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2000, Munich, Tannhäuser

Tannhäuser

und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg

Composer : Richard Wagner
Librettist : Richard Wagner
Venue and Dates : Bayerische Staatsoper
22, 26, 30 November, 3 December 2000
Conductor : Jun Märkl
Director : David Alden
Staging : Roni Toren
Costumes : Buki Shiff
Choreography : Vivienne Newport
Lighting : Pat Collins
Performers :

Landgraf Hermann : Kurt Moll
Tannhäuser : Robert Gambill
Wolfram von Eschenbach : Simon Keenlyside
Walther von der Vogelweide : Ulrich Reß
Biterolf : Ekkehard Wlaschiha
Heinrich der Schreiber : James Anderson
Reinmar von Zweter : Markus Hollop
Elisabeth : Katarina Dalayman
Venus : Nadja Michael
Soloists from the Tölzer Knabenchor – A young shepherd and Four Pages
Orchestra and Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera.
Choirmaster: Udo Mehrpohl

Notes : The first of these performances was SK’s debut as Wolfram

Soundbites

Opernglas, January 2001 (G. Knopf)

Munich: Tannhäuser, 30th November – Nationaltheater

Translated by Ursula Turecek

For four performances David Alden’s „Tannhäuser“-  a production returned to the repertoire of the Bavarian State Opera and – like at the Festival-first night in 1994 – was received controversially by the audience again; even now there were jeers again for the present director who laudably had come to Munich to supervise the rehearsals of the resumption in person.

Sadly the performances were not under a lucky star, as the designated Stig Andersen had cancelled due to illness and had to be replaced. Two times Robert Gambill stood in and two times Wolfgang Müller-Lorenz. Müller-Lorenz, who twenty years ago was among other things a charming and beautifully voiced Papageno at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich, has got ahead considerably as Heldentenor since then. His Tannhäuser at the Nationaltheater turned out creditably too, but not more than that. Frequently a bleating tone in his voice interfered and when the singer –a part of the set sliding down and hitting his head without doing harm – stood too far away from the forestage it was very difficult to hear him. In exposed passages like “Erbarm dich mein!” Müller-Lorenz was clearly at his limits but he made up for much of it with intensity, particularly in the Rome-narration. That he had to accept articulate jeers at the end was unfair, especially as interpreters of Tannhäuser, who were not standing in, stood on the Nationaltheater’s stage, and whose performances did not turn out any more impressive and who found more approval by the audience. If Müller-Lorenz will succeed in justifying his regularly scheduled engagement as Tristan in June remains to be seen.

The better part of this evening’s audience was friendly yet knew exactly how to distinguish, except for the fact that the Tölzer choirboy was applauded abundantly although he sang the shepherd boy only somehow approximately. Frantic applause was justly earned by Kurt Moll as Landgraf without any fault or flaw and by Simon Keenlyside whose debut as Wolfram had been anticipated with eager expectation. The British high-flyer sang a very lyric Wolfram with wonderfully sounding baritone and thus “Blick ich umher” and the song to the evening-star turned out particularly vividly. But he also succeeded in the more dramatic moments at which however the exertion – in the third act for example – was clearly perceptible.

New for Munich were also Nadia Michael as Venus and Katarina Dalayman as Elisabeth. Michael who looks great as a blond short haired-Venus, lolls through Venusberg with accomplished lascivity and accentuates her opulent mezzo optimally. Furnished with a voluminous voice too, Katarina Dalayman sang an intensive Elisabeth. We may perhaps have missed the radiant exaltation in the hall-aria and not all the heights turned out beautifully, nevertheless the warm, dark coloured soprano of the artist aroused curiosity for further parts. Her Lisa in the new production of “Pique Dame” in May may be expected eagerly anyway.

By the way, the director of it will be David Alden again, and the baton will be in Jun Märkl’s hands. He – sadly not Zubin Mehta – was also the conducter of these “Tannhäuser”-performances. Märkl conducted snappily and frequently made the Bavarian State Orchestra which was in optimal form give a demonstration. Thus many things in the overture already sounded too gaudy, between the orchestra and the stage there was a loose contact again and again: An uneven performance. All things considered not more than a fair repertoire-evening the opera without any lasting impact.

Egbert Tholl, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 November 2000

Translated by Ursula Turecek

Sleepless in Munich

There are still some incorrigibles who insist on hooting out loud their disapproval of David Alden’s Tannhäuser production from 1994, into the cheers, which admittedly does not keep Alden from showing all alone in front of the curtain at the Nationaltheater. Justly so: He supervised the rehearsals of the resumption himself, with singer-actors who made his concept work out, but this is not self-evident

This concept is not for simple connoisseurs of sound but real, ecstatic music drama. Surprisingly it is just in considering Robert Gambill that we are able to excellently study what Alden wants – and in what he succeeds. He stood in the title role without a single rehearsal on stage because Stig Anderson fell ill. Many others might escape into singing without much acting. Not so Gambill. Well, you may carp that he lacks radiance in the upper register, sometimes even the upper register and that therefore he is forced to act. But with Gambill this is not acting to conceal, it is a completely internalised understanding of the role. At the beginning – who would not forgive him for this – still a little palatal and husky, he broods to himself in the Venusberg to vehemently rough up the manic singer-bigotry in the second act. And in the final act you listen to every single word of his pilgrim’s account. Because you understand it marvellously, because he forms an exciting narration changing completely conclusively into a totally lunatic glow of sensual yearning.

This performance offers in addition to Gambill four more Munich role debuts. Monolithically unrivalled Kurt Moll’s Landgraf. His singing is so admirably plastic that you can grab into the text. This you absolutely cannot with Nadja Michael, it is true, but if you ask yourself in nearly every Tannhäuser-production what Tannhäuser’s problem may be he really proves a complete moron with regard to this Venus: Blond, beautiful, sexy, armed with a steely voice she crawls along so lasciviously that you can restrain yourself only with difficulty. Whereas Katarina Dalayman asserts her love-terrain as Elisabeth with huge, vibrantly glowing soprano, whereupon one understands Simon Keenlyside who as quiet-faithful Wolfram barely gets out any sound from his lyric throat at first, going strong and liberated only in the end. In addition Jun Märkl’s touch-and-go interpretation, conducted with dedication, comes out “even” for extensive sections. To he who was able to sleep soundly after the performance, sympathise who may.

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