Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Best Wagner

I've only seen one complete Ring cycle done in successive performances over a few days, and it was the one conducted by Edo de Waart at the San Francisco Opera.  It remains in memory as something truly wonderful.

And now virtually all of it is posted on YouTube.  On part 2 of Die Walküre you can hear James Morris' very first performance of Wotan's Farewell.  For my ears it is the most beautiful Wagner singing I have ever heard, far better than the later Met performance also available on YouTube.  He just sings.  He lets his gorgeous voice roll out.  At the Met he becomes manipulative and self-conscious, slips in and out of sotto voce, and all of that stupid stuff.  What made Kirsten Flagstad the greatest Wagner singer in history?  She sang in the phrase and let the music do the work.  Don't try to squeeze the emotions out.  Just let them flow from your soul.  In comments Morris said he sang it as though it were Verdi.  Wagner would have loved this.

In the modern world of Wagner singing there is a desire (I would say a tendency, but it very much exceeds that) to turn the music into talk.  The modern Wagner singer would have you believe that it's all recitative, that recitative did not die but lived on to consume the entire genre of Wagner.  For the greatest Wagner singers it's all aria. 

When I go to see Die Walküre, my heart waits for this emotion to come again.  So far it is in vain.

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