“As in ‘Die Walküre,’ the standout in the final two operas was the soprano Nina Stemme, singing her first Brünnhilde in a complete ‘Ring.’ In the punishing Immolation Scene at the end of ‘Götterdämmerung,’ far from sounding vocally spent, Ms. Stemme took her singing to higher levels of burnished brilliance and expressive depth. A riveting presence, she was committed to the moment in every phrase she sang, every gesture she made. She received an ecstatic ovation.” - Anthony Tommasini
“I didn’t use the competitions to launch myself. I just tried to be true to myself, and I got good advice from more experienced colleagues. I’m always very sorry when I hear of young singers burning out early in their careers. Everyone’s always keen to discover new talent, but it very seldom happens overnight. You have to prepare for a long time.” - Nina Stemme
Nina Stemme, the flawless Swede, is fast becoming one of my favorite singers. She’s got the looks, the acting chops, and the kind of giant voice that slices through orchestras with incredible ease. I saw her last year in a revival of “Ariadne auf Naxos” at the Metropolitan Opera, and she sang with incredible lyricism and sensitivity…also, she was hilarious as the prima donna. She - quite inexplicably - hasn’t been heard much in the states, but she’s an acclaimed Isolde over in Europe. Please, dear god, can we have more of her over here???
“The standout in the cast so far has been the gleaming, charismatic Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, a riveting Brünnhilde in ‘Walküre.’ This is her first time performing the role in a complete ‘Ring,’ and if she keeps up like this, she could emerge as today’s Brünnhilde of choice.” - Anthony Tommasini
Why does Violeta Urmana think she belongs in the Zwischenfach category? One listen to her latest Ariadne at the Metropolitan Opera would suggest otherwise. It’s not just that she struggles with the top notes, she can’t even handle the cantilena of Strauss’ magisterial score.
Of course, it would be hard to top last year’s amazing Ariadne courtesy of Swedish soprano Nina Stemme. Here was the real thing, a Nordic soprano who sang with dramatic power and sweeping fervor. Her voice has a dark hue, like rich chocolate, yet her singing was never overemotive, sloppy, or vocally blatant. She was able to shape phrases with elegance and lyricism - a rare quality, I find, with dramatic voices.
In the opera proper, Ms. Stemme was hilarious, striking the right balance between Ariadne’s anguish and The Prima Donna’s annoyance at having to share the stage with the Commedia dell’arte troupe. She conjured the right mix of sincerity and dead-pan comic timing.
The same could not be said of Kathleen Kim’s overly cutesy-pie Zerbinetta. It’s unfair, but Natalie Dessay still owns this part, mainly because she used her skills as an actress to paint such a quirky and hilarious portrait of a real character, who is usually nothing more than a perky coquette. Ms. Kim is a pretty young woman with a pretty voice (a tad thin and trilly for my taste), but her Zerbinetta lacks any risk or personal stamp that might make the character her own.
Elijah Moshinsky’s handsome production (which, apparently, he hasn’t touched since it’s debut in 1993) has aged well. The stage pictures remain arresting, but the Met could certainly bring him back to breath new life into the creaky bits. The prologue is a tad unfocused, and the opera feels dramatically static after Bacchus arrives to save Ariadne.
Still, one has to question why Ms. Stemme wasn’t booked for a second engagement as “Ariadne” and why she hasn’t been heard at this house more frequently. (Her last appearance at the Met was her debut as Senta in “Der Fliegende Holländer” back in 2000.) Apparently, she’s an incredible Isolde, I can believe it. She has the dramatic power and vocal beauty to carry off that daunting part. Might it be time for a revival? As for Ms. Urmana, the role of Ariadne is not a fit vocally or dramatically. Simply put: she shouldn’t be singing it…at least, not with Ms. Stemme around.