Discussion:
Irene Theorin to replace Evelyn Herlitzius as Brunnhilde in San Francisco's Ring
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kevemaher
2018-05-10 01:14:42 UTC
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Just got the notice.
I saw Ms. Theorin in the title role in the 2011 SF Turandot and was greatly impressed. How is her Brunnhilde?
The SF Opera Ring will be performed three times this June. Same sets as in 2011.
Kevin
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-10 14:32:58 UTC
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Post by kevemaher
Just got the notice.
I saw Ms. Theorin in the title role in the 2011 SF Turandot and was greatly impressed. How is her Brunnhilde?
The SF Opera Ring will be performed three times this June. Same sets as in 2011.
Kevin
From what I've seen and heard, pretty good -- fine voice, better than Herlitzius in my opinion, steadier and less wobbly, especially at the top, although slightly less powerful. She's also a bit more solidly built, although not, at last sight, seriously so. I don't think I'd like to hear Herlitzius as Turandot! I've never seen H as Brunnhilde, but I've seen them both as Elektra, and though H has a neurotic edge to her acting which can be quite compelling, T is subtler. Although from what I've seen of the present SF job, acting may not be the most crucial aspect...

Anyhow, here's a Theorin sample from Youtube, although it seems to have an infuriating pop-up:



And one sound-only of Herlitzius:



Cheers,

Mike
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-10 22:30:47 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by kevemaher
Just got the notice.
I saw Ms. Theorin in the title role in the 2011 SF Turandot and was greatly impressed. How is her Brunnhilde?
The SF Opera Ring will be performed three times this June. Same sets as in 2011.
Kevin
From what I've seen and heard, pretty good -- fine voice, better than Herlitzius in my opinion, steadier and less wobbly, especially at the top, although slightly less powerful. She's also a bit more solidly built, although not, at last sight, seriously so. I don't think I'd like to hear Herlitzius as Turandot! I've never seen H as Brunnhilde, but I've seen them both as Elektra, and though H has a neurotic edge to her acting which can be quite compelling, T is subtler. Although from what I've seen of the present SF job, acting may not be the most crucial aspect...
http://youtu.be/Rl-KRP01_fs
http://youtu.be/cbxX2D1nzSU
Cheers,
Mike
Theorin sings Brunnhilde in the interesting Copenhagen Ring on DVD
j***@gmail.com
2018-05-11 08:51:24 UTC
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“Fine voice”? I just watched a bit of that Youtube clip, as much as I could stand of her shrieking gargle and mangled vowels. Absolutely bloody frightful. And sadly all too typical of the standard of Wagner singing today. Flagstad, Nilsson, Varnay and a host of others must be madly spinning in their graves. And don’t get me started about Herlitzius, who seems to be the hog caller du jour.

J
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-11 13:36:51 UTC
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Post by j***@gmail.com
“Fine voice”? I just watched a bit of that Youtube clip, as much as I could stand of her shrieking gargle and mangled vowels. Absolutely bloody frightful. And sadly all too typical of the standard of Wagner singing today. Flagstad, Nilsson, Varnay and a host of others must be madly spinning in their graves. And don’t get me started about Herlitzius, who seems to be the hog caller du jour.
J
To describe any singer of Theorin's standing as producing a "shrieking gargle" is the usual kind of hyperbole one hears batted around the interval bars, usually in overloud voices, and laden with comparisons to singers safely departed or known only from recordings. In Nilsson's time the same kind of voices made exactly the same kind of disparaging comparisons to Flagstad, and so on back through the generations to Nanny Larsen-Todsen and beyond. Rather like Bartolo in Barbiere, disparaging Rosina as opposed to a long-dead castrato ...

I heard Nilsson live, early in my career, and while she was certainly phenomenal, her diction, for example, was by no means perfect, she wasn't always spot on pitch, along with many of the other minor flaws one expects from any singer in live performance. Theorin is not in her league, but then neither were Nilsson's contemporaries either -- including Varnay. Some of the younger ones, though, had valuable qualities Nilsson lacked -- Rita Hunter, for example. While there are serious questions over modern voice teaching, premature role assumption, and the workload expected of modern singers, the actual state of Wagner singing is probably about what it always was. It's simply that the real giants don't come along that often, and we're currently awaiting the next ones to emerge.

Meanwhile we have a wide range of really excellent singers who are, if not quite that amazing, as good as their previous equivalents. In the last few years I've heard excellent Brunnhildes, Nina Stemme for example, and Christine Goerke, Anja Kampe (though handicapped by the production) and some promising new Wagnerians in Heidi Melton (despite a dismal Siegfried recording) and Amber Wagner. And, of course, Irene Theorin. There are plenty of others.

It's rather too easy to achieve a certain snob value about wine, by praising only the impossibly rare vintages, and ignoring what one can actually drink to enjoy, and about hifi by lauding billionaire-level equipment; and I fancy the same might apply to singers.

Cheers,

Mike
j***@gmail.com
2018-05-13 05:46:22 UTC
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Try really listening to that YouTube clip again. There’s absolutely nothing hyperbolic about describing it as a shrieking gargle. You’re absolutely right about singers being pushed too young into roles for which they’re not suited. That’s the problem. There’s a serious lack of good training in many university voice departments, and opera companies push young singers into roles far too early in their careers. Voices need years to develop, and too often that development is stymied by an early assumption of roles for which those voices are not ready, in fact of roles for which the voice may never be suitable. As for the wine analogy, I’m happy to enjoy one that’s young and drinkable, but I’m not going to drink vinegar and pretend it’s something better while I’m waiting for the fine vintage to come along.

J
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-13 14:49:54 UTC
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Post by j***@gmail.com
Try really listening to that YouTube clip again. There’s absolutely nothing hyperbolic about describing it as a shrieking gargle. You’re absolutely right about singers being pushed too young into roles for which they’re not suited. That’s the problem. There’s a serious lack of good training in many university voice departments, and opera companies push young singers into roles far too early in their careers. Voices need years to develop, and too often that development is stymied by an early assumption of roles for which those voices are not ready, in fact of roles for which the voice may never be suitable. As for the wine analogy, I’m happy to enjoy one that’s young and drinkable, but I’m not going to drink vinegar and pretend it’s something better while I’m waiting for the fine vintage to come along.
J
Since that's more politely put, I'll simply say I disagree strongly. Not only on the basis of the clip; I've heard Theorin live more than once, and many times on recordings -- generally more professional than this one. I do not hear anything that could remotely be called a "shrieking gargle" in her voice, and -- except for accidents, which happen to every singer -- I would not expect to hear it in any singer of reasonable stature. My own judgement may or may not be valid, but people have been in the habit of paying me for it for some time now, and consequently I don't have the luxury of flinging that kind of exaggerated and unrealistic put-down around. It's rather the stuff of the hissier net chat-groups, than any rational assessment of ability. And in wine terms, that gives me some actual accountability for knowing the difference between vinegar and vintage.

Furthermore, yours is very much a minority opinion. Theorin has been widely praised by audiences and critics, with surprisingly little dissent. Of course you can certainly believe they're all wrong, but it can't help bringing your comment into question -- "all out of step except our Johnnie".

And incidentally, given your regard for Nilsson, you are also going against her judgement. Theorin was her star pupil. You're welcome to claim that she would have endorsed a shrieking, gargling protege, but somehow I think she might have had something characteristically earthy to say about that.
Bert Coules
2018-05-14 15:32:21 UTC
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I just watched the Irene Theorin clip: nothing wrong either with her voice
or her performance as a whole as far as I'm concerned, and she easily passes
my usual criterion for judgement, namely "if I'd paid to see her, would I be
angry or disappointed?", the answer being a definite no.

I'll be generous and assume that onlookers, sturdy logs, horse, crumbling
hall, Valhalla, gods and so forth were all situated upstage right, just out
of view of the cameraman (who must surely have been taking his life in his
hands - if I'd been near him, that phone would have been crushed underfoot
faster than you could say Das Ende).

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-15 17:22:08 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I just watched the Irene Theorin clip: nothing wrong either with her voice
or her performance as a whole as far as I'm concerned, and she easily passes
my usual criterion for judgement, namely "if I'd paid to see her, would I be
angry or disappointed?", the answer being a definite no.
My feeling too. But of course these things are very much a matter of personal taste, and I wouldn't quarrel greatly with anyone who didn't much like her performance, or preferred someone else. My objection was and is to the kind of extreme comments that some people feel free to chuck about, as if it made them more authoritative -- not only inconceivable as a reasonable judgment, but in the context here, aimed at my head as well. I must admit professional critics are sometimes guilty of similar silliness, like one who airly dismissed a Claudio Abbado Tchaikovsky symphony recording as "the least musical ever". Now it was fairly featureless; Abbado never had any very great empathy with Tchaikovsky. But he was one of the most accomplished musicians of the age, and not capable of an "unmusical" performance, whatever else it might be.
Post by Bert Coules
I'll be generous and assume that onlookers, sturdy logs, horse, crumbling
hall, Valhalla, gods and so forth were all situated upstage right, just out
of view of the cameraman (who must surely have been taking his life in his
hands - if I'd been near him, that phone would have been crushed underfoot
faster than you could say Das Ende).
Bert
Yes, it's nice to imagine that, isn't it? Rather like the descending dove Knappertsbusch is said to have insisted on in Wieland W's famous Parsifal. Finally Wieland compromised, apparently, by hanging said dove high above the stage, where Knappertsbusch could see it from the pit, but nobody in the audience could. I can just imagine what he said when he found out.

Agree about the phone; should have been placed where the wifi reacheth not. But at least they don't make any noise. On my first student visit to Bayreuth I was stuck near a whole party of Japanese, each with their little tape recorders whirring on their laps. I expected the normally terrifying Platzanweiserinnen to intervene at act's end, but no such luck.

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2018-05-15 17:45:20 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
My objection was and is to the kind of extreme
comments that some people feel free to chuck
about, as if it made them more authoritative...
Yes, quite. I liked your categorising of such comments as "the usual kind
of hyperbole one hears batted around the interval bars, usually in overloud
voices".
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Rather like the descending dove Knappertsbusch
is said to have insisted on in Wieland W's famous
Parsifal. Finally Wieland compromised, apparently,
by hanging said dove high above the stage, where
Knappertsbusch could see it from the pit, but nobody
in the audience could.
That's a lovely story.
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
I can just imagine what he said when he found out.
This is, of course, the same Knappertsbusch who conducted Wieland's
notorious Götterdämmerung in which he (Wieland!) cut Gutrune's solo scene
after the funeral march. I've never been able to reconcile that with the
conductor's known views and personality. There must surely be more -
probably much more - to the story than is generally told.

Bert
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-15 19:41:30 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
My objection was and is to the kind of extreme
comments that some people feel free to chuck
about, as if it made them more authoritative...
Yes, quite. I liked your categorising of such comments as "the usual kind
of hyperbole one hears batted around the interval bars, usually in overloud
voices".
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Rather like the descending dove Knappertsbusch
is said to have insisted on in Wieland W's famous
Parsifal. Finally Wieland compromised, apparently,
by hanging said dove high above the stage, where
Knappertsbusch could see it from the pit, but nobody
in the audience could.
That's a lovely story.
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
I can just imagine what he said when he found out.
This is, of course, the same Knappertsbusch who conducted Wieland's
notorious Götterdämmerung in which he (Wieland!) cut Gutrune's solo scene
after the funeral march. I've never been able to reconcile that with the
conductor's known views and personality. There must surely be more -
probably much more - to the story than is generally told.
Bert
No that scene was cut during the 1965 cycle under Bohm and was reinstated the next year.
Bert Coules
2018-05-15 20:49:07 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
No that scene was cut during the 1965 cycle
under Böhm and was reinstated the next year.
A stupid slip of the memory on my part; thanks for the correction. But even
for Böhm it's a surprising thing to have gone along with.

Bert
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-15 21:22:32 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Post by m***@gmail.com
No that scene was cut during the 1965 cycle
under Böhm and was reinstated the next year.
A stupid slip of the memory on my part; thanks for the correction. But even
for Böhm it's a surprising thing to have gone along with.
Bert
Sure is and what's the point??? you cut about 2 and 1/2 minutes out of about 4 hour plus of music and those two minutes perfectly sum up Gutrune's fear, loneliness and dread???
Bert Coules
2018-05-15 22:26:10 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
Sure is and what's the point?
The point is Wieland demonstrating to the world that he's the Wagner in
charge now and he can do exactly as he damn well likes.

If he had wanted to make a serious point about shocking the audience into
suddenly seeing the work afresh, there are far more radical changes he could
have made.

Bert
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-15 23:06:00 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Post by m***@gmail.com
Sure is and what's the point?
The point is Wieland demonstrating to the world that he's the Wagner in
charge now and he can do exactly as he damn well likes.
If he had wanted to make a serious point about shocking the audience into
suddenly seeing the work afresh, there are far more radical changes he could
have made.
Bert
Well I'll give him some leeway - he may have thought the scene was superfluous and/or held up the action??? who knows ?? certainly his conviction was not strong enough to withstand the backlash that occurred. I'm sure he was already feeling the effects of the cancer that would eventually kill him and maybe that made him a bit cloudy in his thinking???
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-16 19:42:26 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Post by m***@gmail.com
Sure is and what's the point?
The point is Wieland demonstrating to the world that he's the Wagner in
charge now and he can do exactly as he damn well likes.
If he had wanted to make a serious point about shocking the audience into
suddenly seeing the work afresh, there are far more radical changes he could
have made.
Bert
I think it was not primarily to the world, but to the then Wagner establishment, especially the many local Wagnervereinen that had long wielded an immense influence at Bayreuth. They could be pretty extreme; many objected to Cosima running the festival, because she was a Frenchwoman, to Winifred because...you get the idea. And they hated the New Bayreuth style, even in its earliest form. Every time the brothers came up with something new in their productions, however good, the Wagner societies were bitching all over the place, telling them how things ought to be done, sometimes even trying to pressure them through press and political contacts. Wieland's "Meistersinger ohne Nurnberg"staging, the one with just an area of cobbles and a stylized trunkless tree, infuriated them, even when he added a bit more detail the next year, and likewise his "street theatre" style production. I think the cut may have been made to bait them, and also to deflect their outrage and protests from other things he was doing. (Or maybe he was just showing off to Anja S.:-)

Cheers,

Mike
Mike Scott Rohan
2018-05-16 19:49:53 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
My objection was and is to the kind of extreme
comments that some people feel free to chuck
about, as if it made them more authoritative...
Yes, quite. I liked your categorising of such comments as "the usual kind
of hyperbole one hears batted around the interval bars, usually in overloud
voices".
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Rather like the descending dove Knappertsbusch
is said to have insisted on in Wieland W's famous
Parsifal. Finally Wieland compromised, apparently,
by hanging said dove high above the stage, where
Knappertsbusch could see it from the pit, but nobody
in the audience could.
That's a lovely story.
Post by Mike Scott Rohan
I can just imagine what he said when he found out.
This is, of course, the same Knappertsbusch who conducted Wieland's
notorious Götterdämmerung in which he (Wieland!) cut Gutrune's solo scene
after the funeral march. I've never been able to reconcile that with the
conductor's known views and personality. There must surely be more -
probably much more - to the story than is generally told.
Bert
Well, you were right about his personality, certainly. He wouldn't have done any such thing for either brother. I like the story about him rehearsing in the pit, and seeing the two of them crossing the stage in conversation. He leant over to the orchestra and remarked "Now you can see why Grandpa was such an arsehole!"

Cheers,

Mike

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