(Text by Frances Henry)
Our society is indeed fortunate to be invited to such grand events as the rehearsal held by Sir Andrew Davis with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the cast of Act 1 of Die Walküre.
Despite freezing temperatures, 40 of our stalwart members were able to attend. We were treated to a rousing performance of the Ride of the Valkyries followed by Act 1 featuring the soon to be great Lise Davidsen, Simon O’Neil, a well known Wagner singer and Brindley Sherratt, new to Wagner. Neither are well known to Canadian audiences. Lise Davidsen, a tall and very pretty young women of Norwegian origin has a voice that is simply gorgeous: it has mezzo qualities but she also has a very powerful upper range and tremendous power. But above all, her voice has a rich creamy sound and totally beautiful sound. She told us that she is far from ready to sing Brünnhilde or Isolde although one already hears the Brünnhilde in her voice and approach to singing. Meantime, she is singing more general repertoire in Europe but is cast as Elizabeth in this years Bayreuth production of Tannhäuser. Simon O’Neil marked much of his sound but nevertheless one could hear his lovely tenor range quite well. The other surprise of the afternoon was Brindley Sherratt who has a simply glorious full bass and he made the most of Hunding. He told me that he is soon to sing his first Hagen and that will really be a treat.
The Q. and A. afterwards was a total delight. Sir Andrew made a number of excellent observations about what it is like to conduct Wagner and he also told a number of amusing stories and anecdotes. He seemed to be very comfortable and enjoying himself. Another hero of the late afternoon however was Simon O’Neil who has a huge, expressive and in your face personality. He identifies strongly as a New Zealander and speaks out readily on all sorts of subjects. He expressed his respect for the many singers who had come before him and especially gave enormous credit to former Wagnerian singers, Sir Donald McIntyre, a great Wotan of his time – also from New Zealand – and his former teacher. He also singled out bass baritone John Tomlinson. He described these singers as ‘energy givers’ in that they sang out with great energy that touched other singers and the entire stage. Others he said were ‘energy suckers’ who took out energy but did not give it. I understood immediately what he meant… I’ve seen and heard both of his mentors giving high energy performances. Brindley Sherratt made some interesting comments because despite his age of 57, he is new to Wagner singing having been ‘stuck’ in the Italian repertoire for most of his career. In addition to this Hunding, he sang a very good Fafner in the London Ring and now has been hired to sing Hagen. Lise Davidsen told us a bit about her background; she trained almost entirely in Scandinavia and began her career as a baroque singer. Baroque vocal music is still her favorite to sing and listen to. Meantime she loves singing and will sing ‘anything that is interesting to me”. The exception to this is that she feels the need for further vocal development before she goes for the Wagnerian biggies.
I will be attending the concert on Feb. 2 and perhaps add another note to this.