The incomparable Terfel

by Chris Bertram on June 21, 2010

I used to blog about opera a fair bit here at CT, but I’ve tended to let that go over recent years, after all, I lack the competence of a proper music critic. Still, I would like to report that Saturday’s premiere of WNO’s production of Die Meistersinger, with Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs, was the most stunning and energizing operatic performance I’ve ever attended. Started and 4, finished at 10, but those hours went awfully quickly. The music was wonderful, Terfel is an awesome presence on the stage, and the chorus – especially in the final act – was simply amazing. The staging, especially in Act 3, was also breathtaking. When you add in that the venue is probably the best one in the UK for opera, it all came together for a terrific evening capped by an energetic standing ovation from the audience. The production will be broadcast (a concert performance) as part of this year’s Proms (Radio 3 and BBC4) so if you are somewhere you can catch it, do so. If you can get hold of any tickets for the remaining performances in Cardiff or Birmingham, do so (and sell your most prized possessions to acquire them). Today’s papers have a couple of reviews: “Andrew Clark”: in the FT and “Andrew Clements in the Guardian”: . What would you have to do to get unqualified enthusiasm from those guys? (UPDATE: Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph, a much better judged review.)



alex 06.21.10 at 10:14 am

Where’s Fred Kite when you need him?


david g 06.22.10 at 12:17 am

Wonderful to hear. I disagree with everything Chris writes here, but about Terfel he is right. I’ll try to catch the broadcast.


marcel 06.22.10 at 1:22 am

Well, Opera is my favorite browser, I’m using it right now to read CT (and to post this comment), but I hadn’t thought anyone would blog about yesterday, today or ever. How about a post on release 10.54? I’m using 10.53 and wonder if I should upgrade. Thanks.


ejh 06.22.10 at 12:19 pm

What would you have to do to get unqualified enthusiasm from those guys?

I used to go up the Manor Ground with a bloke who would give all the players marks out of ten in his notebook after the game. He would never, ever give anybody ten, no matter how great their performance: because, as he said, no matter how well they played, it must be possible to imagine a nominal performance that was even better, and hence nobody could ever be awarded ten out of ten.


Steve LaBonne 06.22.10 at 12:35 pm

Well, just based on the YouTube clips of Terfel singing bits of Wotan and Sachs, I wouldn’t be quite so hard on those critics. Hans Hotter he ain’t, though I suppose he’s about as good as we’ve got nowadays- sadly.


Chris Bertram 06.22.10 at 1:00 pm

Steve, aside from the fact that “those critics” limited their reservations to other singers (so your comment is based on a misconception about the post, and about them) – I’m rather surprised that you judge singers on the basis of Youtube clips. Ejh’s comment is about (association) football – and he’ll know that there are managers who have signed players after watching Youtube – with predictable results.


Steve LaBonne 06.22.10 at 1:25 pm

I’m rather surprised that you judge singers on the basis of Youtube clips.

One can get some idea from them, but I somewhat agree and of course that’s exactly why I gave that disclaimer. I do know his voice though from live and commercially recorded performances of other repertory. And I would still say that 50 years ago he wouldn’t have been singing Wagner. (Nor would a Hunding / Hagen type like Tomlinson have been doing Wotan and Sachs.) So it goes.


Substance McGravitas 06.22.10 at 1:45 pm


Mike Otsuka 06.22.10 at 1:46 pm

I witnessed one of the performances in the production of Die Walküre in which Terfel made his debut as Wotan. He was phenomenal — the best Walküre Wotan I had ever heard, either live or recorded. I’ve never heard anyone else sing Wagner live who exceeded the best I’d heard on record. But don’t trust me. Sample the reactions of the critics to his debut:


roac 06.22.10 at 3:10 pm

He would never, ever give anybody ten

In one of the short stories that Robert Frost wrote for poultry breeders’ journals (indeed he did, you can Google it), a veteran judge spends the better part of an hour IIRC microscopically examining the star hen of the day before giving her a score of 99 or whatever it was. He then looks back over the record of a past competition and says with great self-satisfaction “Yes, that’s the same flaw I found when I judged her before. It was mighty hard to find, but I found it, both times.” (Quoted from memory.)


ejh 06.22.10 at 9:36 pm

If Graeme Souness had had YouTube even that might have been enough to prevent him signing Ali Dia.


Graham Boucher 07.08.10 at 10:24 pm

Hello everyone. I’m an opera goer who was fortunate enough to attend the final dress rehearsal of The Mastersinger in Cardiff ..then the following Monday’s performance… then was delighted to be able to buy STANDING tickets for the final Saturday’s performance. Never have my wife and I enjoyed an Opera as we enjoyed this production. Bryn was without doubt superb and totally convincing in his interpretation of the benevolent Sachs…an absolute joy…Christopher purves truly magnificent as Beckmesser…The expanded – 80 strong – WNO Chorus magnificent as usual. Just go and witness it yourselves and be a part of a wonderfully moving experience…enjoy!!
Hwyl fawr ichi gyd.

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