Singing with no straining for effect (Strasbourg 2008)

“Anne Schwanewilms belongs to a pedigree of sopranos almost forgotten today: a line which stretches back beyond Elisabeth Grummer to Tiana Lemnitz, Meta Seinemeyer and, above all, to Delia Reinhardt. All of them, by their bearing and control, and without a single unnecessary effect of gesture or voice, understood how to disseminate a radiance from the stage. They were self-effacing and expressed themselves through word and music alone. By the liquidity of their tone and the naturalness of their expression, they created that sympathy which is the truest communication of all.

With Schwanewilms, there were, first of all, the supreme moments at Glyndebourne. […] In EURYANTHE she rediscovered the lost secret of the heroine whose luminous, silent spirituality is the model for Wagner’s Elsa. In IDOMENEO the raging and follies of her Elettra brought into the open, with a controlled desperation, the inner torments of a conflicted soul. No wonder the characters of Richard Strauss, with their spirit and different levels of soul, inspired by the words and feelings given them by Hofmannsthal, should have pressed themselves on an artist born with the inflexion which says everything because it says just enough. Earlier, as a mezzo, she coloured eloquently the full range of her tessitura. As a soprano, she has chosen to float rather then strike, taking the route of Desdemona, not Salome. She has sung Strauss’s Chrysothemis (the most youthful and unsophisticated of his heroines), Ariadne and, finally, the Marschallin.

Towards the end of Act One on the unhappy stage of the Bastille [in January 2006], the hyperactive production had finally calmed down and the sublime music of solitude and reflection, conducted with ideal transparency by Philippe Jordan, could finally begin. That was when the real curtain rose on this ROSENKAVALIER, with the monologue in which the magical symbolism of words and music began to take hold and make sense. A rapt silence gripped a house whose acoustic up to that point seemed constructed of metal. Now it was all honey and silk, and the melancholy of a painful rift. Somewhere in heaven, Hofsmannthal must have been weeping, while Strauss smiled. This miracle lasted half an hour.

At Salzburg, as the very different Carlotta Nardi in Schreker’s DIE GEZEICHNETEN, equally risky and daring, Schwanewilms created afresh the achievement of Delia Reinhardt in the role. She maintained a classic equilibrium and extraordinary bearing throughout the long act, at first fine and reserved and then, in her bearing, and gift, of herself, scorching. When an artist has this rare ability, on stage, to obliterate the supposed borders and contradictions between the internal and the external, then another kingdom lies open: the Lied.”

By Andre Tubeuf, author of Wagner et Bayreuth; Le Lied Allemand; and Richard Strauss, ou le Voyager et son Ombre

Extract from programme article for Anne Schwanewilms’s Liederabend at L’Opera National du Rhin, Strasbourg, March 8, 2008