Berlin Opera Night: 2003
Soloists and Orchestra of the Deutschen Oper, Berlin/Kent Nagano
rec. live, Deutschen Oper, Berlin, 8 November 2003
NTSC 16:9. Sound formats PCM stereo; DD 5.1; DTS 5.1.
Subtitles in German, English, French, Italian and Spanish
Full track-list at end of review
EUROARTS DVD 2053589 [73:00]
Not every opera-lover finds such concerts appealing. As one who attends singing competitions and the like, I am more open-minded, finding such occasions often permit me to hear international quality singers performing within their fach. Add special Gala Nights, some degree of staging or a spectacular ambience and I am more than happy. The Baden Baden Gala Night featuring Netrebko, Garanca, Vargas and Tezier is an outstanding example of top-class singers strutting their stuff to make a memorable occasion. That’s certainly the case with the Metropolitan Opera special event celebratory nights (all on DG DVDs).
The occasion under review here was the tenth anniversary occasion celebrating the first of the Deutschen Oper charity concerts in 1994 raising money for the German AIDS Foundation. That first night featured artists such as Marilyn Horne, Lucia Aliberti and Agnes Baltsa with a star-studded audience of royalty and the stage in all their finery. This concert continues that tradition with well-known names on stage and in the audience, the latter all decked out in their best bib and tucker.
In a rather mixed bag, there are a number of class acts. There is a very brief orchestral introduction: a vaguely appropriate bit of Handel under Kent Nagano. That’s before we get to hear any singers. First up, and notable, is the mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager, appropriately in trousers for Cherubino’s two arias from Le Nozze di Figaro. With clear diction and varied dynamics allied to expressive singing she brings the composer’s captivating melodies alive (CHs 2 and 3). The distinguished German bass René Pape is an expressive Leporello in his Catalogue aria (CH 4), but rather lacking in Italianate nuance in his singing, something even truer of the Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine, whose school of raw can belto mars Vesti la giubba (CH 12). It’s not only Russian tenors who lack vocal grace either; the Swiss-born Sicilian Salvatore Licitra lacked vocal grace in the tenor virility symbol, Nessun dorma (CH 9).
The Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka matches something of Angelika Kirchschlager’s class in Dvořák’s Song to the Moon (CH 6). This before she joins her colleague and the excellent pure sound of soprano Juliane Banse in Richard Strauss’s memorable trio Marie Theres! - Hab mir's gelobt (CH 8). The American tenor Charles Castronova brings some tenorial vocal grace to the Tauber favourite Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns, albeit he could learn from his great predecessor the virtues of the mezza voce(CH 12). The American Grace Bumbry represents yesteryear. At age 66 and singing back in her mezzo fach she knows exactly what the words mean and what the opera tells in Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix from Samson et Dalila, a long-time favourite of hers. The legato might be lacking but the expressiveness and characterisation are not (CH 10). This precedes the highlight performance of the night in respect of bringing a role alive in a concert such as this. It has the Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova singing an expressive and beautifully realised Werther! Qui m'aurait dit ... Des cris joyeux from Massenet’s opera (CH 11). The longest piece of the evening, it has the singer living the words in face and body, bringing the role to life rather than presenting a vocal show-piece. The audience might have been more thrilled by the tenors at full throttle, but this is the highlight for me - a gold nugget in this collection.
The whole was brought to a conclusion by the soloists being joined by the chorus of the Deutschen Oper, veteran counter-tenor Jochen Kowalski, the outstanding Orlofsky of his generation, and colleague Markus Brüch in a joyous Brüderlein und Schwesterlein from Johann Strauss’s evergreen Die Fledermaus (CH 14).
Robert J Farr
Something of a mixed bag, but with a few nuggets of vocal gold. Buy it and support a worthy cause.
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Music for the Royal Fireworks. La Rejouissance [1.53]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Le nozze di Figaro
Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio [3.45]
Voi, che sapete che cosa e amor [3.13]
Angelika Kirchschlager, (mezzo)
Madamina, il catalogo e questo. René Pape ( bass) [6.22]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Vissi d'arte. Michele Crider, (soprano) [4.59]
Nessun dorma! Salvatore Licitra, (tenor) [4.11]
Antonin DVO Ř ÁK (1841-1904)
Song to the Moon. Adrianne Pieczonka, (soprano) [6.43]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Einsam in truben Tagen hab ich zu Gott gefleht. Anne Schwanewilms, (soprano)
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Marie Theres! - Hab mir's gelobt
Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo), Adrianne Pieczonka (soprano), Juliane Banse (soprano)
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)
Samson et Dalila
Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix. Grace Bumbry (mezzo) [6.33]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Werther! Qui m'aurait dit ... Des cris joyeux. Vesselina Kasarova, (mezzo) [9.21]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Recitar! ... Vesti la giubba. Vladimir Galouzine (tenor) [3.14]
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1958)
Das Land des Lächelns
Dein ist mein ganzes Herz [4.41]
Charles Castronovo (tenor)
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Brüderlein und Schwesterlein. Soloists joined by Jochen Kowalski (counter-tenor), Markus Brüch (tenor) [4.43]