, July 2011
Finnish, cool but intense—Camilla Nylund’s soprano is best in arias requiring less outright emotion
With so many complete opera performances (both live and on disc) now accessible online, calling-card recitals of operatic excerpts feel like a throwback to the 1960s. Camilla Nylund, Bayreuth’s Elisabeth-to-be, and Hannu Lintu, the Finnish RSO’s chief conductor designate, experience mixed fortunes as they traverse Wagner’s and Strauss’s early maturities.
The Finnish soprano’s cool “in-between” soprano—big lyric but definitely not hochdramatisch—speaks well in the numbers that do not require outright personal emotions. She evokes an affecting degree of dreamy distance in Elsa’s account of her mysterious saviour. A similar coldness (I’d say “neutrality”, but I mean that in a Brechtian sense, not to imply any lack of commitment) adds an other-worldly, slightly deranged dimension to Salome’s address to Jochanaan’s head. This scene should unsettle us, and it does that here, as in another Scandinavian’s recent recording—Nina Stemme with Antonio Pappano (EMI, 6/07)—or a previous generation’s Ljuba Welitsch/Fritz Reiner (Walhall) and Maria Cebotari/Clemens Krauss (Gebhardt). The conductors are crucial here. Lintu (like Pappano, but cooler) and Ondine’s recordists give us an extraordinary amount of detail (including the offstage organ, and every freakish percussion clink).
Elsewhere the conductor/soloist chemistry does not bind so well. Their Tristan “Verklärung”—as we should call it, like the title of this disc—is careful and reverent, and they seem undecided as to how much joy and grief to allow Tannhäuser’s Elisabeth or sad grandeur to allow Ariadne on her island. Interpretatively more definite, if rather straight-faced, is Daphne’s wishing to be a tree. There’s much skill in this recital—and that extends to playing and recording—but only the Lohengrin and Salome scenes emerge as fully coloured portraits.