16 March 2007

Voigt as Helena

Strauss DIE AEGYPTISCHE HELENA, Met 15.III.2007; c. Luisi; Voigt, Damrau, Kerl/Hendrick, Grove, Sorenson, Brendel.

The Voigt sound has changed indeed, but the good news is that she has once again regained the kind of technical security she's known for. Gone forever is the 'fat' sound, that creamy wonderment full to the seams, replaced by an edgier cutting sound that pierces the ear in a different way. The top register is once again complete, high Cs and thereabouts flawlessly spun. The entire evening I thought the Elektra would be a much better fit at this stage of her development than, say, the timid sister Chrysothemis (which she perfected) or the seductress Salome. Throughout the opera, Voigt held a remarkable stamina and dynamic consistency that few could match. To me, such an impressive display gives an indication that she has found a path to Bruennhilde. (I now think she can pull it all together in time for the new Ring staging at the Met scheduled for the 2010-11 season.) Her powerful shreiks, which were once thick, femme-muscular and candy-pleasurable, are now sharpened spears that come in fearsome waves. In some way, the new voice is more 3D than what she had pre-bypass, with a wider expressive spectrum, and a greater sense for words. I'd still trade it in for that old simple-but-celestial sound any day, but such is life, things have resettled nicely, and I guess we move on.

Diana Damrau is truly an impressive show of natural talent and intelligent deportment. Among the singers on stage, she was alone in transcending the utterly stupid production by David Fielding. Clearly Strauss and Hofmannsthal were on some kind of 'potion' while collaborating on this strange work (and not the potion of forgetting or remembrance either). I would wish, however, to take some of the potion of forgetting as an antidote to the thoroughly vacuous and insipid stage design and direction. David Fielding and his cohorts must have also been on some kind of 'potion' while creating this mess, it is clear. If not for Strauss's relentlessly distracting beautiful noise, and Maestro Fabio Luisi's admirable insistence (plus Damrau's physical charm and Voigt's alluring blonde), I would have pulled my eyes out of the sockets just to not see their next 'witty' bit. The production will henceforth be known as "The Love Boat Rescues Helena/Menelas And All Is Still Well In The Surrealist Toilet." I just giggled and snickered to maintain sanity and decorum. If there was anything more to do besides booing their curtain call, I would have also done it. (And yes, Ms. Linda Dobell, sticking your tongue out to the booing audience is as classy as your inane choreography.) There were screams of "Eurotrash! Eurotrash!", and I thought, c'mon guys, if you're gonna give us Eurotrash, at least arrange for a platoon of naked muscular men to parade around Aithra's island. What a magnificent waste.