Monday, 12 October 2009
Mariinsky Verdi Requiem WMC
You'll know the score by now - nabbed from the WMC
And so the final day of the Mariinsky weekend came around. Beginning at the curious early start time of 5.00pm the building filled rapidly – the only problem was that Valery Gergiev had the doors closed while he did his patented last minute rehearsal technique so that the start time was somewhere around the 5.20pm time.
With the doors closed a weak point in the WMC furniture plan became quickly apparent – apart from a few seats in each of the bars there is actually very limited seating space around the performance floors and perhaps in future it would be an idea to add a few more here and there, especially since a lot of the audience were over the age of seventy and had walked up several flights of stairs. Just a thought...
Of all the performances this was the one that had sold out in the true sense of the word. I couldn't see an empty seat in the entire house, which is the first time I can honestly say that.
And now a bit more honesty. Although I've got a recording of the Verdi Requiem on CD I've long held off listening to it simply because I wanted to hear it in the flesh – so my impressions are based on what I heard, and not what I should have heard. I hope you're catching my drift.
Risking their ear drums the four soloists, Bryn Terfel, tenor Sergei Semishkur, mezzo Ekaterina Gubanova and soprano Viktoria Yastrebova headed out on to the stage followed by Gergiev – behind them the mass of Mariinsky choral and orchestral might, in front of them...uh... an audience waiting for music.
There was a great touch from Gergiev at the beginning when eschewing his usual bow to the audience and get on with it pattern of performance he waited for several, several seconds until there really was a silence to begin with.
What followed was an hour and a half of arresting music. Having spent a lot of time listening to Verdi in general, and to Don Carlo specifically in recent weeks, I felt at home with the music even if the soloists were singing in Latin. Of all the soloists it was Semishkur who made the greatest impression with his strong and clean tenor. Terfel played his role with ease and Gubanova brought an assurance of technique and poise to the stage. Yastrebova, singing for the third night in a row (I'm guessing the Mariinsky have high hopes for her) shared in some captivating 'duets' with Gubanova.
Sitting where I was, I was glad not be any closer to the stage when Gergiev touched the EXPLODE button on the orchestra and chorus. Thrilling, violent, vivid. Even a thrash music lover would have been impressed. I feared for the structural integrity of the hall though as I'd heard one or two loud cracks from above during the past two evenings – but such was the fireball coming from the orchestra I'm not sure if even an airplane would have registered on the Richter scale.
When Yastrebova uttered her final passage and Gergiev drew the orchestra to rest the silence that fell was testament to what we had all heard. Even the compulsive clapper who began to applaud after two seconds or so had passed by in resonant silence stopped as if in recognition that the music and the performance demanded a few more moments of appreciation before applause could begin, which it did in abundance.
The weekend had been the beginning of the fifth birthday celebrations for the WMC and it couldn't have been given a better party. In the programme that accompanied all three evenings I read that the WMC and the Mariinsky have signed a five year strategic deal, which I hope means that we'll get to see the Theatre again in one form or another very soon, as it's been a weekend to savour.
A final thought - it is a shame that in an age when many performances are recorded that the weekend passed by without at least S4C or BBC Wales making a trip so that those people who couldn't get a ticket, or afford a ticket, could have enjoyed a little taste of the performances, because if this visit by the Mariinsky can't help to pull people into opera venues and concert halls then nothing ever will.