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Subject: Munich Parsifal 7/8/18 & Tosca 7/9/18
From: Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 11 Jul 2018 23:45:51 -0700

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Hello Listers,


Here is a report from Munich of the two performances I attended - Parsifal from last Sunday 7/8 and Tosca on 7/9.


When the program was announced last year, the role of Tosca was supposed to sung by Anna Netrebko. A couple of months ago, we noticed that Netrebko was out (apparently called for the duty at the World Cup opening ceremony) and in her place Angela Gheorghiu was brought in.

(Who would have ever thought Gheorghiu will sing in someone else’s place?)

So having the industry’s two most frequently canceling artists in the roster of Parsifal and Tosca – (although Kaufmann hasn’t canceled in Munich as far as I know) this was somewhat of a gamble with huge potential payoff. 😊

Parsifal had the following illustrious roster:


Conductor: Kirill Petrenko


Parsifal: Jonas Kaufmann

Gurnemanz: Rene Pape

Kundry: Nina Stemme

Klingsor: Wolfgang Koch

Amfortas: Christian Gerhaher


Staging: Pierre Audi (he’s the French-Lebanese director who staged the Met Guillaume Tell a couple of years ago)

Other than the production with silly ugly naked fat suits for all the chorus and the flower maidens this was a SUPERB performance. Kirill Petrenko was in command leading the impeccable orchestra that filled this relative small theater with excellent acoustics.

This is my third time hearing Pape’s Gurnemanz (with Barenboim in Berlin in 2005 and Daniele Gatti at the Met in 2013) and this man never ceases to amaze me in the interpretation of Gurnemanz. From the moment he opens his mouth (He! Ho!) what comes out is such a beautiful, melting voice – never sounding forced or tired, well-modulated gem of an instrument. The voice sounds wise and kind and he sounds as great as 13 years ago singing the same role. (I was thinking his dachshund must be the luckiest doggie in the world.)


Jonas showed up (thanks to the administration for scheduling Parsifal during the 2 days between the WM when there were no games scheduled, in a way thankful that Germany is out earlier) -  anyway he showed up enduring some of the not-so-comfortable looking costumes, from very conspicuous codpiece to Monty-Python inspired armor and gave a thrilling performance as Parsifal. I recall the Met performance when he sang, more like cried out “Erloser, rette mich” with that thrilling ping that just sent chills through my spine, he was able to reproduce that moment again in this performance. I happen to think among all the roles I heard Kaufmann sang that Parsifal and Werther were the most impressive portrayals. 


Stemme as Kundry was captivating, vocally and visually. Since most of other roles I heard her sing were more powerful female roles it was surprising to hear her portraying vulnerability so convincingly. I loved the second act with Kaufmann and Stemme giving intense performance working off each other’s energy and artistry.


There were some familiar names among the flowermaidens – Golda Schultz, Tara Erraught from the Met, and a newcomer with a gorgeous voice Noluvuyiso Mpofu from South Africa. All the flowermaidens were fantastic, despite being clad in naked fat suits under bathrobes they produced some of the most sensual sounds. 


Last but not least, the chorus sounded AMAZING. Not one voice broke out of the harmony and they produced such heavenly sound together. 


The performance was simulcasted outside at the Max-Joseph-Platz where the crowd sat on yoga mats etc. I went out during the intermission (40 min each) and they had some Met-style interviews during the intermission (but not visiting cast in their rooms) with the production team.

After the performance the 5 principals went outside to give another “curtain call” to the simulcast audience.


About Tosca


Conductor: Marco Armiliato

Staging: Luc Bondy


Tosca: Angela Gheorghiu

Cavaradossi: Joseph Calleja

Scarpia: Thomas Hampson


Brief history of Gheorghiu’s Tosca. When she sang Tosca in San Francisco she was taken away by SF paramedics to the hospital after the Act I with a stomach flu. When Scarpia sang the line in act II “E tardi la notte e manca la diva (it’s late in the evening and we are missing the diva”) we burst out laughing for the irony.

As most of you know, in Vienna Tosca (opposite Jonas) she forgot to show up at Castel Sant’Angelo to visit Cavaradossi prompting Jonas to give a new line to Puccini (“Ah, Non abbiamo il soprano (We don’t have the soprano)”) before breaking out of the character and apologizing to the audience.

So even though she’s listed in the cast sheet, and showed up for the first act – until she jumps – we were still holding our breath wondering “Is Angela going to sing till the end?”

(Oh, the opera sent out email saying that instead of light pause between act II and III there would be a real 20 min intermission. I don’t know why they weren’t going to have an intermission there in the first place)


Although her voice lost some of its glorious pure sheen it once possessed but she showed that she’s still a great artist, especially in Act II. One advantage of this relative small house (compared to the Met) is that the acoustics is terrific and you can not only hear Gheorghiu she actually sounds pretty powerful bursting with emotions at times. Her vissi d’arte had me in tears and her dramatic enunciation of the spoken lines makes it seem as if she went to school with Callas. 


Calleja’s Cavaradossi was as reliable as usual, bright voice, appealing tremolo, huge volume, thrilling Vittoria – a bit wooden in the acting department (rather refreshing antidote for my last couple of Cavaradossis with Grigolo – I rather like the cool headed approach to Cavaradossi, liked Yusif Eyvazov’s portrayal as well) but in the third act much more animated. Has anyone seen the move “The Immigrant”? There’s a moving scene where Calleja plays Caruso, singing an aria from Rondine in Ellis Island.


I don’t like to mention the negative but Thomas Hampson’s Scarpia was awful. Last time I heard him as Germont I thought that was pretty bad but I can’t think of any Scarpia sung worse than this before on a professional production. I know he had a great career with wonderful performances in roles more suitable to his voice (loved him in Rossini/Mozart/Bellini and the evening star dude in Tannhauser) but some of his recent choices are just ruining the memories of past great performances from him. This Scarpia was so badly sung that I was wishing “when is Domingo going to take up this role and save the day?”.


A note on the change to this infamously ugly Luc Bondy production – I saw it a couple of times at the Met (I think with Mattlia and Racette) and once here in Munich with Kaufmann and Mattila all with the stunt double or puppet for the jump with the dramatic light out. 

Angela wouldn’t have no airborne puppet pretending to jump so this Tosca cautiously walks up all the stairs, and she jumps the good old fashioned way!


On a side note – I spent a couple of days in Catania last month and visited Bellini’s tomb and a small museum in a house where he was born. Among many displays a yellowed paper of “Manifesto” written by Wagner addressed to the public of Riga dated Dec 11 1837 declaring Norma to be “among all the creations of Bellini, the richest of melody and combines the most intimate passion with the most profound reality.” 

Over his marble tomb in the Cathedral, 4 bars of music from la Sonnambula was inscribed “Ah non credea mirti, si presto estinto o fiore (Ah I didn’t believe to see you to be extinct so soon, oh flowers)” – It was quite moving…







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