Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Three Strauss Ladies Reviewed in HGO's "Ariadne"

"As The Prima Donna in the prologue and Ariadne in The Opera, Christine Goerke was confident and insistent, magnificent in every respect and clearly at the top of her game. Funny and dramatic, she seemed entirely natural in these roles, as if they had been written expressly for her. As well, her commanding voice was the only one that prevailed over a largely dominant orchestra. She has a powerful, fully resonant quality that would make her an ideal Wagnerian singer, and one can only imagine what her recent interpretation of Kundry in Parsifal at Turin’s Teatro Regio was like. I’d safely bet that it was incredible. Standing on her lonely rock and beckoning to what she believes is Hermes ready to escort her towards death, a spine-tingling moment, she was one of the most extraordinary artists on HGO’s stage this season."

"Just a month ago at Dallas Opera, Laura Claycomb gave an exacting, emotional performance as Gilda in Verdi’s popular Rigoletto. Her voice was rich and confident, clear in the high notes, her phrasing smooth and inventive. Thrilling to hear, she was also a very convincing actor, vulnerable and endearing as the hunchbacked jester’s beautiful daughter. This being the only other role I’ve seen her perform, however, it appears that she is much more attuned to Verdi’s flowing Italian than Strauss’ dense Austrian-flavored German. Her interpretation of Zerbinetta on Friday was largely unremarkable. It seemed she was protecting her voice in order to make it through the thing. Her high notes were raspy, sometimes thin. She struggled with the coloratura flourishes in the lengthy second-scene 'Opera' aria. She looked tired. This might have been unnoticeable if she had exuded more charisma. Zerbinetta is an 'all or nothing' role, and Claycomb stayed safely in the middle."


"In the prologue it is Zerbinetta, I believe, who refers to The Composer with contempt, saying, 'his endless top notes are irritating.' Funny when mentioned within the opera, unfortunately this was exactly the case with Susan Graham, who didn’t seem in good voice on Friday night. It was as if she couldn’t hear herself. She seemed even out of breath at times. Most of her top notes were distinctly sharp or flat, and vocally she wandered throughout the scene, giving us far too many sudden fortissimos. Strauss gave some of his most glorious phrases to this character, and I kept waiting for Graham to settle in and dazzle, but she didn’t. There is also the matter of her acting. Yes, The Composer has a stormy persona, but that doesn’t mean the part is one-dimensional. 'He' has to do more than stamp his foot time and again."

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