The Inbox

An electrifying Wagner after 18 years

Soprano Claire Primrose and conductor Alexander Vikulov with the Manila Symphony Orchestra bask in a standing  …

By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

Photo by Charmaine Deogracias

The cream of Manila's opera lovers showed up in an all-Wagner program Saturday night and gave its guest soprano, Claire Primrose, a standing ovation along with the Manila Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Russian conductor Alexander Vikulov.

The last all-Wagner concert heard in Manila was in March of 1994, the same month Luciano Pavarotti had his Philippine debut.

Opening with the Overture to Meistersinger von Nuremburg, Vikulov led an unusually large orchestra with members spilling over the side entrance and exit. The grandeur of this overture set the tone for the evening. The MSO sound was solid as it was firm and gradually ravishing. The drama of Wagner's music was not lost on the audience who gave the orchestra and its conductor a resounding welcome applause.

Physically, Claire Primrose didn't fit the stereotype looks of Wagnerian singers. She's fairly trim, but when her sound was heard in the opening phrases of Tannhauser's Dich Teure Halle (Greetings to the hall), there was total silence in the hall you could hear a pin drop. The singer actually was well warmed up and the Wagnerian sound simply came out like a sudden gush of fresh, forceful gale.

Of course it helped that there was a power point (subtitle) translating the German arias as the performance went on. At the end of the first aria, a thunderous applause ensued and there was no doubt that she would deliver without hitch.

Primrose essayed love and longing in the Prelude and Liebestod (Love-Death) and for once you rediscover the unusual quality of Wagner's music. Used to the sound of Verdi and Puccini, the audience took to Wagner initially with unease but later gave way to unrestrained exhilaration.

The Siegmund and Siegfried Love Duet (from Die Walkure) featuring guest tenor Randy Gilongo gave the audience an unusual format of this duet. All throughout the duet, they didn't really sing together but answered each other's laments. In the duet, Primrose was trying to connect by looking into the eyes of the tenor but obviously he was too busy trying to hurdle the big Wagner challenge at the expense of acting and spontaneity.

But Gilongo gave it his best and the local audience realized a Filipino can tackle Wagner with fairly good result. His tessitura sustained the long arduous phrases of Wagner and even conveyed high drama. But as usual, the eyes were all on the soprano whose vocal prowess continued to stun the audience.

The orchestra lived up to the standard of the soloist and in the Prelude to Act 3, there was so much to relish. There was fairly good balance and the conductor brought in   orchestral precision without having to coax for it.

In the much-awaited Immolation Scene from Gotterammerung, the audience witnessed Wagnerian drama of the highest order. The power point not only gave the translation but actually visualized what was going on in the opera's final scene.

One could feel the audience holding its breath as the singer intoned: (a translation of the German text):

Radiant in the fire,

there lies your lord,

Siegfried, my blessed hero.

Are you neighing for joy

to follow your friend?

Do the laughing flames

lure you to him?

Feel my bosom too,

how it burns;

a bright fire

fastens on my heart

to embrace him,

enfolded in his arms,

to be one with him

in the intensity of love!

The big bonus about Primrose is that she could act as she could vocally deliver. You could actually see the sea of flames mirrored on her face even as the orchestra finished the rest of the concluding music. She was ecstatic as she was intense with her range, stamina and power perfectly intact.

In the end, Primrose and the orchestra got a resounding standing ovation which showed that Wagner had a special appeal all its own.

To be sure, this concert is another feather on the cap of the MSO which was supported by the  Australian Embassy and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Elizalde who provided the rehearsal venue and helped in getting the right conductor for the event.

In the end, you recall Wagner's credo and realize his art came not so much from his earthly financial ordeals but from a firm belief on the power of his art which he verbalized thus:

"I believe in God, Mozart and Beethoven, and likewise their disciples and apostles; - I believe in the Holy Spirit and the truth of the one, indivisible Art; - I believe that this Art proceeds from God, and lives within the hearts of all illumined men; I believe that through Art all men are saved."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Britain's tied visa rules fuel abuse of live-in maids, nannies

    By Katie Nguyen LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Susi, a single mother from the Philippines, left for a job in Qatar, she convinced herself it was a sacrifice worth making for her children at home. For more than a year, Susi's sacrifice involved waking before dawn and working past midnight, cooking, cleaning and looking after a Qatari family. Conditions deteriorated when Susi was brought to Britain by her boss. …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Philippines at four-month low after Q1 GDP miss

    BANGKOK, May 28 (Reuters) - Philippine shares hit a more than four-month low on Thursday after economic growth in the first quarter was slower than expected, while Thai stocks retreated after disappointing ... …

  • Philippine economic growth slows to 5.2 percent in 1Q

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sluggish government spending slowed Philippine economic growth in the first quarter of this year, officials said Thursday. …

  • PSE to sell Makati and Ortigas offices
    PSE to sell Makati and Ortigas offices

    Set to move to a unified headquarters in Bonifacio Global City in 2016, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) has issued plans to sell their offices in Makati and Ortigas. PSE President Hans Sicat issued that PSE means to sell the offices, but that they may also opt to rent them out instead. …

  • ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’
    ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’

    While strong earthquakes cause tsunamis in coastal areas, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned that inland areas could also be exposed to tsunami-like waves, or seiche, if located near or around bodies of water. In a recent earthquake awareness seminar in Muntinlupa, Phivolcs supervising science research specialist Joan Salcedo explained that a seiche is a large wave similar to a tsunami, triggered by strong ground shaking from an earthquake or volcanic …

  • China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations
    China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations

    China gave the Philippines a “gentle reminder” last Tuesday that Beijing will not bully small countries but warned these nations not to make trouble willfully and endlessly. “Here is a gentle reminder to the Philippines: China will not bully small countries, meanwhile, small countries shall not make trouble willfully and endlessly. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that China would continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features in the disputed Spratly Islands …

  • Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute
    Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute

    The Philippines should consider backchannel diplomacy to prevent its territorial dispute with China from deteriorating further, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said yesterday. There are a lot of Filipino businessmen with businesses in China and they have friends and connections there. Let’s utilize that, ask them to talk to their friends on how we can resolve this matter peacefully,” Marcos said. …

  • Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims
    Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims

    Japan and the Philippines are set to bolster security ties when President Benigno Aquino visits Tokyo next week, the latest move by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to beef up cooperation with Southeast Asian nations facing China’s growing naval ambitions. The two sides will likely agree to start talks on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology and to discuss a possible pact on the status of Japanese military personnel visiting the Philippines to facilitate joint training and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options