Article Title:Review: The NZSO's Wagner in Concert
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:14th September 2007 - 12:30 pm
Internet Archive link:
NDHA link:
Note that the National Library of New Zealand (NDHA) website uses both cookies and frames. The first time you click on a link it first may take you to the archived front page of Close the window and try again. This is because the NDHA website uses cookies and you cannot access an indiviual page without visiting the front page first
Story ID:4942
Text:New Zealand Symphony Orchestra The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's Wagner in Concert Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor Margaret Medlyn, soprano Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, 7th September 2007 Wagner's music is so unfamiliar to New Zealanders that a Wagner concert is and event to be cherished by those of us who know and love it. Probably the single most important composer who has thus far taken up the profession, Wagner was a changer, a revolutionary, a veritable Tsunami which swept all in its path away and left forever a changed landscape in Western music. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra plays little of the composer's output. The recent concert “Parsifal” was a landmark and is still being discussed, making more puzzling the fact that there were many empty seats on this evening. That fact is made even sadder by the excellence of the performances, conducted by a veritable dynamo, the Quebec-born Yannick Nézet-Séguin, recently appointed to the musical director's post at no less an important European orchestra as the Rotterdam Phil. His grasp of the idiom is huge, and he almost physically pulled the notes from the orchestra. Enormous gestures and fiery histrionics told both players and audience that they were getting what was an undoubtedly commited and suitably overwhelming reading of all of the scores, even had the sound been turned off, which it most assuredly was not! Wagner demands decibels, and the NZSO was playing much of the time at full tilt. Fortissimo did not rule supreme, for there were many lyrically melting moments, as in the beginning of the Prelude to “Lohengrin”, a pianissimo gesture mainly for the strings in altissimmo. It's hard enough to bring off in the pit, but exposed on the platform, it's tricky. There were discrepancies in attack, for sure, but the lasting impression was of beauty, and that's what the composer would've wanted. After the opening “Meistersinger” overture, it came as a welcome contrast to bombast. The opera “Tristan und Isolde” holds the key to Wagner's godlike place in the musical pantheon – the “Tristan” chord, which comes early in the Prelude and then dominates so much of the opera. Technically, the reason for its shake-up of the musical world is hard to explain, but not only is it the musical equivalent of penicillin in medicine or the jet engine in aviation, it falls amidst passages of earthshaking profundity and beauty. The orchestra played this prelude like veterans and then on came soprano Margaret Medlyn to join the immortal prime donne who have made the role of the Irish princess fit them like a glove. Ms Medlyn isn't there yet – the part still rules her with an iron hand, but she is suitably equipped to rip from her breast a definitive Isolde. On this occasion, the tempo may have been a bit slow for her to sustain the crucial line of the last third of the aptly named “love death”, but there were passages of real depth and transcendent vocalism in her performance. Margaret Medlyn came more into her own at the end of the concert with the “Immolation” from “Göttedämerung”, and her epic Brünnhilde seemed more fitting to her voice and acting than the tragic Isolde. The scene's many high notes, though, are prepared and sung full voice, and excitement is perhaps easier to sustain than tragedy, but let that not for an instant diminish this accomplishment. Considering that not so long ago, Margaret Medlyn was singing the mezzo-soprano repertoire, one is tempted to use the word miraculous. Her heroic stance and the ability to hold it whilst the orchestra continues on after Brünnhilde's demise to depict the destruction of the universe and its coming together again was as much of a thrill as her singing, and I look forward one day to hearing and seeing her in the entire “Ring.” The highlight of the purely orchestral playing for me was the “Flying Dutchman” overture. Here, everything was in place – power, lyricism, intonation, musical sweep – and I felt the whole hall was caught up in the wonder and power of the music for the first time in the concert. Please, NZSO, more of this music and next time play it all over the country! Larry Jenkins - 14th September 2007    
Disclaimer:This page displays a version of the article with all formatting and images removed. It was harvested automatically and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly: access this content at your own risk. A copy of the full article is available (off-line) at the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. This online version is provided for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us
Reproduction note:Just before closed in May 2017, the website owners wrote this article about reproducing content from the website: "our work has always been available for glbti people to use and all we ask is that you not plagiarise it... if you use it anywhere please attribute it to and where there is an authors name attached please acknowledge that writer."