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Subject: Lyric Opera Die Walkure
From: Scott Tisdel and Stefanie Jacob <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scott Tisdel and Stefanie Jacob <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 31 Mar 2005 01:27:00 -0600

text/plain (196 lines)

Date:         Wed, 30 Mar 2005 07:29:16 -0800
From: Greg Berg <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Lyric Opera Die Walkure
To: [log in to unmask]

>Bergitas here.
>I nearly missed last night's Die Walkure at the Lyric
>Opera of Chicago because I really should have been
>teaching my opera class at Carthage. . . but when
>fellow Lister Marshall Anderson mentioned that this
>was likely to be the last time we got to see Domingo
>on the opera stage, I had to make it happen.
>Fortunately, three of my eight students had to be
>absent last night so I decided to cancel class - and
>it's the best decision I've made in a long time.  This
>was a glorious evening and one that will not be soon
>forgotten.  First of all, it's gratifying to see so
>many people flocking to an opera house to see the Ring
>Cycle... in an age of sound bytes, it is nothing short
>of miraculous that so many of us plunked down good
>money to experience a five hour opera.  And it was
>equally gratifying to see so many of those people
>staying to the last moments of the curtain call;  get
>to the end of Don Pasquale and it seems like half the
>crowd is suddenly fleeing for their lives before the
>first curtain call has even begun. . .  but at the end
>of Die Walkure almost no one left their chairs until
>that final curtain had at last descended.  Maybe
>there's hope for the human race after all.
>Placido Domingo was in superb form in what is probably
>one of the only operatic roles that he can still sing
>with any sense of complete assurance.  The sound
>seemed absolutely untouched by time; only in the last
>measures of act one did we have a sense that we was
>having to husband resources - and the tiniest sense of
>hoarseness intruded in the climactic moments, but
>otherwise this was supreme singing.  The place, of
>course, went absolutely nuts at his solo curtain call
>after act two--  and we were pleasantly surprised that
>we got to see him at the stage door after the
>performance.  (Siegmund dies in act two, and most
>Siegmunds, having taking their solo bow, would have
>been out of there immediately- but Domingo must have
>remained in his dressing room, relaxing - or maybe
>watching some of the performance.   We saw Marta,
>Michelle DeYoung was a wonderful Sieglinde - not quite
>a Voigt, especially in the upper reaches, but singing
>with a warm and opulent sound and very vivid dramatic
>presence.   I would certainly take her over Janowitz
>any day of the week.
>James Morris was magnificent as Wotan; if anything he
>sounded still better than his last Wotan here two
>years ago.  The sound seemed bigger and richer and
>more all-embracing - and the dramatic nuances of his
>portrayal more telling.  There was a hint of
>hoarseness towards the very end of the opera - in some
>of the last tender phrases - but aside from that he
>was astonishing.  It was fun to see him leave the
>opera house with wife Susan and kids in tow - plus a
>small dog- all of whom got into a cab with Mr. Morris
>taking the front seat next to the driver, grappling
>with his luggage and chuckling good-naturedly. (I
>missed Das Rheingold the previous night, so I missed
>the presentation that was made to him, honoring his
>25th anniversary with the company; that would have
>been neat to see.)
>Now Jane Eaglen.  She had been sick the previous
>weekend, and from all accounts her understudy blew the
>place away,  so we were actually secretly hoping that
>Madame Eaglen might still be under the weather so we
>could hear what all the fuss was about.  But no
>cancellation- and very quickly we thanked our lucky
>stars.  Eaglen probably sang better than we have ever
>heard her before.  I know there are lots of you on
>this List who do not care for this voice- but I think
>it's a wonder of nature.  I love how it has so much
>womanly warmth and yet also plenty of thrust and
>brilliance - exactly the right balance, in my view.
>I'm sure we have never heard the voice sound so big as
>we did last night;  when she cut loose, the voice was
>like a laser.  But she also sang the quieter, lyrical
>moments so tenderly, save for one quiet spun phrase in
>act three that continues to give her trouble.  But to
>focus on such a momentary misfiring does her a
>terrible injustice; this is Golden Age singing, in my
>book.  The whole night was. . .
>Right down to the Valkyries.  They sang the daylights
>out of that wonderful passage, complete with
>delightful "trampoliners" doing their thing in the
>back . . .  and when the Sisters launched into that
>last unison statement of the main theme, I found
>myself with tears in my eyes.  This was so good - and
>so much what opera is about. . . It was hard to know
>how much of their exuberant singing was portraying
>these characters and how much of it was just the
>authentic and all-encompassing joy of these young
>singers standing on that stage, singing one of the
>most marvelous passages of music ever written.
>By the way, we learned from a friend that Walkure was
>done without a dress rehearsal. . . but you never would
>have guessed it from the performance.  The singing and
>playing was all first-rate and one came away with this
>sense of utter gratitude.
>In other words, I liked it.
>A lot.
>Greg Berg
>Racine, WI

Wonderful post, with which I agree 100%.  I think 
many of us, myself included, had the feeling that 
we would be hearing Domingo for the last time, 
which made his slight problems at the end of Act 
I even more poignant.  (A nearby audience member 
thought they saw him weeping during his Act I 
curtain call.)  I was wondering at intermission 
how he would fare in Act II, but if anything he 
was even more impressive-- A very moving and 
beautiful portrayal.

A word too about Jane Eaglen.  Like many I was 
secretly hoping for her continued indisposition, 
having been unimpressed with her in the past 
(particularly her Isolde at Lyric from 5-6 years 
ago).  But she was wonderful as well--  Her 
entrance in Act II had a playful, almost 
adolescent quality that was very endearing, and 
the bond between her and Wotan was immediately 
established.  Throughout she seemed more animated 
and involved than when I had seen her in the 
past-- Perhaps we have director Herbert Kellner 
to thank for that.  And, as always with Ms. 
Eaglen, one must talk about that magnificent 
instrument of hers, which (as Greg says) seems to 
possess brilliance and warmth in almost equal 
measure, and almost limitless reserves of power.

Equal kudos go to Michelle De Young and James 
Morris.  (I did not enjoy Eric Halfvarson's 
overwrought, cartoonish portrayal of Hunding.)  I 
have not seen Voigt in Walküre, but it is hard 
for me to imagine a more perfect Sieglinde than 
De Young.  She's beautiful to look at, gorgeous 
to hear, and is a moving and passionate actress. 
I'm of the opinion that Sieglinde has the most 
consistently glorious music in all of Walküre, 
and De Young embodies my ideal for what this 
character should be.

Perhaps most impressive of all was Morris.  As 
one who knows him primarily through the various 
Met broadcasts, I was astonished by the impact of 
his voice live.  I was riveted by his portrayal, 
even in those places when one's attention might 
wander, such as the scene with Fricka (Larissa 
Diadkova, also wonderful), or his Act II 
monologue (which was perfomed uncut, as far as I 
could tell).  And his Act III farewell to 
Brünhilde  contained some of the most gorgously 
spun out pianissimo phrases that I have ever 
heard-- The entire audience seemed awestruck-- I 
certainly was!

So, it was a magnificent evening, as was 
Rhiengold from Monday.  I can't wait for parts 3 
& 4!  If I needed to be reminded that this was a 
very special evening, I certainly got it when, 
during the Act I intermission, who should walk 
right past me but Reneé Fleming, on her way to 
her seat in the front of the orchestra!  Our eyes 
met for a split second, and I thought about 
asking her when we might hear HER Sieglinde, but 
when it came right down to it, I just didn't have 
the guts.  (And yes, for those that are 
wondering, she did stay to the bitter end!)

Scott Tisdel
Milwaukee, WI

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