Opera

Hey, everybody! Antoni, here, with another recommended reading post. Today, I will be talking about the article ROH Interview: Petra Lang on singing Kundry in the ROH’s Parsifal with Bernard Haitink, which was written by Dominic McHugh and published in MusicalCriticism.com on November 22, 2007. Fun fact. When I was a seventeen-year-old junior high school student, I had the pleasure of reading this particular article as a basis for my English research paper about Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, especially when talking about Ortrud. One has to leave it up to singers like Astrid Varnay and Petra Lang who not only sang this role magnificently in their own ways but also understood the character and the overall historical context. On the surface, Ortrud comes off as a wicked witch. However, when one gets to know her, the environment she is in, and the era the opera took place, which is in Antwerp in the 10th century or the Middle Ages, she is an intelligent, strong, fiercely independent, and determined woman, who has been badly scorned by society, as women were more underprivileged in comparison to the men. Essentially, Ortrud uses her craft, cunning, and smarts for her own goals to bring back a pagan Brabant and get back at those who dared to scorn, profane, and underestimate her and her lineage. Hence, that is also why I love Ortrud so much as a character, as she is multifaceted and rightfully frustrated with the situation she was in, thus taking action using her own hands and means, in spite of the fact that she is married to Count Friedrich von Telramund. Overall, the experience I had in making my research paper was a major journey from looking at the annals to reading books about opera to gathering all of my sources was kind of tough but it was so enjoyable and rewarding, as after all of that I ended up having a 95% on this project. Sure, I would have turned it in earlier thus getting a higher grade but I digress. I put in a lot of work, heart, and effort on that project, and I was happy, to say the least. Speaking of the main interviewee at hand, is there anything else I need to say about why I am utterly fascinated with Frau Petra Lang in terms of her insurmountable prowess as a singing actress? It’s very much the reason why I see her as a feistier, more outgoing, and fierier younger sister from another mother to Waltraud Meier. Both of them are extremely famous for singing roles in both the dramatic mezzo and dramatic soprano repertoires, chiefly in the German operas especially Wagner, like Fricka, Waltraute, Brangäne, Kundry, Ortrud, Amneris, Eboli, Isolde, Sieglinde, Marie from Wozzeck, Octavian, the Composer from Ariadne auf Naxos, and Venus. Even more so, both of them had their beginnings as lyric mezzos before ascending to the dramatic parts. However, unlike Frau Meier who sang Isolde and some dramatic soprano parts from 1993 to 2015, Frau Lang started to go to the dramatic soprano route in 2012. After singing Brünnhilde’s arias in concert for quite some time especially the Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung, she ascended the role of this iconic heroine from Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung as well as taking on Isolde in 2016. While Waltraud Meier’s voice is more metallic in emission during her prime, Petra Lang’s vocal emission is more electric, wiry, and flexible whilst maintaining its steely quality. Her higher range pierces the heavens like a thousand daggers when she hits her Bs and Cs. Coupling her exciting voice is her exceptional and involving skills as an actress, thus throwing herself into each and every role she does. With that said, let’s get on to the article and what I enjoy about it. I find it so astounding that Petra Lang was a big Wagner fan when she was a child from listening to a Flying Dutchman recording to listening to old-school singers like Julius Patzak. Even more so, her initial fascination with Parsifal was a tell-tale sign that she was not only going to sing the Voice from Above and a Flowemaiden of Klingsor but eventually Kundry, a role she took a look at in 1996 during René Kollo’s thirtieth anniversary of his stage debut. It is crystal clear that Madame Lang has been thoroughly invested with this iconic character akin to the Wandering Jew. One line that really got to me in the most positive way was, “I think Kundry as a role is about incarnation”, because of how she was able to comprehend Kundry’s roller-coaster of a journey from laughing at Christ on the cross, thus being doomed to wander the earth for all eternity, to her initial appearance as a savage, feral woman in the first act to a seductress under Klingsor’s control in the second act to a complete zombie in the third and final act. She also mentions Kundry’s relationship with not only Klingsor but also Amfortas and Parsifal and makes smart and well-done comparisons and observations of these characters. Even more so, Petra Lang was even coached by Astrid Varnay in the Wagnerian roles, not just Kundry but also Sieglinde, Adriano, Venus, and Ortrud. Speaking of Ortrud, this particular segment of the article was my biggest highlight, not only on an academic level in my experience but because of how someone as savvy as Petra Lang was able to make Ortrud into an even more multi-dimensional and relatable character. I also have to leave it up to her brand of humor to make me, the reader, actually root for Ortrud and everything she stands for and not just feel like I was reading overly pedantic. Even more so, just by listening and watching her performances as Ortrud, I can certainly tell that the great Astrid Varnay coached her superbly in terms of characterization and singing. The way singers like her see Ortrud is that she is a capable, political, and independent woman as opposed Elsa’s…

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Hey, everybody! Antoni, here, with some recommended reading. I will be talking about the article Goddess Excellently Bright: Michaela Schuster and Tannhäuser, which was written by Mansel Stimpson and published on Classical Source in December 2010.   Ah, Michaela Schuster. I have been a fan of this particular dramatic mezzo-soprano ever since I was sixteen. When I read her biography, I was so fascinated with the roles she did even though I did not see her live yet. From the Zwischenfach roles of Sieglinde from Walküre, Giulietta from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Ortrud from Lohengrin, Eboli from Don Carlo, Amneris from Aida, Santuzza from Cavalleria Rusticana, and Marie from Wozzeck to true dramatic soprano roles like Marta from Tiefland to dramatic mezzo roles like Herodias from Salome, Laura from La Gioconda, Brangäne from Tristan und Isolde, Fricka from Rheingold and Walküre, and the Nurse from Die Frau Ohne Schatten to even Charlotte from Werther, I knew from the back of my mind that this was a singer to look out for. Nowadays, aside from chiefly focusing on the dramatic mezzo parts that she is well-known for, she has even ventured into contralto roles like Klytämnestra from Elektra, La Zia Principessa from Suor Angelica, and Zita from Gianni Schicchi, though she also did Auntie from Peter Grimes, Florence Pike from Albert Herring, and Madame de Croissy from Les Dialogues des Carmelites.   In terms of her voice, it has a nice balance of dramatic metal without too much exertion and a luxurious lyricism, in which these vocal qualities make her all the more unique to my ears. Given her training as an oboist, she seems to have impeccable control of her voice when she has to sing either softly and plaintively or when she has to have dramatic outbursts. More than anything, she is a fiery, involved, commanding, and charismatic actress. Whether she evokes Sieglinde’s tenderness, the Nurse’s domineering and nasty nature, Fricka’s pain and suffering, Klytämnestra’s nightmares, Herodias’s venom, or Ortrud’s unhinged desire for vengeance against the Brabantians, she certainly sells it in everything she does to the point where I am in utter awe.   In terms of this article, I initially read this when I was about 19 or 20 years old and I was immediately fascinated. I got to know more about Michaela Schuster’s career and journey and I was thoroughly enlightened and inspired.   Based on the article’s title, this does not solely talk about Madame Schuster’s past engagement as Venus but also her beginnings as a singer and an overall musician. Reading how she went from studying the oboe at the Conservatory of Nuremberg thus getting herself a place in a small orchestra to returning to Salzburg with her sights being set on becoming a singer to the initial hardships she had to go through to get to this point made me relate to her trials and tribulations as a performer myself. This also depicts that the life of a fresh-faced performer whether one would be a singer or an actor or a musician or a dancer is not at all easy. However, if one has a good head on his shoulders and loads of determination and discipline, one can certainly make it. Even more so, success stories like this do not come overnight, as perseverance, courage, and a fighting spirit are needed to make it through.   Speaking of success stories, I beamed with joy when I read that she had her initial success as a mainstay artist at the Darmstadt Staatstheater from 1999 to 2002 after opera director Pamela Rosenberg met her in Berlin and inquired her to do Fricka, as well as her first set of roles being Florence Pike, Auntie, and Penelope from Monteverdi’s Ulisse. I also found it wonderful to read that even though Madame Schuster is extremely for doing Wagner, she aspires to have more flexibility in her repertoire with doing Italian and French roles as well as doing recitals. A part of me even wonders how she would fare doing roles like Azucena, Ulrica, Fidés, Madame de la Haltiere, Mistress Quickly, Gertrude from Thomas’s Hamlet, and/or Genevieve from Pelleas et Melisande, I am pretty sure she would be a knockout, given her superb acting chops and unparalleled skills as an overall musician.   When it comes to her talking about Venus, she makes well-thought-out comparisons in terms of how different the Dresden and Paris versions are especially when it comes to this character, Venus’s attitude vs The Princess di Bouillon’s attitude when it comes to love and rivalry, and even how Venus and Elisabeth love Tannhäuser. I can also concur that Tannhäuser is not even an easy sing for many a Heldentenor, as he not only needs to sing lyrically but also incorporate high notes. Those challenges also go to Venus, as she not only needs to bear a mezzo color to her voice but also hit high notes. Granted, I have not seen Michaela’s performance of Venus in either the Royal Opera House or the Chicago Lyric Opera, so for those of you who had, how did you think she fared?   By and large, when reading this 7-year-old article, I get the impression that Michaela Schuster seems to be a down-to-earth, hardworking, focused, professional, and thoroughly natural person. Moreover, she has become one of my biggest role models of all time and I felt like I learned a lot from her, her experiences, her trials, and her triumphs. I also have to give Mansel Stimpson for not only conducting the interview in such a professional fashion but for also writing this superb article.   Overall, if you have free time, I highly recommend reading this article, especially if you are a fan of Michaela Schuster or opera in general. Your eyes will definitely be open to see how her journey went from bearing hardships to earning success. I give this article 5 out of 5 favorite opera arias for a dramatic mezzo-soprano. It is imperative that you…

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Puccini’s Tosca 1962 Album Review

What better to celebrate La Grande Signora Leontyne Price’s 91st birthday than with my review of her 1962 recording of Puccini’s Tosca with Herbert von Karajan in charge as the conductor and also starring Giuseppe di Stefano as Cavaradossi, Giuseppe Taddei as Scarpia, Fernando Corena as the Sacristan, Carlo Cava as Angelotti, and Piero de Palma as Spoletta. Enjoy the review and let me know your opinions as well.

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Bellini’s Norma 1973 Album Review

Ah, Madame Beverly Sills and Madame Shirley Verrett. Now that I took a gander at Madame Sutherland’s and Madame Horne’s readings of these iconic Bellini heroines, how did Beverly Sills’s pristine and silvery vocal technique and Shirley Verrett’s aristocratic, stylish, and nuanced vocal gifts fare when one puts two and two together? Enjoy the review and let me know your opinions as well.

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Pretty Yende Dreams Album Review

The years roll by. Even more so, our dearest Mademoiselle Pretty Yende has been gaining in grandiosity, virtuosity, grace, elegance, and stature, as evidenced in her latest album. Enjoy the review and let me know your opinions as well.

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A Tantalizingly Tuneful Tenor Christmas Album Review Marathon

My Christmas has been getting super exciting all thanks to these awesome, uplifting, and extremely energetic tenors, who are not only well-known in the operatic world but also in making the holidays exciting and euphoric!   First, we have the ardent and adamant French-Sicilian offering a trifecta of Christmas albums, complete with holiday classics, sacred songs, and some songs, which have ended up becoming my absolute favorites. To grace us all with his exceptional musicianship, the ever pristine, gallant, and charming Mexican lyric tenor, El Gran Señor Ramon Vargas, demonstrates his alluring singing voice in this Christmas album, complete with a masterful conductor, a serene Baroque orchestra, and a lovely children’s choir. Feliz Navidad a todos! Then, we have the greatest trio to not only grace the opera world but also the music world in general. That’s right! It’s the legendary Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras singing up a blizzard not only our favorite Christmas Carols but also some fine chamber music. Buon Natale a voi tutti! To wrap up this festive tenor celebration, we have the handsome, dashing, yet ill-fated cavalier of a lyric tenor, Fritz Wunderlich, caroling the night away with such grace and beauty alongside such wonderful colleagues like Hermann Prey, Gundula Janowitz, and Christa Ludwig. Frohe Weihnachten an euch allen!

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Verdi’s Rigoletto 2016 Album Review

This was Maestro Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s final hurrah in the recording studio as the iconic hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto. Accompanying him on one of his final journeys were some absolutely astounding superstars who made this particular ride a fulfilling one. Enjoy the review and let me know your opinions as well.

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