Inkinen Festival - Wagner Gala

By Amber Baldock

Artist: NZSO

Date / Venue:  Friday 12 June 2015 - Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

As applause erupted and soared to a standing ovation it would be fair to say the NZSO's Wagner Gala at theMichael Fowler CentreWellington on Friday night was as successful and fulfilling an artistic endeavour as one could have hoped for from a programme of selected highlights from the final two operas of Wagner's epic Ring cycle; Siegfried and Gotterdammerung.

The evening provided many marvellous moments from the entire cast on stage, and the vocal displays from the internationally celebrated singers Christine Goerke and Simon O'Neill matched the power of the musical extracts selected.

Goerke as Brünnhilde and O'Neill as Siegfried were riveting in their performances. O'Neill was in superb voice and his heroic and powerful tenor easily carried across Wagner's rich phrases. However, it was Goerke who perhaps garnered the loudest applause. The in-demand dramatic soprano looked and sounded in wonderful control. Goerke did as much as she could with the extracts from the two operas; convincingly portraying Brünnhilde's transformation from light-hearted warrior maiden to the true heroine of the Cycle. Goerke's powerful performance was not without finesse as she effortlessly soared to high notes purely sung.

A true delight of the evening was hearing both orchestra and singers matching and responding to each other's strength and power. Pietari Inkinen, in his penultimate concert as NZSO music director seemed to allow the expansive orchestra (including quite a number of guest players) complete with bass trumpet, Wagner tubas and a full compliment of strings, wind and percussion the chance to bring Wagner's music to life with controlled intensity and sensitivity.

The only quibble I had was with the surtitles that detracted more than they added to the evening's performance. For me, this fantastical Nordic myth with its tale of incestuous love will always be tricky to translate well from German into English. But, it was the performances that made the words and meaning matter.

The combination of rich performances and Wagner's intoxicating music made for a thoroughly good night out, and those who have an opportunity to see it in Christchurch and Auckland in the coming days should not miss it!