Over two nights at Carnegie Hall, Yannick Nézet-Séguin led the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in an superior show of its would possibly. After an eventful season, by which considerations past music generally pulled consideration from the stage, these back-to-back concert events had been a reminder of the orchestra’s pre-eminence in theatrical materials.
Each live performance paired excerpts from an opera with a programmatic piece, an inherently dramatic kind that depicts a story or a character utilizing instrumental forces. The efficiency on Wednesday matched Richard Strauss’s “Don Juan” with Act I of Wagner’s “Die Walküre,” and Thursday’s all-Berlioz program positioned arias and an interlude from “Les Troyens” alongside “Symphonie Fantastique,” a groundbreaking work that sounds extra like a music drama than a symphony.
Opening with “Don Juan” felt like a assertion of objective. Here had been world-class musicians tackling a bravura symphonic poem that established the modernist bona fides of the 25-year-old Strauss. The orchestra flaunted the depth and breadth of its tone within the opening motif, an upwardly swinging phrase dripping with swagger. The horns coated themselves in glory, and the concertmaster David Chan and the oboist Nathan Hughes contributed shapely solos. At one level, the ensemble’s sound grew so frenzied it turned strident. At the tip, the gang roared.
The opera had come to the live performance corridor, and it was going to boost a superb noise.
This was Nézet-Séguin the extrovert, who deploys the orchestra within the opera home like an instrument of destiny, maintaining the baseline quantity at mezzo forte. The orchestra comes throughout as an exterior power that acts on the characters somewhat than one which sympathetically expresses their innermost emotions. The finest opera conductors, although, know when a state of affairs requires one or the opposite.
In that mild, the ending of “Don Juan” revealed a weak spot: Nézet-Séguin is simpler at huge moments than small ones. Strauss offers his swashbuckling Don Juan a poetic, even philosophical, demise, however with Nézet-Séguin, he simply kind of dropped lifeless.
You may hear Nézet-Séguin understanding the dynamic emphases in actual time at Carnegie. Wagner constructed the twilight setting of Act I of “Die Walküre” out of mellow, amber-colored devices — cellos, bassoons, clarinets, horns. Nézet-Séguin, although, targeted much less on temper and extra on intoxicating, surging romance. It definitely sounded as if Siegmund and Sieglinde’s fateful union was blessed by their father, Wotan, king of gods: Nézet-Séguin summoned divine — that’s, superior — enjoying from the musicians.
Christine Goerke (Sieglinde) and Brandon Jovanovich (Siegmund), each Wagner veterans, will not be singers to be blown off a stage. Goerke, who has sung Brünnhilde, simply navigated Sieglinde’s music along with her dramatic soprano, cresting the climaxes as an alternative of getting washed-out by them.
Jovanovich had the extra grueling half. The writing for Siegmund consistently pushes a tenor into a muscle-y sound on the high of the employees, and Jovanovich’s backside notes paid the worth, taking over a gravelly gurgle. The center and high of his voice remained virile, good-looking and taut, and his narration cycled by way of a exceptional collection of feelings — susceptible, proud, candy, disdainful, morally upright — earlier than discovering transcendence.
Eric Owens, glued to his rating, couldn’t suppress the the Aristocracy of his bass-baritone because the brutish Hunding; as an alternative he channeled the character’s villainy with an stubborn, distrustful method.
After “Die Walküre,” Nézet-Séguin insisted that the cello part stand for applause — a touching acknowledgment of the main function it performed. He additionally teased viewers members as they moved up the aisles to depart: “We do have an encore planned,” he stated, stopping individuals of their tracks — “it’s called tomorrow night’s concert.”
At the beginning of the following night, the strings’ quicksilver high quality in Berlioz’s “Le Corsaire” Overture indicated a very totally different live performance was in retailer.
Nézet-Séguin took pains to quiet the orchestra for Joyce DiDonato’s two arias from Berlioz’s “Les Troyens.” DiDonato’s mezzo-soprano shouldn’t be the everyday one for the function of Dido — full, wealthy, expansive — however she defied expectations, sharpening her mild, glittery timbre into a blade for the scena that culminates in “Adieu, fière cité.” Rattled and debased after Aeneas abandons her, Dido fantasizes about murdering the Trojans, however finally, she accepts her destiny, recalling sensuous reminiscences of her time with the questing hero. DiDonato forged a spell, ending the aria on a thread of sound, her Dido a shell of her former self — however what an beautiful shell it was.
There was enjoyable, too: Nézet-Séguin bounced joyfully to the rollicking bits of “Le Corsaire” and dug deep into the twisted, macabre finale of “Symphonie Fantastique,” with its cackling ghouls and sulfurous air.
After elevating hell, Nézet-Séguin pivoted once more, welcoming DiDonato again to the stage for an encore, Strauss’s “Morgen.” As he calmed the orchestra to a whisper, DiDonato and the concertmaster Benjamin Bowman intertwined their silvery sounds. This time, Nézet-Séguin acquired the stability good.