Young Critics: Sinfonieorchester Basel SIEGFRIED

Young Critics

Drei Young Critics-Rezensionen zum dritten Akt der Wagner-Oper “Ring der Nibelungen” (“Siegfried”) vom 23. März des Sinfonieorchesters Basel. Von Pierre-Nicolas Colombat, Pau Fernández Benlloch und Joëlle Salomé Götz

SINCERITY AND ECSTASY IN MUSIC THAT SOME BELIEVE TO BE DÉMODÉE

“The music was alive from the first note to the last and I would think that any composer would be happy with this level of commitment and execution of their work.”

VON PIERRE-NICOLAS COLOMBAT

The concert was stunning. As I spoke with friends in the days leading up to this concert, some were enthusiastic and some rolled their eyes making jokes about how lugubrious and over the top Wagner can be. Whatever one’s opinions are about Wagner, his influence is something that cannot be ignored or underestimated and the concert on March 23 in the Stadtcasino Basel gave a strong argument for the power Wagner’s music still has.

The 3rd act of Siegfried was preceded by musical performances in the Hans Huber Saal as well as a discussion of Wagner’s friendship with one of Basel’s most famous historical inhabitants, Friedrich Nietzsche. All of this created great anticipation for the main course. It was a very well-conceived soirée in which the organizers clearly understood that music of such monumental nature would benefit from a bit of a warmup, especially since the concert began directly the heart of the opera.

Immediately from the off, the orchestra plunged the hall into the throes of the musical action. The quiet and calm majesty of Sir Mark Elder gave a cool center to an otherwise swirling storm. Throughout the performance, the orchestra played with utmost sensitivity and commitment to the moment. Derek Welton (Wanderer), Wiebke Lehmkuhl (Erda), Simon O’Neill (Siegfried) gave an impressive and touching account of the act’s first half even if O’Neill’s efforts to physically portray Siegfried’s naivety seemed a bit overdone and distracting at times without the help of a full staging around him. When Rachel Nicholls (Brünnhilde) arrived on stage to be awoken Siegfried however, the performance was vaulted to another level of expression and this climax was maintained until the end. The ecstatic thrust of Nicholls’ performance gave sincere legitimacy to the 19th century values of ‹grandeur› and big ideas that became a bit démodée after certain 20th century historical developments. The music was alive from the first note to the last and I would think that any composer would be happy with this level of commitment and execution of their work.

It is well known that Wagner specifically designed Bayreuth to suit his works and it is also well known that Wagner contributed the general enlargement of what was considered the typical size of an orchestra. Here, credit has to be given to creator of the ‹Gesamtkunstwerk› since he understood that no singer would be able to compete with the size of his orchestral score, so the pit in Bayreuth is well covered by the stage. The wisdom of this decision was made apparent on Thursday night as the only critique one could make would be that balance was an issue nearly the entire night. Thankfully I benefitted from seats directly in front of the
singers but even then, it was never a fair fight.

Nevertheless, the crowd reacted overwhelmingly enthusiastically, and it was well deserved. The respect and gratitude to Sir Mark Elder for being at the helm of this powerful musical wave clearly came both from the musicians on stage as well as the public in the hall.

MAGIC SPELLS

“We are no longer in the concert hall or in the opera house, but outdoors, experiencing the world through different eyes, hearing to it more deeply, altogether, being part of a cathartic ritual, which makes us all, also the listeners, be a nuclear point of the totalizing character of this work of art.”

VON PAU FERNÁNDEZ BENLLOCH

I’m always scared when I go to a performance where Wagner is somehow involved in it. There are always so many questions – or perhaps prejudices – to be asked. Will it be too long? Will it be too loud? Will the singers shout? Will it be too chauvinistic? Will it be too politically incorrect? Will there be a demonstration in the concert? Is it ethically correct to be sitting here listening to this music? Will it be simply too much?

Yes, it is definitely too much, but in that ‹toomuchness› is where the unavoidable cathartic wave of the ‹Gesamtkunstwerk› embraces you and you can let yourself go in those maternal arms that hold you meanwhile. The considerable amount of time that passes by – even more if you go to a performance of the complete opera – before Brünhilde, the real star of the show, comes into play, becomes nothing, thousands of a second, when she, surrounded by light and nature, sings to the sun and to the brook, to the tree and to the bird, in a mystical union that takes us all into one and which Siegfried has been forerunning us through his bird dialogs. We are no longer in the concert hall or in the opera house, but outdoors, experiencing the world through different eyes, hearing to it more deeply, altogether, being part of a cathartic ritual, which makes us all, also the listeners, be a nuclear point of the totalizing character of this work of art. The music flows organically, as seeming to depict the continuum of reality, a reality that is nevertheless sewed through small fragments of matter, or leitmotifs, while the singers no longer sing, they speak, they tell ancient stories and perform overwhelming rituals. Definitely, a piece to be experienced only live, like every meaningful human experience.

Sinfonieorchester Basel was in a state of glory under the baton of Mark Elder. The magic spell of the music made its way into us through sinuous strings and powerful brass and the singers were just the perfect cast for such a tour de force. A night to be remembered!

KONZENTRATION AUF DEN ORCHESTERKLANG

“Die schön dirigierten Schlüsse der Szenen und die schnellen Übergänge werden meisterhaft geführt von Dirigent Sir Mark Elder. Er schafft es, das Orchester in eine gewisse Schwere zu leiten, das der Musik Wagners die Klangtiefe und Wärme verleiht, von der man als Zuhörer*in träumt.”

VON JOËLLE SALOMÉ GÖTZ

Mit beeindruckend vollem Klang eröffnet das Sinfonieorchester Basel den Abend des 23. März 2023 und damit den dritten Akt der Oper Siegfried aus dem Ring des Nibelungen im Stadtcasino Basel. Überraschend kraftvoll und gewaltig geht es gleich zu Beginn zu. So gewaltig, dass der Wanderer, gesungen von Derek Welton, leider teilweise im Orchesterklang untergeht.

Dennoch ist es ein Auftakt, der das Publikum in spannungsvoller Erwartung auf die rein konzertant aufgeführte Oper vorbereitet. Ohne ablenkendes Bühnenbild vermögen es die Zuhörerinnen, sich mehr auf den Orchesterklang zu konzentrieren, als es in einer normalen Opern Aufführung möglich wäre. Erda, verkörpert von Wiebke Lehmkuhl, beeindruckt mit gefühlvoll erzählender Stimme und deutlicher Sprache. Vor Beginn der zweiten Szene tritt Siegfried zum ersten Mal auf. Noch während des langen Orchesterzwischenspiels werden wir Zeugen von Titelrollendarsteller Simon O’Neills szenischer Vorstellungskraft, als er die Vöglein beobachtet, um die es im ersten Abschnitt der zweiten Szene geht. Auch während schwieriger rhythmischer Passagen zwischen Orchester und Gesangspartie behalten alle Sängerinnen die Ruhe. Sie beeindrucken mit dramatischem Vibrato, doch insbesondere Brünnhilde-Darstellerin Rachel Nicholls fällt einfach auf.

Die schön dirigierten Schlüsse der Szenen und die schnellen Übergänge werden meisterhaft geführt von Dirigent Sir Mark Elder. Er schafft es, das Orchester in eine gewisse Schwere zu leiten, das der Musik Wagners die Klangtiefe und Wärme verleiht, von der man als Zuhörer*in träumt. Ebenso beeindruckt die absolute Einheit, die er im Orchesterzwischenspiel zwischen dem zweiten und dritten Akt in der Solopartie der Streicher anzuleiten weiss. Mit einem bombastischen Schluss, den man wahrhaftig als heldenhaft bezeichnen kann, endet der dritte Akt von Siegfried. Wieder bereitet der gewaltige Klang mir Gänsehaut. Das Publikum beginnt zu jubeln, ich sehe mich um und blicke ausschliesslich in begeisterte Gesichter.


Sinfonieorchester Basel

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