I fell in love with this old Fraumain
Steve Rubin, publisher at Henry Holt and, way back, a music writer on the New York Times in its glory days, is first with a review of an old flame at the Met. And, boy, does Steve know his singers:
The Met’s revival of its 2001 production of FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN last night proved once and for all that there’s life left in the old girl yet. It was an evening that harked back to the days when this house was able to cast a notoriously difficult and demanding opera with ease, provide great conducting and an eye-filling spectacle on stage.
I do not remember Herbert Wernicke’s production with affection, but I rather loved it this time around, and not only because it gave the Met’s technical facilities a healthy workout. FRAU has a pretentious, silly storyline, but Wernicke embraces it theatricality with abandon. Whether it’s his use of the Met’s fabulous on stage elevators or his spectacular, often blinding lighting, this guy is out to grab your attention.
I had never heard any of the singers, so it is exciting to report they are all terrific. The star of the show unquestionably is Christine Goerke, whose huge, powerful dramatic soprano embraced the Dyer’s Wife’s glorious music with ease. The German soprano Anne Schwanenwilms, made her Met debut as the Empress, and although she lacked the ethereal radiance of a Leonie Rysanek, when her voice was in full bloom it was beautiful. The other lady in the cast is the Nurse, unquestionably one of the most difficult parts in opera. Ildiko Komlosi acquitted herself admirably.
The guys were marvelous. Torsten Kerl is a genuine heldentenor, and when he sang the Emperor’s marvelous music in Act I, it was like going back to the days when strangulation was not the order of the day. Is there a nicer guy in opera than Barak? Johan Reuter was completely winning and sang with a honey-voiced baritone that may have been one size too small for the Met, but who cares? He was irresistible.
Vladimir Jurowski let the crackerjack Met Orchestra make a resplendent racket, and blessedly, for this version is uncut, his tempos were brisk. but he never lost sight of the fact that FRAU contains some of Strauss’ most beautiful music.
It was a thrilling evening.
(c) Steve Rubin/Slipped Disc