Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 5

by Megan Meister

I arrived in Lyon yesterday afternoon from Dallas (via Madrid, which, by the way, has a wonderful airport in which to have a layover) and got to my hotel at 5:00, barely giving me enough time to shower and change to make a 6:30 curtain for a highly acclaimed new production of Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE.

The opera starred Clifton Forbis (who will be repeating the role in Dallas in February) and Ann Petersen, who is scheduled to make her American debut in Dallas in the 2012-2013 season in a production we haven’t announced yet.

They were magnificent, and the production was really beautiful.  The conductor was Kiril Petrenko, and the opera was staged by Alex Olle from the Catalan theater company “La fura dels Baus.”.

The stage was dominated by a huge (and I mean “fills the stage” huge) orb, that represnted the moon in Act I, and when reversed in Act II, was hollow, with windows, doors and stairs, and with magical projections became the world of the doomed lovers.

Cliff Forbis, who many of you know, started his career in the Dallas Opera chorus, must be the finest Tristan of our day.  His performance was heroic, and his third act monologue was some of the most moving singing I have ever experienced.  Leaving the theatre after the performance, Cliff said to me that he never dreamed that some twenty odd years after his very first professional audition, which was for me, by the way (in case you wondered, it was “Salut demeure” from Gounod’s FAUST) that the two of us would be walking along a deserted European street after one of his performances.

Kicking Cliff out of the chorus and telling him that he was too talented not to go out into the world and do something with his life may be the best advice I have ever given anyone !

I knew that Ann and Cliff were in the cast when I planned attending this performance, but a pleasant surprise was that Jochen Schmeckenbecher was making his role debut as Kurwenalin this production.  Jochen has moved on from the lighter roles that he sang with The Dallas Opera (Papageno, Schaunard and Dr. Falke in DIE FLEDERMAUS) and has established himself in heavier repertoire in many important European theaters.

One great new discovery in the cast was German bass Christof Fischesser, who was completely unknown to me, as King Marke.  He gave a very impressive performance, and I expect we will be hearing a lot more about him very soon.

I start hearing auditions in a little while (I expect to hear 50 or more singers over the next few days) and have to get ready.

More news soon.

Clifton Forbis and Jochen Schmeckenbecher following their performance in TRISTAN in Lyon

One Response to Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 5

Trevor Neal says: June 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I would have to agree, kicking him out of the chorus was DEFINITELY the right thing to do for a talent like his. We can all, we I, can only dream of the career he has and the fun he has doing what he loves.