Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Guest Reviewer, Susan Stempleski

Since 1992, the Met Orchestra has been performing an annual series of concerts at Carnegie Hall. This spectacular program got off to an electrifying start with a searingly brilliant rendition of Richard Strauss’s Don Juan. With typically tremendous energy and sweeping gestures, Yannick Nézet-Séguin brought clarity and balance to the passionately lyrical melodies, generating thrilling crescendos and dramatic ritardandos and eliciting a generous and gleaming sound that displayed the Met players’ virtuosity. Especially notable were the charmingly characterized solos from concertmaster David Chan, and the shimmering work of the four hornists.

Next came something calmer: Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). The deftly orchestrated piece is “in the shape of a solar system, a collection of rococo loops that twist around each other.” The ethereal atmosphere of its multi-layered, slow-tempo, soundworld is intensified by the sounds of a synthesizer, harmonicas (bassoons and brass), and some pre-recorded electronics. The orchestra delivered a sensuous account of this twelve-minute, mysteriously beautiful, score.

Act I of Die Walküre (part two of Wagner’s Ring tetralogy) is frequently performed alone in a concert, the story of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde who, after being torn apart as children, meet and fall in love in the forest hut of Sieglinde’s husband, Hunding: a self-contained and totally satisfying narrative. In performances such as this, where the drama is vividly brought to life with a masterful conductor, three great singers, and an orchestra that plays Wagner like no other, it becomes a thrilling and emotionally-charged symphonic experience.

The energetic tempo for the stormy Prelude set the tone for the rendition, which unfolded as a taut and vivid presentation, superbly managed by Nézet-Séguin, whose kaleidoscopic approach highlighted the music’s multiple details and allusions, with the Orchestra’s passionate playing first-class. Delicate moments were executed with great sensitivity and refinement, while the more forceful passages had tremendous urgency.

Christine Goerke’s Sieglinde was distinguished by her lustrous, expressive soprano and her persuasive character development. She was well-paired with Brandon Jovanovich, who brought heroic bearing and a stout but supple tenor to the role of Siegmund. His thrilling cries of “Walse! Wälse!” led into their gloriously sung love-duet. Completing the trio was bass-baritone Eric Owens, displaying deep tone and offering a grave and convincing presence as Hunding.

With Wagner’s text and music so vividly conveyed, no stage action was necessary.