Sunday, December 31, 2023

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

No fun or frolics, or truffle-filled bonbons, as the Berlin Philharmonic bade farewell to 2023 with Wagner, and not ‘bleeding chunks’ either. It was a solemn and grand start, the Overture to Tannhäuser, played resplendently, with plenty of athleticism in the fast music without obscuring detail and dynamics, then moonlight-bathed reflection before – this being the Paris version of the opera (dance required) – a bacchanal arrives, fully swung before settling into rapt Tristan-esque expression garnished with blissful woodwind, horn and string solos, with harp.

The storm that opens Act I of Die Walküre (Part Two of the Ring cycle) was a little less than elemental if soon accruing intensity. When the on-the-run Siegmund gatecrashes Hunding’s home, his wife Sieglinde proves to be an inviting host and an attraction grows between the pair – rapturous music played accordingly – with Vida Miknevičiūtė a compelling presence, as throughout. Hunding’s leitmotif arrives before he does, stand-in Tobias Kehrer suitably suspicious of the unexpected stranger if less than menacing. Kirill Petrenko was meticulous with the finer aspects of the score without tension sagging, and Jonas Kaufmann was fully inside the role of Siegmund (he names himself “Woeful”), gorgeously lyrical and dramatically unexaggerated. As more is discovered about each character – excitement mounts, they are related, Siegmund escapes (Hunding had signalled a duel), his sister re-found and a tree-held sword liberated – Petrenko and the Berliners delivered an exhilarating conclusion.

Die Walküre Act I

Vida Miknevičiūtė soprano (Sieglinde)
Jonas Kaufmann tenor (Siegmund)
Tobias Kehrer bass (Hunding) [replacing Georg Zeppenfeld]

Pursued by enemies during a storm, Siegmund stumbles exhausted into an unfamiliar house. Sieglinde finds him lying by the hearth, and the two feel an immediate attraction. They are interrupted by Sieglinde’s husband, Hunding, who asks the stranger who he is.