A Festive Opening
Hong Kong Cultural Center, Tsim Sha Tsui
09/04/2009 - & September 5*
Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude - Tannhäuser: Dich, teure Halle – Lohengrin: Act 1: Prelude – Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod
Richard Strauss: Don Juan – Salome: Closing scene
Deborah Voigt (Soprano)
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Edo de Waart (Conductor/ Music Director)
Edo de Waart (© Cheung Chi Wai)
HKPO’s 09/10 season kicked off with two concerts of program music, with renowned soprano Deborah Voigt as the guest artist. Like last season’s opening concert (read here), which was exactly one year ago, HKPO once again allured the audience by the reputation and popularity of a celebrated ‘big name’. It was rather disappointing that the orchestra does not and dares not impress the fans by their own idiosyncrasy.
Back to the concert, the program of the evening sounded like a festive event －the longest piece was Salome’s Closing Scene, and the only independent concert piece was Don Juan. The concert opened with Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Prelude and followed by Ms. Voigt singing Dich, teure Halle from Tannhäuser. Then the orchestra performed two more Preludes by Wagner, Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde, with Ms. Viogt singing Liebestod before the intermission. I wonder if there could be a better sense of coherence, so that the audience would have been more devoted.
HKPO’s playing was generally more disciplined and unified than what I expected. The synchronized passageworks tellingly certified their diligence on practice and rehearsals. The technically exacting Don Juan went through neatly under the superb leadership by Concertmaster John Harding. But, on the other hand, the orchestra seemed to be unable to get rid of their undesirable traditions. The suffocating strings, which sacrificed the grandeur of Meistersinger and the vitality of Don Juan, was particularly irksome.
Maestro de Waart favored fast tempi for most of the works. Where most conductors adopted a dragging pace at the end of the Prelude of Meistersinger to underline the music’s glory and majesty, Mr. de Waart’s flowing speed emphasized the cheerful aspect of this drama. In the Prelude of Lohengrin, he was more interested in mining the music’s linear melodic arc instead of bringing the kaleidoscopic harmonies to the surface. For ears attuned to the heavenly sonority of this piece, HKPO’s reading sounded a little earthy and plain-spoken.
Ms. Voigt was the true cynosure of the evening. Her projecting tone in the Salome shone every corner of the concert hall, and her effeminate voice in the Liebestod fluttered with sweat breath. It was really a ‘supreme bliss’ for every attendee to witness such a consummate performance.
Danny Kim-Nam Hui