Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano and Renee Fleming present all-Strauss program in Rome

More later.


Santa Cecilia Hall, in Rome's Parco della Musica, is a beautiful venue filled with scarlet seats and cherry wood walls and ceilings. The sound in there is like nothing I've heard. The reverb is quite high, giving the impression of a liquid sound. Renee's voice swam in a Straussian sea.

Her performances of the Capriccio final scene and the Vier letzte Lieder were different from previous ones. They were more introspective than ever, and, especially in the Capriccio, there was a profound sense of sadness. (After the performance, she mentioned that there are so many ways to do it, and that it's different every night.) The explosive passion of "Caecilie", an encore, provided an appropriate contrast to the wistful poignancy of "Im Abendrot".

I will post more details later, but I wanted to share a bit of news about the program for Renee's upcoming concert at the Barbican. I am one of many, I am sure, who discovered the remarkable aria "Ich ging zu ihm," from Korngold's Der Wunder der Heliane, because of its inclusion on Homage: The Age of the Diva. Renee seems born to sing this rich and densely-orchestrated aria. It's in the sumptuous key of F# minor (the key of the final scene of Daphne and the trio from Der Rosenkavalier), and its undulating legato lines build intensity right up to the A# climax on the repetition of in Schmerzen ("in pain"), Heliane's qualified mea culpa (she gave of her body, but only in the youth's mind, and she did so only to console him). I asked if she has plans to sing this live, and she replied, "Yes! In London." Click here to listen to Lotte Lehmann's recording of the aria. Lehmann, who premiered the piece, inspired Renee's interpretation.

UPDATE (6:35pm, 11/4/06):

Before attending another live performance (Angela Gheorghiu at Salle Pleyel tonight), I wanted to get in a few more observations about Renee's Strauss concert on Tuesday.

I have heard Renee sing these pieces before (the Capriccio at Carnegie Hall and the Lieder at the Barbican), and also in recordings, but the performances on Tuesday were different. Pappano nursed subtle and sensuous playing from the orchestra, bringing out sparkling counterpoint. Renee sang completely in character, which is something that she does not do often at concert performances. During the "Moonlight Music" that opens the final scene of Capriccio, she wore an anxious expression. It was a nuanced, complex performance filled with gestures big and small. Most remarkable were the contrasting moments at the end. First, the power that she unleashed when she sang, "Will you be consumed by these two flames?" The weight in her voice even made me think of Salome's final scene. Second, the soft, subtle, slow, and introspective beauty of Madeleine's final words to her reflection. This was very different from her Carnegie Hall performance, which was louder, colorful and ironic. There were tears in her eyes as the orchestra played the lush finale. There's one part that sounds as if Madeleine is leaving--at that point, Renee sighed, rolled her eyes, and batted her eyelids. After the performance, I mentioned how differently she did this scene, and she said that there are so many ways to do it, and that it's different every night.

Her Vier letzte Lieder seemed to have been sung in one long breath. There is no question that she bears a strong emotional connection to this music.

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