Wagner Gala, Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, 2 November 2019
TVC descended on gloomy, beautiful Hobart for the much awaited return of Nina Stemme, currently the world’s greatest soprano (only the 2nd person to be awarded the Birgit Nilsson Prize, for those for whom awards matter), with the great bass baritone John Lundgren, who gave us a night of selected Wagnerian hits in concert format.
Stemme made a big splash in Hobart in 2016 singing excerpts from Tristan und Isolde with Stuart Skelton. No Tristan this time unfortunately, but the programme was ideally suited to the leads: The Wotan and Brünnhilde tête-à-têtes from Walküre, Act II, scenes I and III, together with the “Ride,” and then, after the interval, The Overture from The Flying Dutchman followed by an excerpt from the Hollander’s Monologue, which Lundgren – who played the part in Stuttgart – did superbly, aided by the TSO Chorus, hidden somewhere up near the ceiling.
The final pieces brought a splendid evening to a close: Siegfried’s Funeral Music (Trauermarsch to you) and Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene (Götterdämmerung). Stemme, looking fine in a shimmering gold and silver ‘glo-weave’, showed why she is the star of the moment, combining (even in concertised form) the humanistic acting sensitivities of a Callas with the superb Wagnerian voice of a Nilsson or a Norman. Marko Letonja, conductor of the 2016 concert, brilliantly kept the mighty TSO on track, playing fast and yet with feeling.
It was an excellent evening, and one could gladly have stayed on for more. But by the time we ‘saw the World End,’ there was nothing left but flowers and standing ovations.