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April, 2004- Nr. 4


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Wagner is coming of Age

  … a new age that is. No more do we associate Wagner with dusty or ideologies of old, no, the stories of the all too human Nordic gods, half gods and their off-spring, of people used by and for the purpose of serving the needs of others is a now story, a story that fits any age.

That is what two of the stars of the COC’s Walküre told us in an intimate and friendly interview. Frances Ginzer and Peteris Eglitis met with us in the downtown Hotel Novotel, conveniently located in very close proximity to the COC’s rehearsal facilities and the Hummingbird Centre, where in early April the monumental Ring cycle will begin Walküre, a story of revenge, betrayal and all those other things that gods and humans are famous for.

How the production is being presented is not quite clear, the creators want us to be surprised. It is known though that it is not a traditional performance in the sense that the costumes and set are original period but inspired by the industrial revolution. We believe this instantly when we know that Atom Agoyan is involved in this dramatic production. His very creatively artistic Salome, though unfortunately timed because of the war in Afghanistan, still lingers lively in our minds and image repositories.

Discussing the opera with the two famous singing stars was like discussing a good and familiar book. Everyone had read it, but had different perspectives on it. The two singers certainly were close together in their interpretation of the work since they have performed together before and are now developing it again under different direction. This is what makes it interesting, keeps it fresh for them. Just imagine having to sing a certain part again and again for a large part of your life because you seem to be so extremely suited to it. Both agree that they can still find new aspects of their roles.

Peteris EglitisPeteris Eglitis, a very tall and handsome Baltic type bass baritone, who lives in Berlin, but hails from the USA, his parents are from one of the Baltic states, is relatively young and still full of wonder.

Francis GinzerFrances Ginzer, a Canadian Soprano, also lives in Germany and is married to a German. A bit more seasoned than Peteris who sings Wotan to her Brünnhilde, she has sung so many Wagner roles that Google turns up pages and pages with her name and praise dripping from the rafters wherever she goes. Listening to her recorded voice sent shivers up and down my spine. And Peteris I recall from a precious production of the COC’s Oedipus with Michel Schade. His voice is huge and I can hardly wait to hear him in a big part like Wotan.

It has to be said that his is about as good as it gets! These singers are the crème de la crème of Wagner singers, who cannot believe their good fortune to be able to do this.

How does one become a Wagner singer, was one of my questions. "Your teacher tells you and in my case I did not believe it at first", says Francis. Peteris nods agreement to a similar scenario. Clearly voices change, develop; gain strength and resilience, all things one needs a lot of, especially for Wagner.

"What advice to aspiring singers?"

"You have to really want it!" says Peteris and Francis nods this time. "My coach used to say that you have to develop a killer instinct. Personally I believe that pioneer grit is a better way of describing it. It really is hard work."

We know it is hard work and discuss the necessary body weight you have to have in order to withstand the strain and have enough stamina. No one can do that a waif. And in the order of magnitudes a statuesque body on a huge stage looks about as appropriate as Daffodils belong in a spring meadow in England. Besides, who would believe such massive personalities with such huge egos in tiny puny bodies?

The Canadian Opera Company presents Rigoletto and Walküre in early April in the Hummingbird Centre. Go to www.coc.ca and find out all you need to know to enjoy these fine operas, including the storylines, but what ever you do, do not miss Walküre. I have a feeling that history is in the making here.

See you there!

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister

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