NEW IMPROVED and formal review of Wagner Die Walküre at La Scala Milan, with photos. Interesting because it's mega high profile (at least in Italy), Barenboim made a big speech and the cast is as starry as possible in theory. Stemme, Meier and Gubanova were so outstanding that if I were a director, I'd build the whole production around them and the insights they bring. Young and sassy! Please read more:
.......Waltraud Meier is one of the greatest Wagnerians of all time. Any opportunity to hear her cannot be missed, for she has created all the roles and understands their place in the grand scheme. Although she’s no longer in the first bloom of youth, her artistry is such that she can create a Sieglinde so ravishing that she seems transfigured. Sieglinde’s past has been too traumatic for her to be an ingenue. so Meier’s interpretation emphasizes the way Seiglinde blossoms as love awakens her, like a parched plant unfurling after a long drought. When Meier sings “Du bist der Lenz”, her voice warms and opens outwards. It’s so expressive that she creates the idea of the world ash tree bursting into leaf despite the barren surroundings."
".....Wonderful as Meier is, even she is outclassed by Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde. Stemme is so lively and vivacious that she completely dispels any memories of historic, matronly Brünnhildes, with metal breastplates, horned helmets and spears. Instead, she’s dressed in what could pass as a modern if quirky evening dress, a blend of lace and bombazine with hints of Goth and punk. The costume (Tim van Steenbergen) fixes Brünnhilde at once in Wagner’s world of political rebellion and in present day ideas of generation conflict."
".....Stemme’s youthful energy and spark highlight her idealism and high principles. She’s not intimidated by Wotan, however much she loves him. Here, already in germination, is the Brünnhilde of Götterdämmerung who will defy death itself to right the wrongs that have gone before. Stemme’s voice pulsates with intensity, and softens with tenderness, her control firm and measured. Stemme’s vigour might have been even more impressive against a more dominant Wotan, but Vitalij Kowaljow was adequate rather than brooding. Nonetheless, of the male singers in this performance, he held up best.
.....Ekaterina Gubanova’s Fricka was superb, elevating the role from a minor part to something far more profound. Usually the role is unsympathetic as our feelings about Hunding are negative, and it’s Fricka who demands that he be revenged, even though he married Sieglinde by force. Gubanova looks and sings with youthful radiance, connected more to the idea of growth and refreshment than to barrenness and drought. After all she stands for moral principles, just as Brünnhilde does. Wotan defiles marriage by scattering offspring everywhere, destroying many lives. Fricka stands for good, even if she’s stern, as Gubanova’s interesting portrayal suggests.
Please read the full review in Opera Today