Deutsche Oper Berlin and Runnicles Explore the Debussy-Wagner Connection

GermanyGermany Debussy, Wagner: Klaus Florian Vogt, Evelyn Herlitzius, Seth Carico, Orchester und Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin/Donald Runnicles, Berlin Musikfest 2015, Philharmonie, Berlin 8.9.2015 (MC)

Donald Runnicles © Bettina Stöß

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande (arranged by Marius Constant)

Wagner: Act 2 from Parsifal

Parsifal: Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor)
Kundry: Evelyn Herlitzius (soprano)
Klingsor: Seth Carico (bass-baritone)

It’s always a joy to hear the Orchester und Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin decamp from the opera house to a concert hall setting, an opportunity the players seem to relish too. Under its music director Donald Runnicles the orchestra has developed into one of the finest in Europe standing out for its particularly smooth, unified sound.

This season the Deutsche Oper Berlin is staging Debussy’s five act opera Pelléas et Mélisande, and Runnicles opened with the orchestral arrangement that Marius Constant prepared from the score. Relevant here is the often articulated debt that Debussy with Pelléas et Mélisande owes to Wagner in general and especially his empathy with Parsifal. Like a substantial symphonic poem, lasting twenty three minutes here to perform, Debussy’s magical sound worlds in Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and La mer are a constant feature. Never wishing to rush the music or afraid to play softly Runnicles brought out the haunting beauty and shimmering intimacy of this mysterious, impressionistic soundworld.

After the interval we heard a stunning concert performance of Act 2 from Wagner’s three act opera Parsifal that the composer described as a ‘stage consecrating festival play’. Set in the castle and gardens of Klingsor the evil magician this is a tense psychological drama between the three protagonists Klingsor, Parsifal and Kundry. Runnicles’s carefully chosen soloists were headed by Klaus Florian Vogt as Parsifal with Evelyn Herlitzius as Kundry and Seth Carico as Klingsor. Vogt gets better and better and showed his Wagnerian credentials with such an appealing, vividly clear, fluid vocal and such impressive projection. Debuting as Bayreuth in 2002 Evelyn Herlitzius’s dramatic soprano was in superb condition and her acting was splendidly expressive for a part she knows so well. In a seemingly effortless performance bass-baritone Seth Carico showed exceptional promise as a Wagnerian with his easy projection and clarity of diction, although, I would like him to darken his timbre more. The six young sopranos as the Flower Maidens excelled all in glorious voice, and the women’s chorus of the Deutschen Oper Berlin were superb in what they did. Immaculately prepared and persuasive Maestro Runnicles pulled his forces together with typical calm assurance in these warmly lyrical readings. Resolutely the Berlin orchestra provided exhilarating yet sensitively cohesive playing in music they must know inside out.

Under the baton of Donald Runnicles the singers and orchestral players deserved their substantial ovation from the large audience for an evening of artistic excellence and unwavering commitment.

Michael Cookson 

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