown. His Leb wohl was both majestic and human.

As his wife, Ekaterina Gubanova continued her tour de force as Fricka. And my God from her first appearance, as she slinked down the stairs, she sounded and looked the part. I have yet to finish my review of Gergiev’s recording of this opera simply because I struggle to get beyond listening to the second act with Ms Gubanova. And here she displayed the same high level of musicianship, that beautifully rich and almost muscular mezzo that perfectly conveys the haughty grandeur required of Fricka. Throughout the scene this was a Fricka in control – not completely the woman still hopefully in love of Stephanie Blythe – but a Goddess. Yet, right at the end, once she had extracted the necessary promise from Wotan, there was a sudden and unexpected sign that this was a Fricka who still loved her husband as he sat broken.

At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum was Anja Kampe’s incredible performance Sieglinde. From the vulnerability of her opening scene with Simon O’Neill’s Siegmund and their burgeoning love, her distress in the Second Act to her final exultant and ringing O hehrstes Wunder, Kampe displayed a vocal authority that has definitely grown since I first saw her in this role. Her voice was strong and even throughout its range and again the colours she injected into her singing was tingling.

Opposite Sieglinde, Simon O’Neill was a credible and vocally secure Siegmund. I wonted for more drama in his characterization and perhaps at times greater depth to his singing but there was no denying his commitment in the role.

Hunding as bully was brilliantly portrayed by the deep and brutal singing of Eric Halfvarson. But his was no cipher in performance. Above the brutish and threatening vocal stance he adopted – and led by Barenboim – Halfvarson also uncovered the oft missed – and in many ways – more threatening ability to find those moments in Hunding’s music to sneer and patronise.

And Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde? Personally there aren’t sufficient superlatives.

Unlike in San Francisco, where she was head and shoulders above her colleagues, here Ms Stemme was equally matched by the rest of the cast and it strengthened and enriched her performance. Vocally secure throughout her Brünnhilde was simply stunning and spot on. Her eloquence in the role was simply mesmerising. She made you hear and feel everything – from Brünnhilde’s initial bravado as Wotan’s favourite to the wonder and awe as she witnessed true love to the anguish and fear of defying of father.

There simply isn’t a Brünnhilde like her today.

Even the Walküre – sometimes a hit and miss affair of competitive singing – were marshalled and made a thrilling ensemble. Vocally secure, each had a sufficiently identifiable vocal timbre that made them individuals as well.

So to Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin.

Simply genius.

Barenboim – conducting the first act without glancing at the score – seemed more involved than his measured conducting of Das Rheingold. Clearly this is an opera he loves dearly and it showed in his gestures to the orchestra. Never was this more noticeable than when he was driving the orchestra towards the final bars of each of the three acts. Or when he was exhorting the excellent brass section to greater – if it was possible – grandeur in their playing. Or threat and menace generated at the very beginning, when his physical gestures that had the strings digging deep from the beginning. Or when he motioned to the singers at critical moments in the drama.

And the Staatskapelle responded with deeply committed and passionate playing. Focused, attentive and engrossed in the music, each and every player was part of the drama that Barenboim unfolded on the stage.

I did not see the ‘altercation’ at the end of the Second Act but if performance is sometimes about artistic difference then it worked because I do believe that the playing in the final act even managed to surpass that of the preceding acts.

After a brilliant Das Rheingold, it was impossible to think that the ensemble could raise the bar with Die Walküre. But they did.

It makes the expectation of the Siegfried to come almost unbearable.

All That Glistens …

In BBC Proms, Classical Music, Opera, Review, Richard Wagner on July 23, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Review – Das Rheingold (BBC Prom – Monday 22 July 2013)

Wotan – Iain Paterson
Fricka – Ekaterina Gubanova
Alberich – Johannes Martin Kränzle
Loge – Stephan Rügamer
Fasolt – Stephen Milling
Fafner – Eric Halfvason
Mime – Peter Bronder
Woglinde – Aga Mikolaj
Wellgunde – Maria Gortsevskaya
Flosshilde – Anna Lapkovskaja
Freia – Anna Samuil
Donner – Jan Buchwald
Froh – Marius Vlad
Erda – Anna Larsson

Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim (Conductor)

… is most definitely gold.

Daniel Barenboim, an almost excellent cast and the luminous Staatskapelle launched the BBC Proms’ first ever Ring Cycle with an incredibly dramatic and committed performance of Das Rheingold.

Even before he had raised his baton, an excited and enthusiastic audience greeted Barenboim. And he didn’t disappoint. Seemingly from out of nowhere he drew the opening notes from the Staatskapelle Berlin with both incredible precision and dynamic control.

Das Rheingold is not the most dramatic of the four operas that make up the cycle but from the onset Barenboim found an unerring sense of drama in both the music and the singing. Indeed, there was a muscularity to the orchestral playing that is often lacking from this opening opera and not once – despite the sometimes troubling acoustic of the Royal Albert Hall – did Barenboim fail also to point up the delicacy of Wagner’s orchestral writing.

And the orchestra responded in kind with some of the most luminous playing I have heard in a long time at the Proms or anywhere else. The strings – including the harps – had both depth and warmth, the brass was incredibly burnished and the woodwind’s beautifully pointed playing sparkled throughout.

And Barenboim kept a tight leash on the dynamics, not unleashing the full force of the orchestra until the very end as the Gods entered Valhalla.

I could easily have listened to the Staatskapelle perform Das Rheingold “ohne worte”, but above their incredibly and accomplished playing, Barenboim deployed an almost faultless cast. Glancing at the programme most of the singers have sung in this production it seems with Barenboim in Berlin and the sense of ensemble shone through.

And none of the singers was ‘lost’ in the hall’s acoustic either.

The three Rhinemaidens – Aga Mikolaj, Maria Gortsevskaya and Anna Lapkovskaja – not only sang their roles individually with great aplomb and vocal warmth but their ensemble singing was mesmerising.

The Alberich of Johannes Martin Kränzle was a strongly nuanced performance and his curse was chilling. For his short time on stage, Peter Bronder captured the sniveling character of Mime perfectly and I look forward to his return in Siegfried. Similarly the giants Fasolt and Fafner were nicely caricatured with Fasolt bringing at times an almost lieder-like delivery to some of his vocal lines. And while Jan Buchwald and Marius Vlad as Donner and Froh respectively gave fine performances, personally I found Anna Samuil’s Freia rather sharp with a distracting vibrato. Strangely it seemed to fit the goddess’s sense of hysteria but I hope that her Gutrune is less shrill.

I have always enjoyed Anna Larsson’s singing and her Erda – from above the orchestra – was thrilling. Ms Larsson has a rich and resonant mezzo perfectly suited to this role and again I look forward to her confrontation with Wotan later on.

But it was Fricka, Wotan and Loge who stole the evening vocally.

Stephan Rügamer was a perfect Loge. His light yet bright tenor rose above the orchestra to portray the character to perfection and put me in mind of Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke’s Loge for Opera North. From his initial appearance to his final – almost snarling – closing words as he left the Gods to their own devices, Rügamer made it clear that this Loge had nothing but contempt for his half-brothers and sisters. It was a shame to realize we won’t be hearing him again.

I enjoyed Iain Paterson’s Gunther in the Met’s production of the Ring and his Wotan for Barenboim showed great promise for a complete Wotan in a cycle at some point in the near future I hope. His interpretation of this Rheingold Wotan was both thoughtful and well sung. He displayed both Wotan’s godlike arrogance as well as his insecurity with some distinctive and shaded singing.

But for me it was Ekaterina Gubanova’s Fricka who gave the strongest performance. As in the recent Gergiev recording, she manages to find the balance between Goddess and Wife with a lustrous, well-rounded and even voice that digs into the words. Simply marvelous and her confrontation with her husband in Die Walküre should raise the temperature a few degrees.

There was always going to be a real sense of excitement and high expectation with this Ring Cycle at the Proms.

Barenboim, the soloists and the Staatskapelle did not disappoint.

Subitolove

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

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

Opera Teen

It is so important for people at a young age to be invited to embrace classical music and opera. -Luciano Pavarotti