Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ninanana Ninanana - Nina Stemme

Tristan und Isolde (in concert), Salle Pleyel in Paris, October 13 2012

Conductor ..... Mikko Franck

Tristan ..... Christian Franz
Isolde ..... Nina Stemme
King Marke ..... Peter Rose
Kurwenal ..... Detlef Roth
Brangäne ..... Sarah Connolly
Melot ..... Richard Berkeley-Steele
A young sailor ..... Pascal Bourgeois
A shepherd ..... Christophe Poncet
A steersman ...... Renaud Derrien

Choeur de Radio France (Brigitte Clair & Matthias Brauer)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (OPRF)

I am ridiculously busy and it's hard to keep up blogging and using every Sunday to get to see something good. Yes I am in Lyon for the event #3 to see this fall in Europe: Macbeth with a phenomenal Kazushi Ono conducting and with Ivo van super-Hove directing the show.

Next week will be hopefully a bit calmer and I'll get to blog about several shows. But for now just a quick entry about Tristan und Isolde (in concert) that was given at La Salle Pleyel in Paris.

It was all about Nina Stemme who is truly phenomenal. I believe the world hasn't seen a better Wagnerian singer since many many years. It is just unbelievable how she preserved that vocal freshness despite already singing the full role of Brünnhilde. Her Isolde sounds fresh, big and well articulated. It's her power and her breath that impress the most, as well as the homogeneity of her voice: there is never an awkward transition between gravi and the high notes . You could tell the difference with respect to other Isolde's in business: her high notes are laser-sharp and she add extra power to her top notes without whitening her voice, and projects all notes easily over the orchestra. That was really great (despite me leaving before Act-3).

Peter Rose was baritoning his role big time, but his voice is rock solid and his rendition of the famous King Marke aria was terrific. Sarah Conolly, I believe**, sang her first Brangäne here, and she was excellent. This  is good news for Wagnerites as there are quite a few sopranos today perfectly capable of singing Isolde very well, but not nearly as many mezzos who who can sing Brangäne as well. We always loved Sarah in the Mozart roles, and seeing her attempt in Wagner was at first strange, but then she conquered everyone. Her vocal power was in crucial moments as big as Nina's. Brava!

Finally, Tristan sung by Christian Franz had his good moments that night but I believe he was saving his voice for the 3rd Act (which I unfortunately had to skip)...

Instead of Myung-Whun Chung (artistic director of OPRF), it was Mikko Franck who stepped in on  short notice. [Mr. Chung apparently had to stay with his injured son.] And so Mikko was surprisingly good -- never drowning the singers and yet bringing the power of the crucial moments. What was more interesting was OPRF (in my humble opinion, the best French orchestra today). They usually excel in the 20th century repertoire, and take numerous risks in the 19th century repertoire -- which is always interesting to listen to. Their interpretation of Tristan was maybe not as accurate as what you get from the top German orchestras, but it was very refreshing -- it was in fact how I imagine Tristan und Isolde sound in the 21st century.

So, I would like to encourage you to listen to this concert that was  recorded and you can listen to it freely on the website of Radio France Musique. I would also suggest you to record it because they might stop the free access after Tuesday morning. Here is your link.

The only set of boos --as far as I'm concerned-- goes to the organizers at La Salle Pleyel who scheduled the concert to start at 19:30, which means that --in the best case-- it would end at Midnight ==> good luck in catching the train (RER). Why not starting at 18:00?! It's Saturday and you know that Tristan is long (2 intermissions are always longer than expected).
Since I planned to go to Brussels the next day for Lulu, I had to skip the last Act of this very very good concert. 

A couple pics from the concert:

**) c.f. the comment section. Sarah sang the role before... twice.


  1. This was a marvellous concert to judge by the radio broadcast. Nina Stemme is just amazing, and Sarah Connolly sounded great too. But it wasn't her first Brangäne - she sang in the 2009 revival of the Glyndebourne "Tristan & Isolde", with Anja Kampe as Isolde and Vladimir Jurowski conducting, and latterly in a concert version in 2010, with Violeta Urmana, Ben Heppner and Simon Rattle conducting the OAE (at a BBC Prom and in Baden-Baden).

  2. OMG, i understand that u had to leave BUT a Tristan without the 3rd ACT??? :((((( but at least you can listen to it on the link...

    1. I know, I know... I like the second the most anyway so it was not all that tragic.

      Plus I had my three Tristan shots this year already so I'm good ;)