DAS LIED VON DER ERDE – Superb Live Recording by Stuart Skelton and Thomas Hampson

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas

sean-martinfield-2-2.jpg
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Gustav Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE is the tenth addition to the MAHLER PROJECT – San Francisco Symphony’s growing collection of live concert recordings from Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. Featuring tenor Stuart Skelton and baritone Thomas Hampson, the cycle of six songs was recorded in 2007 during a run of performances between September 26th and 29th. I attended the first presentation. It was magical. Released under the Symphony’s in-house label, SFS Media, this hybrid recording captures and re-kindles souvenirs of a particular evening – the electric energy of an Opening Night performance, the steady flow of transcendent beauty from the orchestra, the charged and color-filled vocals of the Leading Men, and the powerful wizardry of the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas.

Mr. Skelton, familiar to San Francisco Opera audiences from his previous appearance as “Don José” in Carmen, drew out his heldentenor chops, hit the ground running and then vaulted into the high register of the opening movement – a drinking song, Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde. The song is characterized by a recurring line, “Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod” – “Life is only twilight, so is death” – each of the repetitions modulating up a semi-tone, bringing the tenor to a brilliant High A. Cut/print. Nine minutes earlier, he had just taken his place on stage. Throughout his three songs, the passionate and youthful-sounding tenor of Stuart Skelton proved the perfect interpreter for such aggressive and skeptical expressions as, “And when I can sing no more, I go to sleep again. What does spring matter to me? Let me be drunk!” Mr. Skelton is likewise at home with the heavy-duty Wagnerian repertoire, having won critical acclaim in such roles as “Siegmund” (Die Walkuere), and in the title roles of Lohengrin, Parsifal, and Rienzi. In this live performance of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, Stuart Skelton’s secure tenor and superb musicianship rivals the sweet renditions of FRITZ WUNDERLICH as heard in the re-mastered studio recording from 1966.

stuart-skelton.jpg
STUART SKELTON, Tenor. Photo, John Wright

Baritone Thomas Hampson (52 at the time of the recording) is a supreme technician and carries a rich legacy as a much sought after romantic hero. His light and beautifully placed opening phrase of Der Einsame im Herbst, “Herbstnebel wallen blaülich überm See” (“Blue mists of autumn float over the lake”) cannonballed to the rafters of Davies Hall. Throughout its story of loneliness and the autumn of life, Hampson’s voice leaves a bell-like resonance in the air and a poignant lingering in the heart – just long enough to notice. Midpoint during the 4th movement, Von der Schönheit, the orchestra swells and the tempo accelerates as Hampson furiously describes the sudden passage of galloping horses. “How their manes toss in tangled riot, breathing fire from steaming nostrils!”

thomas-hampson.JPG
THOMAS HAMPSON, Baritone

Mr. Hampson appears to be on the commanding side of the masculine profile. His physical stature supports his incredibly diverse vocal palette, stretching from the brightest and most poetic pianissimo to grand and sometimes bellowing fortes. The daunting breath control he has always exhibited in songs by Mahler, Schubert and Schumann and the arias of Mozart and Rossini is fascinating in its seeming effortlessness. His recordings of KINDERTOTENLIEDER and DES KNABEN WUNDERHORN are exquisite and always in startling contrast to the renderings of meistersinger Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. As the concert progressed, it was clear that Mr. Hampson was in the apex of every singer’s fondest dream. As an actor with a glittering concert repertoire, he knows the art of give and take – when to turn off, when to luxuriate. In the final song, Der Abschied (“The Farewell”) Thomas Hampson delivers a consumate performance. For one-half hour Mahler sustains the atmosphere, the time, and the place: “The sun is setting out beyond the mountains, And evening comes down in every valley, And shadows lengthen, bringing cool relief.” Following an extended orchestral passage, the closing stanzas demand the baritone’s full breadth of lyrical expression – staying high in the vocal register at first, then gradually descending to an octave and major fourth below. “The lovely earth, all, everywhere, revives in spring and blooms anew, and ever, ever shines the blue horizon.” Conductor Thomas brings the orchestra to a slowing pulse – a few shimmering rays from the celeste here and there, “ever … ever …” It is finished.

This recording is a must-have for those who appreciate the challenge of a live performance and, most definitely, for its unusual teaming of a baritone and tenor.

Click here to order: DAS LIED VON DER ERDE

Visit Seán on YouTube:
CA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES – A Preview Look with Seán Martinfield
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
SAMSON & DELILAH – Meet Seán Martinfield

See related articles and interviews:
WARHOL’S JEWS – Series of ten original paintings on display at The Contemporary Jewish Museum
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW – Ray of Light Theatre Begins New Season October 17th
JOSHUA BELL – At Davies Hall, October 23rd – 25th
EMANUEL AX – Renowned Pianist Appears with San Francisco Symphony October 9th – 11th
A BRONX TALE – At the Golden Gate Theatre through October 19th
DIE TOTE STADT – A BAD HAIR DAY IN THE DEAD CITY
UNDER THE DOME – Fabulous 100th Anniversary Party at Westfield San Francisco Centre
CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES – Opens this weekend in Golden Gate Park
DALE CHIHULY – Lighting-Up At The de Young
BONESETTER’S DAUGHTER – New Opera Stands Alone
CORKY’S HOT ICE – Latest Bling In Gay Cinema
THE WOMEN – NOT WHO YOU ARE EXPECTING
SPRING AWAKENING – A Breath Of Fresh Air, Now At The Curran
SIMON BOCCANEGRA – WASHES ASHORE FOR OPENING NIGHT AT SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS – More Lucas-Cloned Crap
VIOLINIST JASSEN TODOROV – New Director of SF State University School of Music and Dance
TOM ORR – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield
VIOLINIST JASSEN
AT THE LEGION OF HONOR – The State Museums Of Berlin And The Legacy Of James Simon
OPENING NIGHT, September 5th – San Francisco Opera’s 86th Season
NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTRE – The Season Begins
THE MIKADO – Opens 56th Season of The Lamplighters Music Theatre
FESTIVAL OPERA’S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – Opens Saturday, August 9th
BERNADETTE PETERS – A Triumph In San Francisco
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE – Now at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE – Now through July 27th at Broadway By The Bay
JENNIFER SIEBEL – A Conversation with Seán Martinfield
COPPOLA’S “THE CONVERSATION” – AT THE LEGION OF HONOR, July 17th
SAN FRANCISCO SILENT FILM FESTIVAL – At The Castro Theatre
A CHORUS LINE – Returns to San Francisco’s Curran Theatre
VIVA TO THE DIVAS! – SF Opera Summer Season Concludes This Weekend
TALENT COMPETITON – On-Line Reality for A CHORUS LINE
ARIODANTE – Cross-Dressing Goes Baroque – at SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
WOMEN IMPRESSIONISTS – At San Francisco’s Legion of Honor
TIMOTHY HORN – BITTER SUITE – A Sweet Tribute To Alma Spreckels
‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE – At A.C.T through July 6th
60TH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT – San Francisco Boys Chorus celebrates at the War Memorial Opera House
LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR – Bats it for FREE at AT&T Ballpark
CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSEUM – A Grand Opening!
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN – Just say “NO!”
ERIK BATZ – A Conversation With “The Scarecrow” At The Mountain Play
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S 2009 SEASON – Includes World Premiere of All-New Swan Lake by Helgi Tomasson
A CONVERSATION WITH MAESTRO HELMUTH RILLING
CHERYL BURKE DANCE – Dancing with Gavin and Jennifer
DALE CHIHULY – Lighting-Up At The de Young
ERIK BATZ – A Conversation With “The Scarecrow” At The Mountain Play
SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S 2009 SEASON – Includes World Premiere of All-New Swan Lake by Helgi Tomasson
SWEENEY TODD – PRIME CUTS FROM DIRECTOR TIM BURTON
ANITA COCKTAIL and LEANNE BORGHESI – A 3-Way Dialogue
NORMA SHEARER in “MARIE ANTOINETTE” – At the Legion of Honor

See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

sean-martinfield-250-pixels-new-sentinel-mug.jpg
Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

VOTE NO ON MARRIAGE DISCRIMINATION PROP 8

jason-steinberg-imagery-2.gif

facebook-badge-3.jpg

SEE SENTINEL FEE-BASED COVERAGE

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter





For Email Marketing you can trust

Comments are closed.