Wagnerians in Concert, May 8, 2021
I heard a concert from the Met Stars Live in Concert series on May 11, 2021 (it was live on May 8). It was called “Wagnerians in Concert” and featured four singers singing from the Hessiches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden: sopranos Christine Goerke and Elza van den Heever, tenor Andreas Schager, and baritone Michael Volle, with pianist Craig Terry.
The program opened with a fabulous opener, “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s *Tannhäuser* sung by van den Heever. She made her entrance on the balcony of the gorgeous Baroque grand hall of the theater and perched herself on the grand stairway. This was my first experience with EvdH singing Wagner - - I’d previously heard her as Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s *Maria Stuarda* and as Marie in Berg’s *Wozzeck.* She sounded great, she was full of thrust, color, and fire. Here's the finish of the aria:
Goerke sang two songs by Richard Strauss, “Allerseelen” and “Cäcilie.” She sounded a little full-blown for my taste, and the high note in the second song didn’t quite make it there, it was a few vibrations short of its target. I think Goerke is best heard with an orchestra. Terry played like a dream, he really went at it. These were the only two pieces on the program that were written for the piano, rather than a piano reduction of the orchestra, so I’m sure he enjoyed that.
Volle sang “Wie Todesahnung … O du, mein holder Abendstern” from *Tannhäuser.* He sang with all the ardor and sensitivity of a great Wagner singer. Schager sang Siegmund’s aria “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater” from Wagner’s *Die Walküre.* He sounded great, but does this aria really work in a concert setting? I’m not convinced. But I’ll say this: his cries of “Wälse! Wälse!” were hair-raising
Wagner wrote the song cycle *Wesendonck Lieder* as a sort of study for *Tristan und Isolde.* In this concert each of the singers got a turn at singing one of the songs, an interesting idea. Volle sang “Der Engel” with elegance and a deep sense of the style. He was my favorite of the four singers, he really had the whole package. Schager sang “Stehe still!” I think he’s best when he’s at full throttle, his voice loses its luster when he’s being mellow.
“Im Treibhaus” the song that most directly led to *Tristan* - - Wagner appears to have lifted the intro to this song and placed it in the prelude to Act III. Van den Heever sang it with tenderness and a wonderful feeling for the text. She wove a spell and it was thrilling. Goerke sang “Schmerzen” and sounded better than she did in the Strauss songs she did earlier - - maybe she just needed to warm up? Van den Heever ended the set with “Träume,” such a gorgeous song. She sang it gloriously, and what a beautiful setting for this concert.
Volke and van den Heever sang a scene from *Der Fliegende Holländer,* “Wirst du des Vaters Wahl nicht schelten?” And wow, they sounded great. It would be such a thrill to hear them in these roles. What a treat to hear Wagner sung with power and delicacy.
Schager and Goerke sang back-to-back arias, “Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond” and “Du bist der Lenz” from *Die Walküre.* Very exciting - - not a lot of delicacy, just surge, surge, surge! And thank you, Goerke nailed the B flat at the end, that was a relief.
Volle sang “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge” from *Das Rheingold.* He sounded good, but again, it didn’t really work out of context. Ditto Schager singing “Nur eine Waffe taugt” from *Parsifal.*
The thing I was most looking forward to in the concert was a scene from *Lohengrin,* my current favorite Wagner opera. Van den Heever played sweet Elsa singing “Euch Lüften” and Goerke played the evil Ortrud wrapping poor dumb Elsa around her finger, capping off the scene with her appeal to the dark gods, “Entweihte Götter!” They were both ideal. Goerke is scheduled to sing Ortrud in a new production of *Lohengrin* at the Met in a few seasons, with Anna Netrebko as Elsa. OH YES.
The program ended with something for all four singers together, the hollerfest final quartet from Strauss’s *Die Frau ohne Schatten,* “Nun will ich jubeln.” They all sounded pretty fabulous.