The second act of sensuality. Elina Garanča hypnotizes at the Salzburg festival / Diena

There are concerts that are possible only at the Salzburg Festival – mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča sang in such a concert on August 20 and 22 in the Great Festival Hall. For 102 years, the reputation of the Salzburg Festival has been associated with the highest quality of the offered program and performance. The festival, which this year took place from July 18 to August 31, is unthinkable without the participation of Elina Garanca. Here she gives one of her brightest concerts – it is both chamber music and large-scale works.

About the last of Latvian stars – pandemic! – you can see what has been done in Salzburg by listening to the company last December German gramophone the published concert album, which captures the works of Richard Wagner performed together with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of maestro Kristians Tielemans Vezendonk songs (2020 festival recording) and Gustav Mahler Five songs by Rickert (2021 festival entry).

The maestro’s weakness

This year in Salzburg, Elina Garanca was heard in two programs. At the end of July, she performed under the direction of Christian Tielemans Vienna Philharmonic in a concert that featured Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody and Anton Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. On the other hand, closer to the end of the festival, she beautified with her voice a grandiose program of opera music composed by Camila Sensans Samson and Delilah second act and Richard Wagner Parsifal the second act. Elina Garanca sang Delilah and Kundri, American tenor Brandon Jovanovich – Samson and Parsifal, German baritone Michael Folle – the high priest of the god Dagon and Klingzor. At Vienna Philharmonic Daniel Barenboim took the helm.

Not everything went smoothly in this concert, and it was mostly due to maestro Barenboim. In June, he returned to the stage after a few months of absence due to serious health problems: he has been diagnosed with vasculitis, an inflammatory blood vessel disease. Daniel Barenboim still looked weak in Salzburg. The seventy-nine-year-old conductor’s current condition affects the quality of his work. Several critics were unyieldingly harsh in their judgments and believed that it would be fairest to cancel the concert. Others, noting that Daniel Barenboim’s contribution to music is immeasurable, and respecting his merits, refrained from elaborating on the conductor’s disappointing performance.

This week it became known that due to health reasons, he will not conduct the long-awaited Wagner in the fall Ring of the Nibelung new production at the Berlin State Opera Under the linden trees, which he prepared together with the director Dmitry Chernyakov. Instead of Daniel Barenboim, the premiere cycle will be conducted twice by Kristiāns Tīlemanis and once by Tomas Gugeis.

Daniel Barenboim’s name is written in golden letters in the history of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He performed for the first time with the orchestra as a pianist in 1965. At Vienna Philharmonic he made his debut at the conductor’s desk in 1989. Maestro Barenboim has conducted the orchestra’s New Year’s concert in Vienna three times.

seduce me

The concert program of the orchestra and conductor at this Salzburg festival was complex, extensive and conceptually interesting. In one evening – two extended love scenes, each act is like a separate opera, not a fragment taken out of context with familiar, beautiful melodies. Both Samson and Delilahboth Parsifal the second act is a story of seduction and sensuality. Delilah seduces Samson, Kundri seduces Parsifal. Each has its own methods and purposes. The plot, the beginning and the end of the opera are known to the audience, but in this case we see and hear only the “second episode”, which seems to be “recorded” from the perspective of women – and Elina Garancs reinforces this feminist effect with her performance. Samson in the first act, Delilah is described as an impudent woman who is destined to be the cause of Samson’s defeat. Kundri is an outcast, cursed by her lack of empathy for the suffering of Jesus Christ.

Deception, betrayal, the sensual in conflict with the spiritual – these themes come to the fore in the second act of both romantic operas. If we think about Samson and Dalilu and Parsifal and their authors, comparisons and contrasts arise. The concert program reminds: Sensance was connected in his youth by Wagner’s approach to musical drama, but later the French composer explained that he rather admired it than tried to use it in his work. Wagner, on the other hand, considered Sensans to be the greatest French composer of his generation. The premieres of these operas took place five years apart: Samson was premiered in 1877, Parsifal – in 1882. Sensation’s opera was first staged at the Court Theater in Weimar thanks to the enthusiastic support of Ferenc Liszt, in the same theater twenty-seven years earlier, with Liszt at the conductor’s desk, the premiere of Wagner Lohengrin.

Is she lying after all?

Mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca and tenor Brandon Jovanovic have met more than once on the opera stage. At the end of 2019, under the leadership of Daniel Barenboim, they sang Samson and Delilah in a new production at the Berlin State Opera Under the linden trees, and that time the boos directed at director Damian Sifron outnumbered the ovations given to the musicians, further proof that even great soloists can’t save a poorly directed show with absolutely no ideas. The role of Delilah has been played by Elina Garanca at the Vienna State Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera. 2021/2022 at the end of the 2018 season, she captivated in an extravagantly fresh, stylish, witty and ironic reading of the opera Sensance at the Royal Opera House in London (thanks to conductor Antonio Pappano and director Richard Jones for the pleasure).

Brandon Jovanovic has appeared in maestro Maris Jansson’s last two productions in Salzburg – an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk County (2017) and Peter Tchaikovsky The Queen of Spades (2018). The festival audience knows him well.

At the opera music concert, Daniel Barenboim conducted while sitting, moreover – behind the singers, so his direct contact with the soloists was quite limited. In both parts of the concert, Elina Garanca felt the most confident and sounded the most convincing, while Brandon Jovanovic often needed the conductor’s support, which he could not get under the circumstances. Samson and Parsifal, however, are not parts that can be sung on autopilot. You can say that Daniel Barenboim led the orchestra by following the voices. His gestures were extremely sparing, from my place in the balcony I could not always see if the conductor was moving at all – oh yes, very minimally.

Vienna Philharmonic is one of the best orchestras in the world and it was palpable Samson and Delilah in the rich, flexible, darkly spicy sound, freed from any sentimentality, which provided the most direct path to the time and space of the biblical legend.

The partnership of Elina Garancs and Brandon Jovanovic in the Sensance opera was permeated with passion and sexual tension – both in their voices, looks and touches, and in the energy they radiated. It was a duel between Samson and Delilah, a confrontation, an act of seduction. Attraction and repulsion, feminine and masculine forces worked between them – such intensity is rarely achieved in an opera performance, but these phenomenal artists created an incredible, fantastic effect in the concert format. They discovered new colors and character nuances of the characters. It was hard to believe that Delilah does not love Samson and only wants to destroy him – is she still lying to all of us, to him and to herself? The atmosphere was filled not with religious kitsch, but with divine beauty provided by the talent of the performers, the music cheered and inspired.

In Salzburg, the concert performance of operas is often even more satisfying than the performances – for example, last summer Elina Garanča sang here in the impressive Hector Berlioz The destruction of Faust in a concert performance.

Vocal charisma

In the second part, Wagner Parsifal was strong, fast, muscular, and the main characters in this music were also able to stop time. Elina Garanča had a lot of vocal work this evening, switching from Sensance to Wagner after the interval required a complete change of style, dramatic and musical image. This was the first time she sang Kundri in front of an audience. As you know, Elina Garanča debuted in this role in the spring of 2021 at the Vienna State Opera – at that time, the new production created by conductor Filip Jordan and director Kirill Serebrennikov was filmed in an empty hall and broadcast online.

in Salzburg Parsifal in the second act, you could not only hear that this part, its content and form is not similar to any other in the repertoire of the Latvian prima, but also feel her unique vocal charisma. It was a completely different character than in the first part of the evening, it was a completely different artistic approach to the role. Elina Garanc hypnotizes in Wagner’s music. Her mysterious magician Kundri has been influenced by everything he has learned in music so far – baroque, Mozart, nice singing, romanticism, verism, Verdi and Richard Strauss. Kundri is an important stop on the way to Elina Garanca’s long-sought peak – Amneris. It is expected that in 2022/2023 in the season of the year she will sing In Aida Vienna State Opera and London’s Royal Opera House.

In Parsifal drama and scope were pulsating, and the Great Festival Hall did not leave the feeling that this is where the strongest musical energy is concentrated tonight. The extensive, carefully curated concert program of the Salzburg Festival has many treasures in both the symphonic and chamber music repertoire. You should look not only at the most prestigious Vienna Philharmonic and towards the concerts of the biggest guest orchestras. The local orchestra provided immense pleasure Camerata SalzburgVienna Choir Wiener Singverein and a concert by soloists Golda Schultz, Julian Pregardien, Katarina Magir, Maciej Kwasnikowski and Tarek Nazmi – the late spiritual music of Franz Schubert was played under the direction of maestro Franz Welzer-Mest.

Always popular at the festival are the so-called Mozart Lunchtime Concerts – a dazzling program by Salzburg’s most famous son, which was created as a story about Mozart in Paris, Vienna and Salzburg, performed by the Salzburg Mozarteum orchestra, pianist Alexander Melnikov and conductor Ivor Bolton (Mozart’s 31st or Paris Symphony, 17th piano concerto and 9th serenade for orchestra). Filled with subtle elegance and taste was the French quartet Ebony concert (Mozart’s 14th String Quartet, Leoš Janáček’s 1st String Quartet and Johannes Brahms’ 3rd String Quartet). All these events reinforce the belief: there are many festivals, maybe even too many, but Salzburg and its level are still unsurpassed.

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