Krassimira Stoyanova / Vesselina Kasarova / Jendrik Springer - National Theatre Munich, 20 July 2010
Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova joined Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova last night for perhaps the least intimate lieder recital I've ever been to. Even from the second row of the stalls, the huge orchestra pit of the National Theatre created a gulf that was never quite bridged. It didn't help that both singers were firmly lodged behind both music stands and recording microphones all night. They consulted their music frequently - another barrier - I wondered if they simply hadn't rehearsed quite enough. Goodness knows what it was like from the top deck.
Beginning with the Schumann duets Sommerruh and An den Abendstern, both singers were in excellent form, but there was more individual artistry than empathy on show. Their vocal timbres simply don't blend well, and Kasarova's exaggerated rubato left her trailing the more four-square Stoyanova. They may share a nationality, but their styles couldn't be more different. Stoyanova is the consummate old-school technician, Kasarova the wilful individualist. True to form, Stoyanova sported a conservative black gown and diamonds, Kasarova a strapless harem-panted jumpsuit.
But gradually the evening warmed up. Stoyanova's solo Puccini section (Sole e amore, Storiella d'amore and Ad una morta), delivered in truly operatic style, demonstrated her awesome breath control, seamless legato and pearly tone, if few consonants. She was joined by Kasarova for an unholy Beata viscera.
Kasarova's highly idiosyncratic style surprisingly complemented the Brahms lieder (Junge Lieder, Von ewiger Liebe and Unbewegte laue Luft) of her solo turn. Everything is larger-than-life - the pronounced register breaks, the emphatic delivery, the sliding and swooping, the scarily tenorial chest voice - and from a technical standpoint, far from 'correct'. Yet she exerts such a compelling authority over her material that you can almost believe this is the way it was meant to sung.
There was a much greater rapport between the two singers for Die Meere and Die Schwestern - genuinely funny for once. Kasarova's natural comedic gifts and Stoyanova's glacial elegance set each other off perfectly here.
Both seemed most at home with an all-Tchaikovsky second half that also showcased a virtuosic touch with the postludes from Jendrik Springer. Here finally was a connection with the texts and with each other that hadn't quite been fulfilled earlier in the evening.