Richard Wagner

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 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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