Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
Act I from Die Walküre
Jonas Kaufmann tenor
London Symphony Orchestra
Karita Mattila soprano
Eric Halfvarson bass
Barbican Hall, London, 8 February 2017
Jonas Kaufmann's Barbican residency across 4 concerts continued with a much-anticipated Wagner evening. And it was inevitably the Walkure First Act that dominated proceedings.
For this he was joined by the no less formidable Karita Mattila as well as Pappano leading the LSO. The LSO threw us into a most vivid storm after which we heard Kaufmannn's Siegmund emerge. This was sophisticated Wagner, marked by an intensely lyrical line. How glorious to hear the role properly sung, rather than shouted. Wintersturme never sounded more beautiful.
The down-side was that a truly heroic impact was missing from the closing pages of this wonderful slow-burner of an Act. For some true Wagnerian abandon one had to turn to Mattila. She was less in control, more squally, but delivered an authentic emotional punch. Standing next to her, both in physical and vocal gesture, Kaufmann gave the impression of pacing himself and guarding his voice for the concerts to come. That said, the cries of Walse, Walse were thrillingly sustained.
For the evening's complete performance Eric Halfvarson's Hunding was surely as close to ideal as it is possible to hope for. From cracking bottom notes to physical menace he dominated everything he did. Not even the weird placement of Pappano directly between him and the other two soloists could spoil the dramatic effect.
Pappano may not be a master of the long line, but the LSO built up a great head of steam in the exhilarating conclusion. Could someone not have set up the singers a more comfortable distance from his podium and those arms so frequently whirling like windmills? In the first half, the Tristan Prelude did not catch fire but the Wesendonk Lieder again showed off the fine, lyrical beauty of Kaufmann's sophisticated tenor voice.