Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

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December 20, 2006

Angelika Kirschlager
Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/NYT 2006
On Tuesday, Angelika Kirchschlager appeared at the Segerstrom Concert Hall in a stop on her current recital tour across the US and Europe. I had some trepidation about attending this program given my prior experiences in this still far from finished though pretty space. I don’t mind the two-hour drive if the pay off is worth it, but the drawbacks can be many in this venue. On the other hand, I’m quite fond of Kirchschlager. My most recent chance to hear her was in Berlin in April as part of one of my favorite events of 2006 – a concert performance of Pelléas et Mélisande with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle. So, on balance, I figured for the week before Xmas it was worth a go.

I'm glad to report, it was well worth the trip. Kirchschlager's programs on this tour have varied widely. Here, there were still 5 Schubert lieder including a marvelous performance of Du bist die Ruh. However, the rest of the program consisted of somewhat less standard fare – 4 English songs by Haydn, Grieg’s Six Songs Op. 48, 4 songs from Brahms and a grab-bag of bits and pieces in both French and German from Liszt. Kirchschlager was in great form and was able to deliver the necessary dramatic content without overwhelming any of the works. Of course, some of the songs were stronger than others, but even the worst of the Liszt wasn’t horrible and there were easily as many from that set that were among the evenings big winners including Oh! Quand je dors and Über allen Gipfeln. The ever-present Malcom Martineau provided nearly flawless accompaniment.

Kirchschlager also showed a sense of humor and a winning personality in dealing with the seemingly inevitable problems imposed by the space and audiences. She kept her poise while admonishing the audience not only for endless noise and coughing, but also in quieting those elements who can’t seem to hear enough of their own incessant clapping. I am usually not much of a stickler about the "clapping at the wrong time" issue, but I can’t understand why some in this audience initially seemed intent on pushing a two-hour program to 3 and a half. Of course at 40% capacity, this was the largest crowd I’ve seen in the new hall to date. It’s a shame that so few in Orange County seems very interested in their curvy new hall. Apparently everyone was busy across the street Xmas shopping at South Coast Plaza. The Segerstrom Concert Hall now appears to be the OC’s best-kept secret after less than six months in operation.


I’m writing this while listening to the Sirius broadcast of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor live from the Met. The fist 40 minutes have been great. I'm surprised and glad Dun elected to feature so many Chinese opera and music elements so prominently. I can’t wait to see it next week, but hearing the prompter recite apparently all of Domingo’s lines right before he sings them is getting distracting on the radio.

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