The Wandering Welsh | Culture

The Wandering Welsh | Culture

It seems like yesterday, but now it's been thirty years since the world started talking about Bryn Terfel in 1989, when he came in second place in the famous contest BBC Singer of the World which is held every two years in Cardiff, in his native Wales, and which has launched the careers of great singers like Karita Mattila or Anja Harteros. He then received the first prize, another bass, the sadly deceased Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Both share - or shared - not only vocal record and, therefore, repertoire, but an expansive personality that seemed to fill every corner of the places where they performed. But Terfel's natural sympathy, his antidivism (he is the son of farmers), his desire to try everything, to sing everything, to The weddings of Figaro to Sweeney Todd, has turned that second prize into an anecdote. Three decades later, Terfel is still at the top.

The recitals with orchestra are not the best means to gauge the virtues of a singer: they serve, in the best of cases, to verify their vocal state. No star runs unnecessary risks, they sing what is strictly necessary (in Madrid, Terfel must have narrowly exceeded forty minutes) and, depending on their ability on stage, they can achieve a lot with very little. Something similar to this last is what the Welsh bass has done in Madrid, in his long delayed presentation at the Teatro Real: he has come, sung and defeated.

Works by Wagner, Offenbach, Boito, Weill, Rodgers, Frederick Loewe and Jerry Bock. Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone). Orchestra Holder of the Royal Theater. Director: Josep Caballé Domenech. Teatro Real, February 22.

Wagneriano of long route, the voice of Terfel accuses, although in smaller measure of the habitual thing, to have sung so many times The Flying Dutchman (He starred in opera in concert version in Madrid three years ago with the National Orchestra of Spain directed by David Afkham), The nibelung ring (always the character of Wotan) and The master singers of Nuremberg (which premiered, also in concert version, at the Welsh National Opera). After a hasty and confusing prelude to the third act of Lohengrin, Terfel gave us a brief note by Hans Sachs, a monologue of the shoemaker in the second act, in a rather flat interpretation and not always, as the score indicates, "very delicate". The absence of surtitles throughout the concert made things very difficult for those who did not know the interpreted repertoire.

The excellent Orchestra Holder of the Royal Theater also did not show its best version in a forgettable Cavalcade of the Valkyries, but it was the toll that had to be paid to hear Wotan's farewell from the end of The Valkyrie. Terfel has lost power and roundness in his privileged voice, but, when he wants, manages to draw resources that seemed hidden. Here his emotional involvement was increasing, after a start again too routine and sung with trade and little else. Seconded by his prodigious gestuality (shortly before, during and after the music associated with Loge, when he gradually left the stage while the orchestra was still playing), for a few bass that retain their homogeneous color and for their long experience in acting of this music, Terfel gradually heated up the initial coldness and started the first sincere and intense applause. When going out to greet, various gestures of closeness and camaraderie with the first violins, unthinkable in any great divos, did even more to shorten the distance between soloist and audience. Terfel never seems installed in a distant watchtower.

Once the Wagnerian exigencies were finished, the singer was already entering very comfortable territory for his vast capacities. After an overture of The belle Hélène of Offenbach (it is necessary to suppose that a commemorative gesture of the bicentennial of his birth), what better directed Josep Caballé Domenech, the Welshman offered one of his favorite arias, "They are the spirito che nega", of the Mefistofele of Arrigo Boito. As it could not be less, his Mephistopheles is more ironic than intimidating, more teasing than evil, but it was a pleasure to listen to the constant chromatic fluctuations of the melodic line, or see him and hear him perform the whistles with the intensity and self-confidence of a boy of field. The applause, more and more delivered, went out with the chords of the harmonium that marked the beginning of Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (pretending to find some kind of congruence in the program is a company doomed to failure), in which Terfel once again showed off his refined histrionic gifts and his outstanding and crystalline diction.

The Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, a master of song and gesticulation.
The Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, a master of song and gesticulation.

The overture of Oklahoma! It marked the beginning of a final block dedicated to the American musical, a repertoire that Terfel has always cultivated and of which he is a sincere and enthusiastic admirer. "Oh, what a beautiful morning!"It was closed with a tribute to the city that welcomed it (" Oh, how beautiful is Madrid! "); "How to handle a woman"He served to pay tribute to his compatriot, the Welshman Richard Burton, whom he described in a brief spoken introduction of his" favorite interpretive personality "; and the famous "If I were a rich man", of Fiddler on the Roof, was preceded by several recited phrases of Tevye, the protagonist of the work, which linked directly with the music. Terfel, here already delivered to show off his acting skills, ended up in sleeves (short) shirt after throwing his jacket to the ground and put the audience at his feet.

In his already very distant presentation in the Lied Cycle of the Teatro de la Zarzuela, on December 21, 1995, Terfel ended his recital with a very young Malcolm Martineau (a substantial sequence of songs by Schubert, Ibert and Vaughan Williams) with six popular Welsh songs. In the midst of a frenzy of final applause at his presentation at the Teatro Real, someone shouted for him precisely a tip from Ralph Vaughan Williams, but Terfel, faithful to his roots, opted for a Welsh popular song, Ar Hyd and us, who did not sing then in Madrid. The gestures of orchestra and director made it clear that there were other prepared tips, but the recital ended there, as and when the singer wanted, who had already achieved his goal. There was not on the part of the public the habitual attitudes and a little bit exaggerated and exaggerated that dispenses lately to the divos, probably because Terfel is not it. There is no better expression to define Welsh than the untranslatable English expression larger than life and that could be freely poured as boundless. The personality of this affable, kind, close singer, a virtuoso of communicativeness, can not, in fact, be encompassed with words. You have to see it unfold on a stage to see how much can be achieved with very little. But very little, in a gifted like him, is very much.


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