Wagner, Wesendonck-Lieder / Britten, Cabaret Songs, C. Brewer, R. Vignoles (live at Wigmore Hall) [MP3]
Representing Wagner were the Wesendonck-Lieder, inspired by and dedicated to Mathilde Wesendonck, the infatuation that put an end to Wagner's first marriage. Brewer gave the first song a luscious legato smoothness, able to open up the powerful side of her voice to fill the hall quite amply without overpowering the listener. There was at times a raspy burr at the top, minimal but there, but when the explosions of the second and fourth songs are, well, that explosive, it thrills the ear. The third song, Im Treibhaus, with its mysterious, rocking motif in the piano, was enigmatic and heated, the German diction clear and simple, as if recited poetry. Illick supported his partner ably at the piano, with transparency and solidity as needed. He rounded out the Wagner half with two of Liszt's arrangements of Wagner opera excerpts, introducing them with charming and insightful explanations. Some of the more virtuosic passages of the "Spinning Song" from The Flying Dutchman stretched Illick's technique just a bit, but the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde was sensitively rendered. As soon as he played it, however, one regretted that Brewer had not programmed the actual "Liebestod."
John Stege, Cycling the Romantics (Santa Fe Reporter, August 6)
The 2014 season at the Santa Fe Opera will feature only one real chestnut, Carmen (title role sung by Daniela Mack in July by Ana María Martínez in August, after Anna Caterina Antonacci sadly canceled), paired with the also not uncommon Don Pasquale, by Donizetti (in a new production by the Laurent Pelly team). We most look forward to Stravinsky's Le Rossignol, which will be paired with Mozart's The Impresario; the company debut of Beethoven's Fidelio; and the chance to hear the American premiere of Huang Ruo's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. It will be the first season under the leadership of new chief conductor Harry Bicket, last reviewed at Santa Fe in Radamisto, who will (happily) be conducting the production of Fidelio.