NZSO news


Review of Wagner concert performance

No-one in the world of music has polarised opinion as much as Richard Wagner, and no creative endeavour has so transcended the narrow world of music quite like his vast cycle of four music dramas – The Ring of the Nibelung.

Yet, here in July 2012 was the first time the most “stand-alone” of the four operas has been performed in New Zealand, albeit in a concert performance.

So this was a significant event, and, although the hall was not quite full for the four hours of turbulent music drama, there was intense interest by a big audience of a wider range of age than usually attends formal musical events in the capital.

At the end the performance was greeted by a standing ovation of an intensity unprecedented in my experience. Was it for the performance or was it a recognition of Wagner’s extraordinary imagination? Both, I would suggest.

Die Walkure is the second of the Ring operas: the first, Das Rheingold, is a prologue, shorter and more a stage setting for the following operas as they follow the progress of the gods to the final destruction of Valhalla in Die Gotterdamerung.

Die Walkure is the most lyrical and approachable of the four operas. An almost soap opera mix of adultery and incest is observed by world-weary god Wotan, with a real problem with family relations, and Wagner surrounds it all with music of great passion and searing power.

There is, within the music, a complex mix of motifs – the most obvious to the casual listener is the Siegfried motif, which becomes dominant in the final two operas – and Wagner deploys a huge orchestra with a formidable brass section that includes four Wagner tubas.

Yet some of the most significant moments come from the solo contributions from the cor anglais, oboe and bass clarinet, absolutely beautifully played here.

The singing is crucial and it was a privilege to hear principals of such quality. The two sopranos, Edith Haller as Sieglinde and Christine Goerke as Brunhilde, were sensational. Each displayed a vocal command that was never daunted by the huge orchestra behind them, and each showed a characterisation that never needed a costume or a set.

Simon O’Neill (Siegmund), with his searing power and his effortless command of the Wagner idiom, and the smooth darkness of Jonathan Lemalu, as Hunding, were similarly brilliant. Margaret Medlyn in her cameo as Fricka avoided hysteria to establish the character in potent fashion. Only John Wegner, an established Wotan of real quality, was below par, solely because of an obvious throat infection.

The eight Valkyries were marvellous. In the famous Ride of the Valkyries they were absolutely thrilling, placing the best-known piece in the opera into its proper perspective, and interfacing with a distraught Brunhilde in moments of great theatre.

Pietari Inkinen showed, as never before, his mastery of the orchestra. Whatever misgivings I have had of him in the past were swept away by a real understanding of Wagner’s demands and he drew a combination of beautiful pianissimos and raw power from an orchestra that swept all before it.

It might not have been the complete Wagner palette, but for someone starting out conducting opera, Inkinen’s was a vital contribution to a Wagner experience that was unforgettable and indelible.

— John Button Dominion Post Tuesday 24 July

Die Walkure: Simon O’Neill, Edith Haller, Christine Goerke, John Wegner, Jonathan Lemalu, Margaret Medlyn

The Valkyries: Morag Atchison, Amanda Atlas, Sarah Castle, Kristin Darragh, Wendy Doyle, Lisa Harper-Brown, Anna Pierard, Kate Spence

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pietari Inkinen

– © Fairfax NZ News

via Standing ovation for NZSO’s Wagner |



Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry Chris Finlayson says disestablishing the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is unthinkable.The idea has been put up for discussion, among others, in a review of the country’s orchestras by the Culture and Heritage Ministry.The review highlights a need for change, amid concerns that rising funding and falling ticket sales are making the sector unsustainable.The four regional orchestras – in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin – along with the NZSO, receive about $17 million a year from the Government.The ministry released the discussion paper yesterday and invited feedback on four scenarios, saying audience numbers for orchestral performances dropped from 645,746 in 2007 to 434,811 in 2010.The industry needs to change the way it works in order to save money and be more efficient.The paper suggested the sharing of players and headline performers.”If orchestras were to work as an integrated system, it could improve the sector’s overall viability and productivity, but would require players to work flexibly in a variety of settings, sometimes at relatively short notice,” it says.It includes four “change options” for a new management structure. This includes switching to a “city and community orchestra network”, with no government-owned, national touring orchestra. There would be at least one orchestra of international standard.Other options include creating one company to manage all the orchestras, replacing individual boards with all funding from the ministry; the ministry and Creative New Zealand retaining their funding roles, but appointing a “funding assessment panel”; and Creative New Zealand becoming the sole funder, but with an industry body to help assign funding.For the city and community network option, the report says “increased risk to international orchestra standards” is a weakness of the scenario.Ministry deputy chief executive Katherine Baxter said the scenarios were meant to spark debate, but how they would work in practice was unknown.Not having a government-funded national orchestra could either mean the NZSO becoming independent, or “an extreme option” of disestablishing it in favour of building up one of the regional orchestras.The most likely outcome was expected to be somewhere in the middle, she said. “They’re kind of all a wee bit out on the edge to get people to say what they think.”Finlayson has already ruled out getting rid of the NZSO.“The NZSO is a jewel in the cultural crown. There is no question of its survival under this Government.” NZSO chief executive Christopher Blake said, “We were particularly pleased to see the ministry’s commitment to retaining an international-quality orchestra for the whole country to enjoy, and the acknowledgement of the importance of a touring orchestra . . .”Vector Wellington Orchestra general manager Adan Tijerina labelled a couple of the options “potentially rather disruptive to the sector”.Submissions can be made until August 20.- © Fairfax NZ News

via NZSO Axing Ruled Out By Minister |




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