René Pape

Die heil'ge deutsche Kunst!

BsomeistersingerThe Münchner Festspiele and the 2002-2003 opera season at the Bayerische Staatsoper ended with a performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. August Everding's production from 1979 was undoubtedly the best I have seen with this opera company, and naturally, they are getting a new one for next time.

Peter Schneider conducted impeccably. The music was very beautiful, less monumental than Der Ring, much more filled with joy. Jürgen Rose's sets and costumes were lovely, the sets were not ornate, of light wood, but filled the space nicely. The costumes were fitting for the middle of the 16th century from what I could tell, and there were no strange choices of color.

The singing and acting all came off well. Jan-Hendrik Rootering as Hans Sachs and Eike Wilm Schulte as Sixtus Beckmesser were especially good in Act II, as the latter is trying to serenade Eva, and the former is cheerfully foiling his efforts by cobbling while singing.

Robert Dean Smith as Walther von Stolzing, our headstrong Frankish knight, was charming, a very pleasing voice, but his accent in German is not perfect.

René Pape has the perfect voice for Veit Pogner, but he seems to young to be the father of Eva, just as far as his carriage.

At any rate, it was a thrilling performance. To think that the opera itself premiered in that very space!

Fidelio in a Small Electronic Box

So in the last week of December, I finally watched a television program in its entirety for the first time in seven years. It was a broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's production of Fidelio. I suspect that part of the reason I do not watch television is because I have no idea what is on and at what time. Some solicitor for the Met called me on a rare day where I actually answered the phone and asked for a donation for the television broadcast, and I was, of course, compelled to actually send them money. But I decided that it might be nice to see this program, if I could figure out the channel and time. After much deliberation, it was possible.

Leonora was sung by Karita Mattila, who I saw recently as the lead in Kat'a Kabanova. Her voice is beautiful, and it had a damp sweetness in Janacek, but it is surprisingly strong, and she was able to sing Beethoven well also. Florestan was sung by Ben Heppner, who is supposed to be one of the greatest tenors at the moment, and he was quite good, a nice rich voice, but I would like to hear him in person. Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Marzelline was still birdlike sweet, and her acting is not bad and her German diction is pretty good. René Pape was good as Rocco, I had heard him before as an Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila, but he didn’t make much of an impression then, since Olga Borodina was so incredible as Dalila. Falk Struckmann was an adequately evil Pizarro.

The production had its good points, the choreography was pretty good, though I was disoriented with how the camera moved around, as it was a television broadcast, so I’m not sure I could experience the staging exactly properly. As an aside, I found it strange to be looking at James Levine conducting from what would be an orchestra member's point of view. The set was ugly, very modern, but convincing.

The music was wonderful, and I must remember to look for a good recording of it.

Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix comme s'ouvre les fleurs

Yesterday I went and saw Saint-Saëns most famous opera Samson et Dalila with my father, who was here for the weekend, ostensibly for a pre-auction showing at Butterfields that didn't happen. The opera was the best one overall that I've seen this season. The music and singing were all fairly good, and Olga Borodina, the mezzo-soprano who played Dalila, has just an incredible voice. She's a good actress too. Sergey Larin has a nice voice as well, but he was only really brilliant in the first scene of Act III, when he laments to God as he turns a millstone in prison. He was able to sing beautifully despite being in some odd doubled-over positions that probably aren't ideal for singing. Timothy Noble (Priest) and René Pape (An Old Hebrew) had very lovely voices that were consistently good throughout the performance. There were also two ballets in this opera, and the corps du ballet was quite good as they were in Arshak II. The dancers were the same as far as I could tell.

The only serious problem with the opera was the operation of the curtains. The placement of something must have been off because one of the curtains and the overscreen kept snagging each time they raised either of them. The audience was very immature about the whole thing, and whenever they mananged to get it okay, they would applaud. One would think that the stage crew would have it all set up correctly, as yesterday's performance was the last one.