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KS Nina Stemme - Sopran


Recital Wigmore Hall, Wigmore Hall, März 2014

«Nina Stemme's performance at Wigmore Hall was almost superhuman in its transcendent beauty, says Rupert Christiansen </p> <p>Lightning seems to strike twice quite regularly at the Wigmore Hall – barely a fortnight after Christian Gerhaher’s unforgettable Schumann evening comes another concert of superlative lieder singing, this time from the Swedish soprano Nina Stemme. </p> <p>Best known as a Wagnerian, Stemme at 50 is surely in her artistic prime and no opportunity to hear her glorious voice should be missed. Unlike some of her kind, she does not trade on naked power or brute volume: what makes her most notable is the richness, warmth, and coloration of her broad middle register. This characteristic puts her more in the line of the Norwegian Kirsten Flagstad than her closer compatriot Birgit Nilsson, and gives her singing its marvellous tonal security, devoid of any hint of matronly hoot or pompous grandstanding. </p> <p>Her programme for this BBC Lunchtime Recital (which will be broadcast again on Radio 3 on Sunday, April 6, at 1pm) was astutely chosen, opening with a group of plangent Schumann settings, Op.90, which gathered in intensity until they reached an emotional climax in the anguished Requiem. </p> <p>Stemme’s superlative breath control and legato were evident throughout, but it was only during the ensuing performance of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder that the full glory of her instrument rolled out: glowingly impassioned and sensual, yet also imbued with a stately grandeur, it gave these erotically charged songs a hymn-like rapture. This was music for mountain-tops and blazing sunsets, almost superhuman in its transcendent beauty. </p> <p>Anyone who has experienced Stemme’s sublime Isolde might have expected this; what was surprising was the complete change of mood and style she effected for a final group of Kurt Weill songs. One might have thought that she was too dignified a performer for this demotically down-and-dirty music, but this proved not to be the case at all. </p> <p>Together with her inspiring pianist Matti Hirvonen, she made “Nannas Lied” and “Surabaya Johnny” seem as emotionally sharp yet casually spontaneous as the composer and his librettist Brecht must have dreamed of them being. A simpler proposition was “My Ship”, a hit number from Lady in the Dark, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, that Stemme made simply enchanting. </p> <p>There was more Schumann and Weill in the encores, but the capacity audience was left hungry for more, their appetites whetted for Stemme’s return to London later this year for a Salome in concert and Isolde at Covent Garden.»

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 01.04.2014