Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Wagnerian Voices

I've been lucky enough, in the last year or so, to hear three new major Wagnerian voices.

"Or so" is because I first heard Linda Watson in 2003, singing Kundry in the Seattle Opera's Parsifal production. She was a vivid stage presence and sang movingly; I was uncertain about her upper register at the time, which seemed overly pushed. Not any more, if her performance last week at Berkeley Symphony Orchestra is any indication. Read my review of that concert here. No, I wasn't so happy with her interpretation of the Strauss, but I was plenty happy with her voice qua voice.

San Francisco Opera's 2004-05 season brought two other significant debuts. I'd heard Christine Brewer in Mahler's Eighth Symphony at San Francisco Symphony a few years ago, but she worked miracles in the Runnicles 50th Birthday Gala, singing with a ruby-red depth of tone and enormous alertness to the words.

Nina Stemme, who appeared in that concert as well as a passionate Sieglinde, debuted on stage as Senta earlier in the fall, and gave a spectacular account of that role. The production was too static and didn't give the graceful and physically intense Stemme nearly enough to do, but oh, my! At the end of the opera, she put on one of the most impressive vocal displays I've ever heard in the house.

Brewer will be back this fall for Fidelio at SF Opera, and her Web page at Askonas Holt says she'll be singing Isolde here in the future. Be still, my heart!

And I want to hear Stemme and Watson again soon, too.

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