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Two ladies in the shade…

The simple fable at the heart of Die Frau ohne Schatten shouldn’t be difficult to parse, but Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s libretto juggles its vaguely Jungian, vaguely Arabian Nights symbolitry as if with intent to mystify and bewilder. He never could explain, for instance, even to Richard Strauss, why the fish dinner in the frying pan sing with the voices of the Dyer’s unborn children, except that it was a nifty effect, which it is.  

Strauss made of this myth so rich a dessert, so triumphant a climax to the post-Wagnerian school, that many a puzzled opera-goer is content to let the meaning go hang, and wallow in the leitmotivational soufflé.

But FrOSch (as we devotees call it) is a legendary music-drama with psycho-sexual undertones. Your spirit will rise even higher than the endlessly ecstatic concluding quartet if you take its universal message to heart. This message is similar to that of Parsifal but perhaps more straightforward, as suits a work created during the distant thunders of the Great War: We are only truly human if we can feel empathy, compassion, for other human beings, even highly dissimilar ones—as the Spirit-born Empress learns to feel it for the lowly human couple, Barak the Dyer and his Wife.

Without compassion, we are creatures of solitary ego who might as well have hearts of crystal or any other mineral. Experience and emotion will pass through us leaving no stain or touch of emotional involvement. The shadow is a symbol of our shared, earthy humanity, with all its dirty imperfections—and only those with shadows are worthy of producing more humans.

Folks who saw the 1966 O’Hearn-Merrill production of FrOSch tell everyone who didn’t see it that it was the most magical thing the Met ever presented, matchless, gorgeous, fairy tale, ideal-and yes, it was. But it’s gone. If you didn’t see it, you can’t miss it now. If you did … well, adjust your expectations.

Herbert Wernicke’s 2001 production, now revived and revised, is a fine, gaudy bit of stagework. The walls of mirror for the magical realm, enhanced by projections, doubles, torches and the Met’s underappreciated stage elevator (absolutely silent as the four- or five-story set slithers back and forth, in and out, up and down!) make a dandy backdrop for multidimensional show, and the mirrors conceal inopportune shadows until the story is ready to receive them. The seamless flow of stage-high trickery in Act III should tickle any theatrical fancy.

J. Knighten Smit is credited with redirecting the piece in place of the late Mr. Wernicke, and he has corrected a couple of the production’s bêtises: The humanoid falcon is now entirely red, without white feet and hands showing (which always made me queasy), and he (Scott Weber) does mid-air somersaults, perhaps to excess, rather than sulking about the stage in a moody lump. The horse is out, and with it the Emperor’s double who rode it across the stage during an interlude. The four principals do not turn into robots at the end of Act II and mount the girderwork staircase in lockstep trance. I could still happily do without the refrigerator that casts a cold light on bitter Barak at the end of Act I.

The cast of the current run is of high though not transcendent quality. The best singing comes from Christine Goerke, whose career arc should be exemplary for any youth with hochdramatisch ambitions: Learn how to sing Handel and Mozart properly for a few years, and you’ll be ready for the heavy stuff when it’s ready for you. An involved and subtle actress, Goerke can wallop the big phrases through whatever a late romantic orchestra has to offer, and her voice may be loud or soft, and beautiful as well. A

nd to crown our pleasure in a home girl making good, she’s been signed as the Met’s next Brünnhilde. Her frumpy Dyer’s Wife is never glamorous but often touching, shrewish but from resentments that also make her singing withdrawn—saving herself for the full-throated outpouring of love in Act III.

Anne Schwanewilms (the Empress) and Torsten Kerl (the Emperor), the former a debutante, are Straussians of experience and talent, but the voices of both seem a size too small for the Met, especially when they sing from the rear or middle of the stage. The Empress’s opening monologue and resolve to find a shadow and her nightmare scena in Act II were often inaudible over the orchestral rumble.

One trembled to anticipate Schwanewilms’ big scenes in Act III, but both Strauss and the set were ready for the occasion: The Empress’s music fades to chamber music tones, a cello, a few violins, a harp glissando or nothing at all during her long, climactic scene, and Schwanewilms sang much of it on the stage apron, where she was loud and clear, emotional and affecting if not as heart-rending, brink of hysteria, as a Leonie Rysanek.

She is a slim, handsome woman, commandingly tall even beside Goerke. A staging note: In Act II, the Empress should not be in the thick of the action, helping out with kitchen chores … she should be (as Barak notes) hiding in the shadows, observing, making the judgments that will resolve the story and not letting her “disability” become visible.

Kerl’s Emperor, though a dignified stage presence, made no clear impression of person or anguish in Acts I or II—the scene where he considers which weapon to use to kill his apparently treacherous wife should touch our hearts. His voice, which seems to have the proper range for Strauss (he was last heard here as Menalas in Aegyptische Helena), was pleasant when he, too, sang from the stage apron.

The Nurse (Amme) was sung by Hungarian mezzo Ildikó Komlósi, who has given us an intriguing Herodias in seasons past. She is a handsome woman and an effective, enthusiastic actress, full of the right sly and hypocritical gestures, but her sizable mezzo was not in perfect control. Notes slipped out of tune or could not be held to a firm line. The Nurse is as strange a character as even von Hofmannsthal and Strauss ever concocted, and her music is extreme as her jagged, ironical, desperate personality, but this performance did not fill the bill on lyrical grounds. If she was portraying her character’s cross-purposes, it was not a very musical portrayal.

Johan Reuter sang Barak with a warm, firm sound and an excellent command of Straussian line, matched by his acting. Richard Paul Fink’s Messenger of Keikobad was imposing and sturdy. Jennifer Check filled the house as the vocal aspect of the wounded Falcon. Andrey Nemzer, a countertenor, sang the Guardian of the Threshold. His costume was identical to Mr. Fink’s; it was a charming shock to hear an alto voice emerge from it. Microphones carried the voices of the unborn children and the illusory boyfriend, in ways that did not sound mystical but, frankly, electronic, and the ladies in waiting conjured by the Nurse from thin air lacked languor.

Vladimir Jurowski conducted the score, uncut—as was never true with O’Hearn-Merrill; Christian Thielemann was the first to open Karl Böhm’s excisions. Most of the restored passages have to do with the Nurse’s malice and the Dyer couple’s longing, and it is good to have them back with Goerke and Reuter to sing them. Jurowski has led this opera in many houses and knows how to display its high points and when to let the brass and drums go wild (during the interludes).

Some pensive passages seemed a bit rushed where one was used to more time to let the feelings hidden in its embracing themes reveal themselves. (The opera takes four and a quarter hours, with intermissions.) Jurowski’s skill showed itself best when the imperial couple were pushing themselves to be audible; he held back and allowed them to shine through. I’m sure they were grateful to have him. The whole cast seemed in fine fettle for their standing ovation.

Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

296 comments

  • Bianca Castafiore says:

    Well, I wish she would make a comeback. Haven’t heard her live and not knocking on Goerke, but I think this is much better and certainly a more attractive voice:

    Anyone recognize the Amme, Kaiserin and Barak here?

    • Camille says:

      No, I don’t recognize them but this is certainly a better cast altogether, especially die Frau, than what we now have at the Met. The only thing that worries me about her is the kind of movement of the jaw and tension, but does that voice ever come through steady as rock. Uncut version, as well. Brava!

      Thanks for finding, Madame Castafiore…one of your protégées, perhaps???

      camillyushka

      • Bianca Castafiore says:

        Cammillerrima!!!!!!

        Nein, nein, liebchen, she’s not one of my students, she’s a pupil of chère Astrid Varnay. It’s a pity she seems to have dropped out of the scene, what great voice, and as Monty points out, a tall, good-looking woman. Her website has not been updated since she pulled out of the Paris Ring (I believe they got Mellor instead).

        At the Met, they only gave her covering duties for Voigt’s Isolde and she did sing a couple of performances, opposite Heppner and Lehman, I believe. Hoping good things for her and that she comes back to the opera stage soon.

        Here’s her Elektra, a formidable voice indeed and assumption of this difficult role:

        • Bianca Castafiore says:

          Ah, I just found this clip as well. It doesn’t say when this was done, and Baird doesn’t do much singing, but it’s an interesting staging of the end of Act II of “Walküre” in São Paulo. It looks like the same production in which Coelho appeared in “GD.” Interesting staging, Siegmund’s death is at the hand of a mob and look who appears at the end.

    • MontyNostry says:

      If it was Toulouse 2006, it’s Soffel, Merbeth and Andrew Schroeder.

      • Camille says:

        Thank you, Sir Monty. I thought it looked French. I am pleasantly surprised at how good Merbeth sounds in the bits I have heard thus far — she is going to sing with Vienna Philharmonic in the Beethoven 9 next spring and I will not fear it as much now, as heretofore I had only heard her on disc, with some Strauss lieder and had not much liked the sound. One never can tell, from thing to the next.

        • Buster says:

          You have to hear her live, Camille. Loved her as Chrysothemis (with Herlitzius), Elisabeth, and Senta.

      • Buster says:

        oops, sorry Monty, had not seen your reply.

    • marshiemarkII says:

      Montissssimo you are a veritable encyclopedia!
      What a gorgeoeus little theater the Capitole is, no?

    • Buster says:

      Th tall chick is the fabulous Ricarda Merbeth, Soffel the Amme (the best I have heard), Andrew Schroeder Barak.

  • Krunoslav says:

    “certainly a better cast altogether, especially die Frau, than what we now have at the Met”

    Baird turns screechy as soon as she begins “Aber Ich..”‘ Goerke opening night was way better than this to my hearing.

    • Camille says:

      Not to mine.

    • Camille says:

      As I always say, Herr Kruno, Chacun à song goo. If you like that vibrating vat of gelatinous substance, well have at it.

      • marshiemarkII says:

        CammiB, I think you were heading into something alliterative over there. How about vibrating vat of valatinous vubstance
        I am sure brilliant manoucita querida (mas que nunca!) will come up with the right one in no time, but I think mine is if nothing else on the camp side :-)

        • Camille says:

          marshie, I have to return to act II in Amsterdam right now. I prefer --

          Viconti+Vespri+Verdi — google it and get a nice, bella sorpresa!!!

          You had better get some gelato from that Epicerie for Madame manou, long overdue now and which I am going to drag Monsieur Camille to tomorrow before we hit die Frau. “Gelato, alfin sei mia!”

          • Bianca Castafiore says:

            Cammyushka, shouldn’t it be “gelato, alfin sei mio!”?????

            And marshiiiiiieee, where’s il mio???????

            • Camille says:

              I’m quoting Baron Scarpia, madame.

              That mean old man Krunoslab is bothering me and I do hope he doesn’t bother you anymore. Nerva was one thing, but she was a diva! He is just an old Krusty the Klown!

              In solidarity—
              Camillerina

        • marshiemarkII says:

          I wish you could send it transatlanticly, I’d do it in a heartbeat for manoucita!
          But our chance we will have I’m sure! we will!

        • manou says:

          Vibrating vat of viscid viscosity?

        • marshiemarkII says:

          Brilliant as expected :-)

      • Buster says:

        Goerke sounds warmer, and much more feminine to me than the squally Baird.

        Now you can pass gas at me too.

    • Camille says:

      AND, she not only sounds better she LOOKS better, too, to state the obvious.

      AND you are comparing the acoustic of the theatre you heard it in, and which I also have as well, by the way, with the sound of YouTube, a comparison that is not alla pari, Herr Krunoslav.

      If you have decided, in your infinite wisdom, that this is the singer you like, well, good FOR YOU! I don’t have to like it nor be reprimanded as if I were a child, for I am sure I know this work every bit as well as you, and I am OLDER than you, too. In fact, La Cieca published my photo today on another thread, so you may check there for my references.

      Thank you for your opinion.

      • MontyNostry says:

        I’m not sure how much Baird is singing now, but it does seem strange that she was generally overlooked by the major houses (though I think she sang regularly in Paris). A big, secure voice and a good-looking woman is a compelling combo. What did she or her manager do wrong? I bought a CD of her in Wagner and Strauss and was a bit disappointed -- the voice sounded a bit thick and she didn’t do much with the words. If I’m not mistaken, Cocky K ended up buying it after I divested myself of it at a second-hand dealer near Waterloo!

        • Camille says:

          It was maybe a Waterloo for Cocky, too?

          We shall have to ask him.

          Maybe she just didn’t record well. Lots of those voice types don’t behave in that respect.

          • irontongue says:

            Baird got mediocre reviews in the Seattle Ring in 2008 and to my ear did not sound like anything special in that Met Tristan run (the one that was supposed to be all Ben meets Deb). That might explain why she isn’t being hired everywhere in the US.

      • marshiemarkII says:

        CammiB! were you talking about this?!??!???!


        what sublime imagery! and with that soundtrack!!!!
        I must find the whole movie now, new task for the weeke’ how will I have time to go to Christopher St now, per orders of our carisssimo Rory?

        • Camille says:

          Oh YES! It is so beautiful! We have been re-playing at home over and over. So evocative and so true on many levels. So glad you found it, too!
          Bellissima.

        • marshiemarkII says:

          CammiB, it’s a gorgeous movie, and weirdly enough I was just talking about Ingmar Bergman, and this scene reminds me so much of the Seventh Seal, I looooooove Visconti in black and white, nothing like the Zeffirellian (well Viscontian of course the other queen was the imitator) excess of his later films… Gattopardo, Gotterdammerung (the movie not the opera) and others. The starkness is overwhelming. I must find it this weekend.

          Just came home from the gayest gym, and having sent for publication the second paper of the year! and no sequestration this time, as you can see the gurl has been most active here too :-)

          • Camille says:

            Vd. sabe—just this past week they played Il Gattopardo at MoMA. I do not know when and if they will re screen it but check MoMA film schedule.

            Monsieur Camille says I have to stop now especially as I have disgraced myself—more than usually—today.

            !Nighty-nite y sueños de oro y bubblebutt; también!
            CB

            PS—the foto of HB as EM was really wonderful. Perfect for a 40′s noirish film.

          • Lurker_del_Cairo says:

            M. MMII -- hope this works:

            • marshiemarkII says:

              CammiB I am anxiously awaiting your report!
              Out of breath for the Kaiserin in erneuern, and then for BOTH sopranos (soprani?)in the reprise in the quartett, whassdamatta? they don’t teach how no breath no mo’? It is THE most important leitmotif in the entire opera, and cannot deliver it?!?!?!?!? the Menschheit motif?
              And the conductor, he doesn’t know about rhythmic bounce!?!?!?!? and then tension and RELEASE?!?!?!!?! The final C lasted for about one and half to two milliseconds, and there was absolutely no resolution to the grand release that comes with that C, uggggh-uffffff it was good maybe for Essen or Magdeburg……

          • marshiemarkII says:

            Lurkie, mille mille grazie, this is a GIFT!!!!! sorry I am so late thanking you, but I ended up at the Frau tonight. First you are completely right!, it is so dumb, the little event with leaving the bow on the apron for no reason at all, only to obstruct the walk across for the other characters.

            And I am completely with CammiB!, had I not been with someone young and neophyte, and I really wanted him to hear Act III, I would have walked. As it was, Act III was worth staying for, as the MUSIC is so so so glorious, that even a less than glorious performance is still good to hear, but boy how far it was from 1978 I can not even begin to describe…… maybe more tomorrow as I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade :-(

            • Camille says:

              marshiemiitm_____hasta mañana! I have been done in by too many brass instruments. What a crude assault on the score.

              For the first time I really began to become aware of the flaws, and it was sad to realize tonight that this was a big Sachertorte of Kitsch, unless handled by a Meister.

              in fede--

              cb

              At least they got rid of those riduclous blue gloves that Gaby Schnaut used to wear.

            • Liz.S says:

              I’m more of an apfelstrudel girl but even if this is kitsch I still like it very much -- the less fluffer stuff is better for me. Hey, everybody has his/her own taste ;-)

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Well yesterday I decided to watch the Salzburg DVD with Thielemann in preparation for my performances which start on Thursday. Thielemann is a mster of this score for starters and I was riveted watching Schwanewilms as she silently stood by watching what was going on before her. The role is difficult to pull off because for long stretches you are present but cannot just stand around looking bored like a Kaiserin of the past did without being involved in the humanity of the work. But Schwanewilms in a very intelligent woman and you saw the different feelings going through her. Of course she has the dignity and carriage to carry off an Empress and she really lets loose in the third act. Herlitzius also cannot be bettered and it is astonishing at what volume can come out from such a petite woman. You feel for her as well. I also listened to some recordings earlier in the week and was disappointed in the Sawallisch due to a very mismatched cast. How I was thinking would this sound if Jones were the Färberin instead of the very dull Vinzing. Studer in marvelous in one of her best roles and I saw both her and Jones onstage in one of my best opera performances ever.

            • umangialaio says:

              Dear Feldmarchallin, do you have any tips for a cheap, quiet and clean accomodation in Munich? I know only tha Pension Beck in Lehel, which is Ok, but…
              I will be at the BS fo Tosca and FroSch on 6/7 December.
              I agree as to Thielemann (I still rememebr the emotion listening to the live radio boadcast) and , all in all, to Schwanewilms. I don’t understand all this wide-spead praise about Herlitzius, whom I find a one-dimensional screamer (my limitation!). She triumphed in Milano as Ortud.

              Danke in advance.

              Ulisse

            • MontyNostry says:

              Feldmarschallin, was that the Munich FroSch in 1989? I was at that too. When I heard Studer’s superb recording of the Kaiserin I wondered whether she would ever do anything better … Sadly, I don’t think she ever did :-(

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              12.7.88 with both Studer and Jones. Gessendorf and Jones was one year earlier.

            • MontyNostry says:

              You’re right, 1988. I was getting my years mixed up. It was Fassbaender as Die Amme -- but who were the men? Paul Frey, possibly?

            • Regina delle fate says:

              I heard that EMI were almost forced to hire Vinzing for the Färberin in the Sawallisch FroSch as she had a contract for an Elektra to be conducted by Tennstedt which never happened because of the conductor’s illness. Instead of buying her out, they gave her the Faerberin instead. Jones would almost certainly have been preferable, but by that time Gwyneth has a reputation for being very variable and I suppose they didn’t want to have to risk lots of takes and patching together an in-tune performance. There surely must be several “pirates” which preserve Dame Gwyn’s Dyer’s Wife….I can’t believe the BBC didn’t broadcast the Haitink performances at Covent Garden with Tomova-Sintov, Frey and co.

            • Lurker_del_Cairo says:

              Pas de quoi!

              I do think it would be dramatically acceptable if one of the Emperor’s huntsmen came on at the end of the scene and picked up his detritus.

              PLEASE: Lurkchen, Lurkeur, Lurkovsky, Lurkamo but not Lurkie -- my parents called me that as a child!

              ????

            • Lurker_del_Cairo says:

              Guess I still have to figure out emoticons!
              \;^)

            • marshiemarkII says:

              How about Lurkito or Oquita :-)
              Something tells me that we all want you to step out of lurkdom, and joining in the fun :D

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Without checking my notes Schunk and Weikl I believe.

      • Krunoslav says:

        I wish you much joy in hearing the now-squally Baird (Senta in Brno and Venus in Prague coming up) and the beyond ghastly Merbeth (“worth coming to Europe to avoid”, as per a pal in Zurich).

        These squishy alliterative fat joke posts about Goerke interest me not at all, even if by your report you are Sara Scuderi.

        • Camille says:

          Sara Scuderi’s dead, dude.

          What a nasty and stupid thing to say.
          Take your misogyny back to Russia and stick it.

          • Krunoslav says:

            I am sorry, but these days I fail often to understand your twee self-referential prose and had no other way to interpret “In fact, La Cieca published my photo today on another thread, so you may check there for my references.” How this amounts to misogyny is anybody’s guess, but your final sentence well evokes the Know-Nothing world of nativism.

          • OpinionatedNeophyte says:

            …and there was nothing left of Krunoslav’s wig but a few synthetic strands and half glued lace front. #Snatched.

        • Feldmarschallin says:

          Ulisse contact me at mrcshmd13@aol.com and we can talk.

  • A. Poggia Turra says:

    Found this program link for a ceremony marking the 50th Anniversary of the re-opening of the Nationaltheater. Mostly speeches, but also the Marschallin’s monologue by Stemme, and Wintersturme (apologies for spelling and lack of diacritcal) by Jonas:

    http://www.br.de/mediathek/video/video/br-klassik-50-jahre-wiedereroeffnung-nationaltheater-100.html

    Feldmarschallin, did you attend?

    • Feldmarschallin says:

      Yes I attended but the speeches went on way too long for my comfort. The music was shortchanged with the biggest impression being Petrenkos light and fluid conducting which for once didn’t cover up the singers. Kaufmann sounded wonderful as Siegmund but Stemme’s days as Marschallin are over. She sung it totally without charm and charisma. It went for nothing. Apprently someone else was originally planned but she had an engagement the evening prior but why not give it to Schwanewilms then or Pieczonka who is certainly in town.

  • Clita del Toro says:

    Has anyone mentioned the LOC FroSch with Voigt a and Brewer? Both were just okay in their roles. I was disappointed in Brewer. I was expecting to be bowled over by her “magnificent voice.” She was kinda uneven. Sometime the voice would bloom, sometimes a bit screechy. The only one in the cast I loved was Robert Dean Smith. When he sang in Ariadne at the Met, I was a bit disappointed. He was much better in FroSch.

    • uwsinnyc says:

      Dyer’s wife is an odd role because you simply can’t ‘just’ have the voice for it. You have to have the temperament too. That is partly why Goerke was such a hit.
      Brewer sounds grand, but is temperamentally a tad placid.
      I do agree about the voice though- she could cycle through thrilling and squally within a phrase.

    • Sheldon says:

      Clita--I attended 3 of the LOC FroSch performances and agree that Robert Dean Smith was very good, although every time they lowered him while he was astride that horse statue I was terrified he would fall off or the horse would tip over.

      Maybe because I went to multiple performances my memory is stitching the good bits together, but I thought both Voigt and Brewer were pretty good in their roles.

  • zinka says:

    I cannot review this Frau publicly(except here) because Komlosi is very nice and on facebook,and I do not want to be honest and hurt her. She should not do Frau..the top is fine with wonderful B flat at enbd act two..but the role is mostly declamation the voice just does not get out..all cloudy and a lot inaudible…even the bottom did not project. Not a role for her.
    Megan Miller (debut) has a solid top, but some noise in the tone…..Of course,after Leonie, you cannot really enjoy the role as she was “good” but not special.The great third act scene did not imoress..needs more middle and bottom.Good singer…hope she does more.
    Reuter was generic..,,,smallish.made no impression….Remember that when you saw 1966 Fraus you cannot erase Berry and the rest of them. Kerl has a fine bright voice..but act 2 Falke scene was not that impressive because you need DelMonaco to rise over the orchestration ( I hope that the orchestral players used deodorant…..HUGE orchestra).
    The ROAR that greeted Goerke at the end was deserved;it is a superb voice (Thank you,Diana Soviero). It is a won derful voice..but again..after Ludwig, I did notget the total emotional outburst at the end of act two. Remember,those 1966 Fraus were probably the greatest things we all saw EVER.
    I loved the production,although I want “magic” at act two end…but the lighting and other effects were stunning. The fact they put the lights on at the end and the music at the last quartet made me practically fall out of the seat.As a work,it is just the most sensational composition imaginable,lifting you to a height rarely,if ever, realized on an opera stage. By the end,I was shaking my head with the kind of emotion rarely,if ever, felt in my opera life.
    It had vocal shortcomings, but it is FRAU..and that is quite something..but imagine this with a great cast……now you know why I am totally jaded. I see it on the 26th.
    I almost forgot..Mr.Nemzer as the Guardian of the Threshold is a countertenor..or maybe a male soprano,because he took one top note that made me feel he should do LUCIA..but the costumes might not work……He is superb.
    .

    • Simon says:

      Zinka, Last night was my first time seeing Frau (I’m acquainted with the classic recordings, including the 66), and I agree almost completely with your take on the cast. Miller is a promising singer, but I found her vibrato distracting and wished for more focus in her top. Her Act III underwhelmed, as you said. Komlosi disappointed and has so much of the connective tissue of the opera. Goerke impressed, particularly when she stopped holding back in Acts II and III. And what a beautifully designed production.

      • uwsinnyc says:

        I don’t get the Diana soviero reference-- was she Goerke’s teacher?

        Also Zinka- the performances and performers you allude to from the past were legendary, but they were the creme de la creme and not necessarily representative of their own era either. If we were to compare last night’ s performance to a standard Frau performance from the 1960s, I wonder how they would rate.

  • tornado12 says:

    As for a bit of Leonie time, here is a video I already posted, but was buried in a lot of posts I think.


    God, I would have loved to hear a Leonie Lulu… She would have been amazing with all of those high D’s. Maybe she would have even done the high F… (or the high E in the Schigolch scene at beginning of Act One? Noone ever does that…) Btw, I love Schwanewilms as the Kaiserin. I know she has problems with the highest notes, but then again Leonie never did the two octave leap on “Zur Schwelle des Todes!”. I mean, she sang the high C (and how glorious she could do that :D ), but the portamento didn’t end at the low C but a bit above it. Well, have fun with Leonie.

  • bassoprofundo says:

    “Anne Schwanewilms (the Empress) and Torsten Kerl (the Emperor), the former a debutante, are Straussians of experience and talent.”

    FFS

    who writes like this?

  • Cicciabella says:

    Dear Madame La Cieca, please give Basso a live/CD review assignment. He’s often so unhappy with the lovingly written reviews here: I’m eager for him to show us how things should be done. And, caro Basso, if you do get the assignment, no profanity or internet slang, please.

    • bassoprofundo says:

      great idea cicciabella! give me something to review!

      I’ll write it without rambling on about the park in which the composer’s dog shat on the day the composer wrote the first page of the score of the opera in question.

      I’ll also write it in a normal, approachable way, without any pretentiously crafted sentences that scream “Look at me, I’m a reviewer!!!” i.e.:

      “Anne Schwanewilms (the Empress) and Torsten Kerl (the Emperor), the former a debutante, are Straussians of experience and talent.”

      Considering how well written JJ’s reviews are, I’m sort of surprised at some of the masturbatory pieces La Cieca authorizes as reviews on the site from other people.

  • La Valkyrietta says:

    Thanks for the review. I was in the house last night and have no issue with the review, but at the same time must say the singers and the conductor are no Leonie, Ludwig and Leinsdorf, but we all knew this before buying the ticket. We also know the Spanish saying, you can not ask for pears from an elm tree. This time I was seated two boxes from the stage, close to the sound, and could hear the singers and see their face gestures. I enjoyed the evening, including the nurse -the weakest voicewise but not actingwise- but see where the negative critics come from. In the final cuartet the women were not particularly audible and this was worse than in the first night. This might explain the applause at the end, not the endless one of Fraus of memory, but maybe six minutes, but I did not time it. I thought it deserved more.

    I must commend those responsible for the sets. Scene changes always imply noise and this production is no exception, a bump here or there is inevitable, but here that is kept to a minimum. I remember in the second act when Barak’s dwelling goes down to eventually reveal the hall of mirrors, there is a long passage with the cellos, and not once were they interrupted by straneous noice. Thanks carpenters for big favors.