NZ Festival: The incomparable voice of Sofie von Otter
Anne Sofie von Otter
With the NZSO
Michael Fowler Centre
There were a few disappointed people at the Anne Sofie von Otter concert this week. What promised to be an evening of lieder by the world-renowned singer was half a concert. The compensation was a second-half concert by the NZSO playing Alexander Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid). A pity there wasn't just two or three more songs – the audience would have been happy with that.
After the NZSO had played Schubert’s overture to the play Rosamunde for which he had composed the incidental music, the singer began with Der Vollmond Strahlt, one of the songs he had written for the play.
Schubert’s music, which combines the drama of Beethoven and the lightness of Rossini, has a passion well suited to lieder and von Otter delivered her tale of lost and remembered love with a tender eloquence and touching gestures.
This was followed by the composer's well-known Trout which the singer delivered with a lively clipped delivery along with the movements of the fisherman. Along with the NZSO’s creation of the rippling, lapping water this was the most descriptive work of the evening.
Her delivery of Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel was more meditative and introspective, with a pleading voice on the edge of breaking. Who is Sylvia? was delivered with an element of the comic, with knowing looks, mock seriousness and elaborate gestures. Even the orchestra seemed to underscore some of her phrases, highlighting their wit. The Erl King, on the other hand, with its almost Wagnerian bleakness was sung with earnestness and drama.
Von Otter's voice was superbly suited to the task, fully under control, able to rise above the orchestra when required or work with the music as though she were merely another instrument.
This was an immensely pleasurable concert being in the presence of a singer who appears to understand the music and the words and can communicate the emotions the composer was searching for.
John Daly-Peoples was assisted by The New Zealand Festival and Astelia Apartment Hotel.
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