Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Genoveva at Pleyel with Anne Schwanewilms, Matthias Goerne...

Genoveva (in concert), Salle Pleyel, Paris, June 7 2010

Anne Schwanewilms as Genoveva

Jun Märkl  conductor

Anne Schwanewilms  
Matthias Goerne  
Matthias Klink  
Birgit Remmert  
Markus Marquardt  
Hidulfus / Drago
Gun-Wok Lee  
Jae-Hyong Kim  

Orchestre National de Lyon
Choeur de l'Orchestre de Paris

Last Friday we were privileged to attend an outstanding performance of the only Bartok's opera [Bluebeard's Castle], and now we're getting extra-spoiled with the most amazing cast performing the sole opera composed by Schumann,  Genoveva.

This opera was apparently dismissed from repertoire and was brought back to life --after more than 70 years-- in 1995 in Bielefeld [incidentally, I went twice to Bielefeld but never went to see an opera there ;)]. It appears that revival was enthusiastically embraced and ever since Genoveva was staged dozens of times in Europe and in the US. There is even a DVD of a great production by Martin Kusej, filmed in Zurich.

To be honest, I feel far more sorry that Bartok didn't compose more operas. Schumann's Genoveva is too long, often too monotonous, with too much of religious stuff in it for my liking, and with a rather clumsy libretto. With that being said, the opera is also filled with beautiful passages, several high-quality orchestral episodes, some amazing choral numbers, and it's also good on singers: it's not too difficult but it allows singers with beautiful voices to show them off.

Anne Schwanewilms is one of my favorite singers. Before Anja Harteros appeared, she was a knockout Elsa [still the second best ;)], one of the best Senta's in business, and always excellent in Straussian roles -- to me, she's still the best Feldmarchallin ever [Der Rosenkavalier]. The beauty of her timbre and her interpretative skills are quite unusual and I always enjoy listening to her tenderness. In the last part of this opera she sings like more than 30 minutes continuously.  It's tough but she kept the pace and never lowered in intensity or got out of focus. Very good rendition, although the painfully one-dimensional and ultra-puritanic character of Genoveva is rather annoying to me.

Anne Schwanewilms

Matthias Goerne was in very good form last night. He's a lieder-singer and the beauty of his voice is not highlighted when he has to push and sing as loud as he can [Pleyel is a concert hall, and singing with a big orchestra and a big chorus you need to push on your volume buttons]. Last night he found a good formula, sang both strong and beautifully. As you might have already noticed, I'm fan of his lieder concerts, of his peculiar timbre, so when he's in good form...

Matthias Goerne

Birgit Remmert  was my personal surprise. I didn't know who she was before this concert. Now, on the basis of what I could listen to last night, I can say she's a very good mezzo. Somehow I wasn't really seduced by her timbre in the first part (first two acts), but I realized later on that she was sparing her voice for a tough part that she sang in Act 3, and she did it very well. Her role --even if negative-- is the least naive of the all, the least one-dimensional, and offers a singer to show something more except for being a victim, naive, or plain evil. Birgit did all well. Brava!

Birgit Remmert

Matthias Klink is a tenor of what you may call the Pamino format. His musicality is quite obvious but ultimately he struggles with volume. His Volksong with Anne Schwanewilms was excellent. I didn't have the opportunity to listen to him before, but I'm very curious to see what he does in an opera by Mozart in not too big a theater.

Matthias Klink

With this very fine orchestra Jun Märkl is doing exactly what he should: he keeps the strings always on the top of other instruments and keeps them very alert all the time, hence almost managing to avoid the unavoidable -- monotony of the score to set in. I imagine any less attention on behalf of the conductor would instantly sink this opera to boredom. The overture is very pretty though.

Jun Maerkl

All in all, even though I'm not exactly crazy about this opera, it was a very pleasant evening. 

Listen to the overture to Genoveva [YT video from Ziehrer

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