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Subject: FT review of NY Philharmonic 'Rheingold'
From: janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 5 Jun 2017 12:24:27 -0700
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OPERA
Das Rheingold
New York Philharmonic / New York
MARTIN BERNHEIMER / Financial Times

Alan Gilbert’s distinguished tenure at the helm of the New York Philharmonic is beginning to wind down. But this maestro is not going out with anything like a whimper.

     On Thursday, he offered his valedictory celebrants a rare night of pure, massive, convoluted Wagner, +Das Rheingold+. All of it. Other conductors may approach such a stormy, flamboyant and complex  challenge with more passion and, perhaps with greater devotion to dramatic contrasts. But few, these days, equal Gilbert’s scrupulous attention to dynamic definition and linear clarity. He deserved his ovation.

     He assembled a fairly reasonable cast for the occasion, one with a few weak spots and one spot of hypnotic strength. That involved Christopher Purves, who interpreted the tragic villainy of the dwarf Alberich, vocally and theatrically, with snarling fury and agonizing weakness, as needed. In the process he managed to outshine Eric Owens, cast as Wotan, king of the gods. Ignoring the tradition of  mismanaged majesty – forget Hans Hotter --  the pensive Philadelphian stressed vulnerability from the morose start. He sang with more concern for nuance than for power, which made some sense in this context.

     Jamie Barton complemented him as a solid, sensual Fricka, and the giants on duty – Morris Robinson and Stephen Milling – did their nasty duties with imposing menace. Russell Thomas contributed a hearty rather than traditionally slimy Loge. Kelly O’Connor’s mezzo-soprano made Erda’s warning a rather weak pronouncement, and Christian Van Horn mustered little thunder as Donner. The Rhine-maidens, Jennifer Zetlan, Jennifer Johnson Cano and Tamara Mumford, traipsed merrily and sounded almost as pretty as they looked.

     Although this was billed as a concert performance, the singers modeled a mishmash of semi-modern costumes designed by David C. Woolard. They also acted their hearts, and feet, out on the crowded forestage. No one carried a score. Louisa Muller, credited as stage director, had some trouble deciding what should be literally enacted and what should be left to the imagination. Ultimately, it mattered little.

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