Cher Public

Hothouse flower

To some, Anne Schwanewilms will always be the soprano in the slinky black dress who replaced Deborah Voigt at Covent Garden a decade ago and confirmed the creeping influence of film and television values on the opera world.

Though she’s since secured a place as a leading interpreter of Richard Strauss’ operatic heroines, the German soprano’s forays into Wagner have been limited to a handful of Tannhäusers and Lohengrins. A release on Capriccio with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra cautiously stakes out more turf with performances of the Wesendonck Lieder and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, along with Elisabeth’s “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser. It’s a somewhat ungenerous vocal sampler, with more than half of the disc devoted to orchestral excerpts led by your choice of Cornelius Meister or Manuel Lange, both of whom are credited as the conductor.

There’s a cool gracefulness to Schwanewilms’ voice that matches her elegant stage presence. The intonation is precise and the vibrato razor-thin. In hushed passages, she has an effective soft attack that’s capable of expanding into a glowing crescendo. The top is more piercing and sometimes leaves the impression of sounding a tad strained. Overall, the concentrated tone and regal mien can leave you convinced you’re hearing an echt rendition of a lied or operatic excerpt.

The problem is one doesn’t always sense a strong identification with the material, as if the soprano is trying to channel emotional power through her restraint. The wonderfully surging opening of “Schmerzen,” the fourth of the pathos-filled Wesendonck songs, sounds rather by the numbers, with neither a blazing entry or much deep-rooted feeling in the opening line “Sonne, weinest jeden Abend.”

Similarly, the Tristan study “Träume,” for all its gentle intimacy, fails to convey a yearning for eternal rest embodied in the final phrases about dreams softly fading and sinking into their grave. It’s possible Schwanewilms would make more of an impression singing this set to the piano accompaniment, though the Vienna radio orchestra brings out the beguiling tonalities effectively without distracting from the vocalism.

The Liebestod fares better thanks to Schwanewilms’ clean upward attacks, graceful phrasing and warm middle register. This is an Isolde who’s more feminine and vulnerable than angry. There’s a sense of freedom in the intensifying expressions of passion and in the final octave leap between F-sharps. The performance may lack the depth and power of a Nina Stemme or the urgency of Anja Kampe but has a certain unwavering focus appropriate for a character embarking on a journey to another realm.

“Dich teure Halle” is the best fit for Schwanewilms on the disc — an ardent lyric essay that’s tastefully shaped and redolent of an early Romantic style that has direct connections to Weber. If only the producers saw fit to give us some more from this opera, perhaps Elisabeth’s Act 3 prayer “Allmacht’ge Jungfrau, hor mein Flehen!”

The orchestral excerpts tend to be fleet, fashionably lean and unremarkable. The Tristan prelude is competently played but fails to quite capture the long dramatic arc Wagner etches to expose the tormented title characters’ lives. The Venusberg music from Tannhäuser doesn’t throw off nearly enough frenzied emotion to qualify as orgiastic, though there’s some commendable articulation of detail. The approach generally seems influenced by Pierre Boulez’s pared-back Wagner, with sound that at time resembles chamber orchestra proportions.

Schwanewilms has won over big segments of the operagoing public since bursting out under unusual circumstances. While she may be a go-to Straussian and excel in Romantic art songs, this disc probably does more to delineate the limits of her artistry than enhance it.

  • spiderman

    1. To be fair: Schwanewilms had a career which led her into the important houses of the opera world (among them Staatsoper Berlin, Semperoper Dresden, Staatsoper Hamburg, Bayreuth festival, Covent Garden) BEFORE replacing Deborah Voigt.
    2. A recent interview that was posted here some time ago is very interesting to read and a key to understand Schwanewilms’ ideas of interpretation.

    • armerjacquino

      And- I know I bang on about this, but I think it’s important- Voigt was replaced because she wouldn’t/ couldn’t do the blocking. The dress is a piece of spin.

      • Yes. It is a very good piece of spin, but it is in fact spin. A dress could have been built to fit Voigt (after all, the ROH has a black dress in their wardrobe that fits Bryn Terfel) but Voigt thought “doing” Ariadne meant mostly pacing about in a stately manner and every now and then gingerly sitting on a rock formation. That’s not what the production called for and for whatever reasons a compromise could not be reached. I understand the ROH paid her fee for the missed performances, and she used the gap of time in her schedule for the bariatric surgery and recovery.

        • operaassport

          I actually forgot that was Schwanewilms as I mostly think of all the wonderful Strauss performances I’ve heard her give.

          Yes, and I can confirm that despite all her caterwauling to the press about the little black dress that Voigt, privately, was boasting about how the fees (for no work) paid for her 2 bariatric surgeries and gave her the time in her schedule she otherwise wouldn’t have. And she told me that while eating a Porterhouse Steak the size of Pittsburgh at a steakhouse in Miami.

        • Gualtier M

          Actually my memory of Voigt’s Ariadne was not “mostly pacing about in a stately manner and every now and then gingerly sitting on a rock formation.” She acted it quite well with a lot of wit -- I remember her exasperated facial reactions to Dessay’s Zerbinetta vividly. And she was quite physically mobile during the prologue.

          The blocking at the ROH required Ariadne in the final duet with Bacchus not only to don a little black cocktail dress but also to sit with him at a little round table like you find in little cafés and bistros. That I think was the problem. Voigt would have done the blocking if asked -- the fact is that it was decided that she shouldn’t/couldn’t and was removed. Remember that Voigt did perform in the Robert Wilson “Lohengrin” which had a horribly unflattering costume and awkward hieratic gestures. Voigt didn’t like it, thought she looked like an idiot but went ahead and performed it anyway.

          La Cieca’s comment doesn’t make sense.

          • Well, I mean so far as blocking goes, Voigt’s, like Jessye Norman’s Ariadne, was mostly “stately,” at least at the Met. Also similarly to Norman, Voigt was good at listening and reacting onstage, a quality that set them apart from sheer inanimate lumps like Jane Eaglen.

            I think one of the disappointments when Voigt lost the weight was that she really didn’t become any more physically expressive than she was when she was heavy; in fact, she seemed if anything more tentative as an actor than before.

            • operaassport

              When she lost all that weight she just became more Theda Bara-like with her acting: all bug eyes and overly broad gestures. I remember the Salome in Chicago. It was beyond laughable.

        • antikitschychick

          Oh wow, so the whole infamous little black dress thing was a sham?? Interesting….so is it known when the whole black dress thing came into play? Was that just an excuse that Voigt’s reps used?

          • antikitschychick

            whoops, posted before reading what everyone had to say…I think I get what happened now…mea culpa :-P.

  • Feldmarschallin

    I first heard Schwanewilms about 2005 in Ferne Klang in Berlin. I had never heard her before live and was lucky to get tickets at the Lindenoper in the first row for about 60€. Gretl Graumann is a 16 year old girl in the first act and then in the second act becomes a Venetian curtisan and a lowly streetwalker in the last act. I was amazed at how she was able to portray all stages perfectly and was even more amazed at seeing her after the performance since she is a rather tall woman and she made you believe she was this young girl by her body language. Well soon followed other roles and I would travel to hear her since I found that she was the best Strauss singer singing at the moment. She is such an intelligent singer and I prefer my Hoffmanstal to be sung by a singer who understands the text and not someone who skims the words but might have a beautiful voice. Die Gezeichneten followed in Salzburg but before that was one of her first Marschallins in Chicago in the dead of winter. After the first Marschallin followed an even better one this time in Paris with Garanca. Another dead of winter but this in the middle of a blizzard event happened in Washington with a Liederabend where we didn’t know if we would even get there. We finally got there before and the weather got worse. We had no idea if the event would be cancelled or not but she sang even if the audience was maybe 50% of what normally would fit into the hall. After a Lohengrin in Paris there were no more buses or metro and we had to walk back to the hotel which was nearly an hour away but her Elsa was worth it and Vogt was excellent as well. Watching her in front of the curtain playing with Elisabeths scarf before she sings is quite something and she can certainly hold the stage and your attention. I am lucky to hear her again next month in Frankfurt in Danae.

    • Clita del Toro

      FeldM, I saw Schwanewilms’ Marschallin twice in Chicago and absolutely fell in love with her. She was/is my new favorite singer. I didn’t realize that it was her first Marschallin. WOW!
      Some didn’t like her performance as much as I did —said that her voice couldn’t be heard in the trio in Act III. BS!

      • Feldmarschallin

        Clita we have similiar tastes. I also adore Maria and cannot stand Sills. But Schwanewilms has one issue and that is forte and high notes which sometimes can be screamed. I saw her Tannhäuser Elisabeth 4 times and each time the high B was more of a scream. I will accept that one note since all the rest was gorgeous even if the voice isn’t as large as Harteros.

      • Feldmarschallin

        She might have done a few before Chicago in Monte Carlo but maybe I am mistaken and Chicago were the first ones but if not the first ones one of the first ones. Maybe Buster knows more about this.

        • spiderman

          Chicago 2006 were her first Marschallinen! That is what she tells herself.

          • Clita del Toro

            Spiderman, Is she lying to herself? ;)

      • Avantialouie

        Schwanewilms’ return to Chicago was a weird affair: she was sick. She actually sang full voice for the entire dress rehearsal (which I attended) of “Figaro,” but then canceled the entire run.

    • Camille

      “Die Winterreise auf Washington”, starring Die Feldmarschallin.

    • DellaCasaFan

      More of her thoughts about Wagner are well sampled in the Capriccio promo for this CD:

      “I hear more tranquility in Wagner than many others” and other interesting reflections. She is indeed quite an intelligent singer.

  • Camille

    Speaking of hothouse fleurs brought this to mind, which both phoenix and I like a lot and which the rest of you should at least know exists:

    At least, wagnerienne. I can’t say I always like La Schwanny but when I DO like her, I like her a lot.

    • DellaCasaFan

      It’s beautiful, Camille. I never heard these little gems. And Schwanewilms gives them a lovely and thoughtful interpretation. Merci bien!

      • The Conte

        I’ve seen her in opera once (Chrysosthemis) and in recital (Strauss arias amongst other things) and was totally turned off by her lack of legato and disconnection to the text.

        Am I the only one?

        • spiderman

          Yes. If there is a Singer connected to text nowadays, than it is her. Her Marschallin might be on the tranquill and soft side, gut she is absolutely there with the text and Even as a native speaker and knowing those opera by heart You get the feeling she just invents what she is singing. I think that is an astounding quality

        • John L

          I noticed the lack of legato too (people seem to have more of an issue with her volume or upper register). It’s like an abrupt stop when you expect her to shape a phrase longer. She kind of reminds me of Janowitz (kind of a harsh “white” sound in the upper register) or Studer (lack of legato).

        • operaassport

          Disconnection to the text? Where do people get this stuff. Of all the things one could possibly fault her for that’s the only area you can’t possibly. Her connection to the text is exemplary.

        • Cocky Kurwenal

          I agree her legato is very sub-standard, which IMO is because of major inconsistency in the breath flow, the same reason she doesn’t have flexibility at the top.

      • Camille

        Very pleased that you like them for I have longed to hear them for a very long time hntil I stumbled upon this youtube version, which fortunately includes the music and verse. They are not sung near as frequently as many other of his song settings and I find them, no. 3 in particular, very beautiful, very remote and from another realm.

        As far as what Conte says about legato, I am frankly stumped, for in these songs I thought she exemplified a masterly legato. And her enunciation, at least, of the text is quite clear and does not seem over done nor affected, nor foreign. I don’t know how to respond.

        I saw her sing Chrysothemis twice in concert and had a most interesting time relating to her and what she did which I do not have time to re-relate now. At that time—autumn 2009 I think, her higher notes sounded fine, if forte, and a tiny bit more effortful than, say, Voigt’s. But her characterisation was intense and made a strong impression.

        She also sang a lovely Elsa with Vogt some years ago—where—Paris? It was acclaimed, both of them. I seem to remember Buster writing about it. Her Genoveva (R. Schumann) was also quite something.

        She is a bit, I don’t know, different, which perhaps stems from a certain type of intelligently informed kind of musicianship.

        I cannot imagine her as Isolde nor do I want to. Too much pushing involved. I would have loved to have heard an Arabella or a Marschallin from her. The Kaiserin I did not like that much but it was okay. Not my cuppa.

        • Bill

          Camille -- Schwanewilms seems to be a remarkably intellectual singer, possessing a wonderful clarity vocally with her instrumental type voice.

          She is somewhat akin to Janowitz or Gessendorf
          in timbre -- seems to possess a lovely slightly whitish tone. She does not seem to be
          particularly spontaneous vocally or dramatically but there is a certain naturalness to the vocal line she spins out. I saw her first as Arabella in Vienna as a replacement and immediately
          liked her -- then the Fraus in New York and most recently in her first ever Marschallin in
          Vienna (always a tough test). Some of her
          utterances were absolutely gorgeous though she was not quite as stylish as Schwarzkopf or
          della Casa, not quite as natural on stage as
          Claire Watson, not showing as much pathos as
          Jurinac, perhaps not as Viennese as Rysanek --
          just a touch too teutonic but some phrases
          spun out with incredible beauty of tone. She has yet to sing Capriccio which will be a wonderful fit. She is favored by Thielemann and Welser-Moest -- always an asset to be in demand by the best conductors of her fach.

          • Camille

            Yes, thank you teuer Bill.

            The Capriccio sounds like a very good idea. I would really like to hear her as Ariadne but doubt that is happening here. The Marschallin in Vienna is a real tightrope act I am sure.

            For sure, she does not have the top for die Kaiserin and it fell very flat for me. Elsa, for sure, and with Vogt, too, in a Lohengrin is what I’d like to hear but probably won’t!

            She belongs to the “toothpaste school of song”, like Gundula and others Nd that’s fine if they know how to squeeze.

            • Bill

              It seems no Ariadnes listed for the Met in future years -- and most of the better exponents of the title role these days, Schwanewilms, Harteros, Isokoski, Pieczonka, Stoyanova etc. do not seem to be in Gelb’s future plans for the Met either for the most part.

              I saw several of Schwanewilms’ Fraus at the Met this past season and her top was sometimes opened up with considerable freedom in some of her performances but not all. Her middle and upper middle notes were glorious, however. Perhaps we were all spoiled by hearing Leonie so often in the role and whatever Rysanek’s vocal flaws, she almost always came through with thrilling high notes in all her performances.

            • Feldmarschallin

              No Ariadnes and if Gelb does decide to do one that you will probably get someone like Dasch or Magee :) both have been listed for Eva so why not keep them?

            • Camille

              Yes, we were spoiled.

              Leonie’s high notes, whatever the grievous flaws of the mid-voice that are bandyed about, were like sitting on a couple of Whooppee Cushions all at once!

              Bill, are you going to hear the Budapest/Dvorak offerings here at Lincoln Center this summer? I am sorry I missed the Mozart opera they did. Maybe I will go to this.

              Off to the Gellert Baths in my Dreams.


        • The Conte

          When I write disconnected from the text I don’t mean she had bad diction. When I saw her in recital each song was recited (I mean the way the text was articulated and delivered and… I suppose recitato or even acted) was exactly the same in every song. The whole concert was one long monotone.

          And by lack of legato I mean there were gaps between the notes even when she wasn’t taking a breath.

          Perhaps I got her on a couple of off nights. I might have a see what I can find on YouTube and see if it changes my mind.

          • Camille

            Hmmm, interesting. Maybe an off-night and maybe she wants to stay in that safe dynamic range of calm which she rhapsodizes about in the promotional trailer above.

            Also, Germans tend to not legare il suono in the manner that we think of as “legato” because of all the consonants and hard sounds not to me tion the ich and ach lauts. There are a lot of infinitesimal stops and starts in enunciating the language which would not be the case in Italian, the usual basic language of il belcanto. Hope I make myself understood in such a tout court explanation.

            I think she is possibly a variable singer, depending on the atmosphere and influences upon her, and perhaps too intellectual at times as singing sometimes doesn’t work when overthought and worked into tidy little theories all tied up with ribbons. More than rocket science, it’s just an instinctual gift, from my observations.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              I’m sorry to contradict you Camille, but I think one of the most exemplary, flawless legatos ever came from Brigitte Fassbaender, just as consistently in her German language repertoire as anything else she sang. Same goes for Flagstad, and this is precisely what I think is missing in Schwanewilms singing -- I’ve heard it articulated as ‘never take the paint brush off the wall’, meaning keep the breath absolutely consistent at all times, even through the consonants -- this isn’t something Schwanewilms has mastered/taken an interest in.

            • Camille

              Caro Cocky- contradict all you like for at least you have a brain, a musical education and some real world experience and are speaking from hard won knowledge.

              I do not know anything, unfortunately for I do esteem her, about Birgit except her Klytemnestra from the MET and that her Vater was an esteemed singer and artist, and I imagine a teacher to her. I should listen more, it would seem it would do my ears a favour. Mrs. John Claggart wrote paens of praise for her “Die Krähe”, for example.

              Let us recall that die Flagstad, Queen of Song, sang everything in Norwegian first. I am not that aware of nor conversant of that language but it sounds quite a lot softer (in the Grieg HaugtUssa song cycle, e.g., that I have listened over and over and over to about ten years ago now) than German, the way I generally hear it sung. Admittedly that is by American singers who seem to be using IPA symbols.

              The legato I am referring to in Schwanewilms is ONLY that which she manages to muster in these “Proses Lyriques”, above and by carefully observing the music provided in these instructional YouTubes, and That is ALL. For a larger than average voice in these songs she manages the line well, that is my observation. I have only heard her in two Strauss operas, which were not all about lyric line anyway but angsty expression, and the Frau was cut short by my fleeing the premises after the caterwauling of the aforementioned Frau in the Zweiter Akt, which gave me the horrors.

              I have listened to her Genoveva and found that fine. I don’t know if it interests you but it may and you might have a different experience of her.

              All in all, I am just trying to get a handle on her, as she, like many others these days, seem variable to me and one gets something on one occasion and quite another thing on the next, La Damrau, e.g.

              As I said before, contradict me all you like, for at the very least there is often something very interesting to be learned or gleaned from your musically informed observations.

        • luvtennis

          Dear Camille:

          In my limited experience with Anne S, I would say that she can produce a good legato as long as she doesn’t have to sing across the passagio, or if the music doesn’t require her to move the voice too quickly.

      • oedipe

        I generally like Schwanewilms, especially in Strauss. But she sounds too rough and rigid, and not quite “lyrique”, in these Debussy songs.

        • Camille

          Thanks œdipe. Do you know of a francophone recording of these? I have not found one and this is the best I can do.

          • oedipe

            I am afraid I don’t know of another recording. But here is an example of a lyrical and ethereal interpretation that I think renders the spirit of Debussy’s songs:

            Or these songs: an earthier, but still quite lyrical interpretation.

            By comparison, Schwanewilms has a white and cold sound that doesn’t suit Debussy’s music and texts very well, IMO.

            • Camille

              Merci autre fois, œdipe.

              I have found via ArkivMusic, that there are two young singers, Mlle Marianne Fiset, jeune québécois, and Sandrine Piau, who have recorded these beautiful songs. I might try them. Mlle Fiset has had considerable success as Manon; would that we would have her rather than the overripe charms of Frau Damrau next year!

              Of course, we all know and love Crespin’s Chansons de Bilitis. Merci pour la mémoire.

            • DellaCasaFan

              I found Sandrine Piau’s “De fleurs” on Youtube. This will be my first posting with the embedded Youtube video, so I hope it works:

            • phoenix

              DellaCasa -- thanks for the upload. There isn’t much Piau Debussy on utube and this is much appreciated by me since I don’t collect studio recordings -- I’ve never heard this performance before.
              -- I always admired Piau performances. I wish I could upload the Debussy clips I gleaned from her live 1999 Paris recital with Alexandre Tharaud. In recent years her performances have been more variable, cancellations more frequent, but I was able to clip some Debussy beauties last year when she had a good day in Stuttgart with Susan Manoff.

            • Camille

              Very lovely, if distracting because of the beautiful flowers. Thank you for doing the spade work in digging up these roses.

              Sandrine Piau had a Carnegie Hall recital a year or two ago which I very regretfully missed. Did anyone attend? Or was that a cancellation, perhaps?

            • Camille

              Also found one Véronique Dietschy, on a major compilation of about 90% of Debussy’s œuvre (includes ’91 Pelléas with Van Dam). Who is she? A baroque singer, I gather?

            • oedipe

              No, Véronique Dietschy sang a wide repertory, including baroque opera. She held a variety of supporting roles in French, German, Russian at the Paris Opera, the Châtelet, Opéra Comique and elsewhere, and had an affinity for Debussy. She recorded a number of Debussy, Fauré and Duparc recitals.

            • Camille

              Merci, œdipe! That she figures in so great a number of songs on this album, and that I had not heard at all of her, gave me great trepidation. She sounds like the right kind of singer for this job, from what you say.

              It’s 18 CDs for around $80, including lots of great pianists, so now I will seriously consider it. Here is the link:


            • DellaCasaFan

              Camille, you got me hooked on this song set. I ‘m watching closely this thread, because I would also love to get a CD. I looked up Véronique Dietschy that you mentioned and noticed that she issued three volumes of Debussy songs. Proses lyriques are in the third volume that seems to be out of print and hard to find. Otherwise, it’s in this 18-CD set that you found.

              Oedipe, thank you for your discerning thoughts about the interpretations of Debussy’s songs and uploads.

              Phoenix, it was sheer serendipity that I came across this video. Sorry about the beautiful roses cover (I think whoever posted it went by the song title without reading the song text) but that was the only one I could find for Sandrine Piau.

            • oedipe


              I have just come across a Piau CD which includes, it seems, the “Proses lyriques”:


              It is listed on this music site:


            • DellaCasaFan

              Ah, thank you!

            • Camille

              Perhaps the third time will work its charm and now I have switched to the Big Mac, as my iPhone has dropped out twice while trying to post this to you DCF.

              There is also an MP3 available (on Arkiv, once more) of Della Jones, a British mezzo whom I admire, singing “Proses Lyriques”. Now, don’t dismiss her out of hand, as she is quite intelligent and good with French—I have a few of her songs on another compilation which are included on this one, and she is quite good.

              Always bearing in mind that she will come from quite a different orientation than the others, but she is a serious and intelligent artist for whom I have respect.

              I am so happy that at least one person is learning to love this beautiful and not-oft sung set of songs. My other favorite is “Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire”, but that is much more widely diffused, I believe.

              Happy listening, to whatever you should decide and unearth of those beautiful and unearthly flowers from, roughly, the Symbolist period.

        • phoenix

          Schwanewilms always reminded me of a 21st century Schwartzkopf (a singer I did not like very much) -- but Schwanewilms succeeds in making these Debussy mélodies both artless & natural; my other favorite performance of hers is as Mme. Lidoine. Her arched, delicate meanderings from point A to point B sound wonderful in the French rep, plus her lack of rubato & stringent tone pose no problem in this rep.

        • Camille

          I found this little jewel. Cortot makes so much more of it and it sounds clearer:

          Cannot find the rest of the group of songs, alas

          • mia apulia

            Yes, Cortot is really wonderful here. I’ve played these for several different singers and wish I were him!

            I did hear a young Maria Ewing (I think she was 19 or something like that) sing them once, with Martin Katz. I don’t remember details but I remember being astonished by her precocity and wondering what kind of a career she would have; his playing was quite fine. Such a long time ago! I do love the songs; Schwanewilms doesn’t move me much here….

            • Camille

              I wish I could play like him too! This gives me a much better clue as to how to go about it, at least.

              Certainly wish I could have heard heard Proses Lyriques instead of the innumerable times I have heard those darn Ariettes Oubliées, murdered in the hands of amateurs and students.

    • Grane

      Merci, Camille. These are some of my favorite Debussy songs. I have Elly Ameling singing them on CD and I like her voice in these too, though she isn’t French.

      • Grane

        This was supposed to appear after Proses Lyriques.

        • Camille

          Understood. Wow, thanks a lot for letting me know of Elly Ameling’s having recorded them for she is such a scrupulous singer, I would take a chance in her recording of them. As a lot of Dutch people have French commonly as a second or third language I’d not be afraid of that either.

          Once I had the great pleasure of watching her give a masterclass to a group of young, bright and unappreciative things and I know she leaves no stone unturned in her search for perfection unison of music and verse. Lovely artist.

  • John L

    Also why do I always see references that the soprano who replaced Voigt at Convent Garden turned out to have no career? She clearly has developed an in demand career since then…

    • operaassport

      She’s in far more demand than Voigt.

      • spiderman

        As I said above: she had an in-demand-career even before those Covent Garden Ariadnes.

  • Buster

    Thanks for the review, Adriel! It looks like this one is strictly for the diehard fans. I much prefer her live than on CD anyhow, so I think I’ll pass.

    My favorite Schwanewilms performance still is Genoveva. She just stood there, at the edge of the stage, slowly drawing an entire hall full of people into Schumanns world. Her prayer sounded like an actual prayer, instead of an operatic one. I hope she does that with Desdemona this weekend too.

    In her timbre I hear more Grümmer than Schwarzkopf, by the way. Like Schwarzkopf, though, she can be extremely scary in humurous art songs.

    Don’t now about her first Marschallin, but the Lyric Rosenkavalier is regularly cited as being her first one ever. Monaco followed in 2007. I heard her in the Fassbaender production in 2011, with Rattle, and she was fabulous indeed.

    At first I thought she was crazy doing Hanna Glawari, but after studying my Margit Schramm recording for a weekend (how fabulous is Dorothea Chryst on that recording!), I am now convinced she can do it. But no humor, please, like the divine Margit.

    • Camille

      I am glad you referred to the Genoveva! As it should not be forgotten, for how lovely it was.

      This was the first I had heard of Schwanewilms:

      Was any of our own British Brigade there at one of the performances? Shame there is no recording of it or perhaps there is? She would seem to have, next to my ideal Maria Reining, a perfect voice and mien for Euryanthe, an opera with gorgeous music and a more than usually preposterous plot, and which you will all be hearing much more of in late July when Bard SummerScape produces it. They say it is the first time in a hundred years, and really have no idea of any productions other than Metropolitan’s in the 1880’s or thereabouts, with Lilli Lehmann et al. Since this is a Regie to the Rescue opus par excellence, I am so hoping the regie will come to poor, beleaguered Euryanthe’s aid.
      One can hope.

    • Camille

      I think she might surprise you and her Hanna will be a good, wicked turn on the theme. Much rather have her than the two yawning bores they have lined up here.

      • Buster

        Possible, Camille, but I am still a little nervous. Margit Schramm is so good in the role because she sang Hanna on stage almost 400 times, and this will be the first one ever for Schwanewilms. I got a ticket for the final performance, and hope she is a quick learner…

        Happy you also remember that beautiful Genoveva!

        • Camille

          oh, don’t be nervös! just let it happen as it may.

          You are lucky to have been able to see it with such a practiced Hanna, so this will be something nieuw! She may add a special element that others don’t find, because of her type of questing musical intelligence.

          How could I forget that Genoveva, it was so beautiful and gave me a sound picture of what I had to conjure up in my imagination when I first looked at the score. I found some crummy recording and gave it a listen but never got a good idea until I heard her sing in that production.

          Huie en duie, mejn Buster!!

          • luvtennis

            Has Anne S. ever performed Agathe? Donna Anna? The Simon B. Amelia? If so, how were they received by the parterriat?

            • Camille

              I think Desdemona is her sole Verdi role, Luv T.

              Agsthe would be or have been a very good role but I do not know about it now. The Genoveva she sang would be on an alla pari basis to Agathe. She also sang a very successful Euryanthe at the Proms, e.g.

              I cannot imagine a Donn’Anna but maybe an Elvira.

              Her Elsa, which I noticed above that our Feldmarschallin has seen, was excellent and used to be on YouTube.

              I am just trying to understand her as she is interesting and somewhat, us, peculiar, Luvtennis.


            • Feldmarschallin

              The Agathe will come to the BSO in one of the upcoming seasons. She did have plans to sing Elisabetta in Don Carlos in Madrid in 2015 but that project got cancelled due to funding.

            • Bill

              Agathe demands (more than almost any
              soprano role in the German repertoire) an exquisite legato -- glad the BSO is planning to revive it and based upon Schwanewilms
              recent Marschallins in Vienna, Schwanewilms should be masterful as Agathe. The only time I saw it in Munich was with Claire
              Watson, an admirable artist. Janowitz and Isokoski in Vienna were absolutely wonderful as Agathe. Listen to Seefried’s
              Leise Leise in the 1944 version on the Orfeo compilation of early arias and lieder just issued. Of course for many,
              Gruemmer (from Salzburg 1954) with Furtwaengler conducting was perfect casting for the role -- a true test of Legato ability (like Pamina as well -- most of the great Agathes also excelled as Pamina -- the aforementioned plus Lemnitz. Do not know if Schwanewilms ever essayed Pamina -- perhaps the warmth of personality and Innigheit are not Schwanewilms’ strongest assets. Budapest has a new production of
              Freischuetz next season -- if Munich does it coming up, hopefully Vienna will do the same. Lorenger was lovely as Agathe at the Met but the opera only lasted one season despite a felicitous production.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Well with Pamina I have heard from Harteros that she would have loved to have sung the role earlier on but was never given any offers since she was told her voice was too big for Pamina. Nowadays the preference is for more lighter lyrics but in the past there were singers such as Rethberg, Reining and Lemnitz who were also Aidas and Elisabettas. I imagine perhaps that with both Schwanewilms and Harteros the height might also work against them and one cannot imagine them as say Susanna where they would tower over any Gräfin. I remember seeing Harteros and Röschmann in Figaro and one needed a lot of imagination to confuse the two of them.