For Rolando Villazon´s 2010 March comeback go here. The post below covers his 2008 Vienna comeback.
I have been looking around for a live report from Rolando Villazon´s come-back as Werther yesterday at the Vienna State Opera, and here is is - from the poster Severina from Vienna at the Tamino Klassik Forum (full text in german here - in my translation below):
Dear Villazon fans!
Actually, I had really hoped to report today of our favorite tenors brilliant comeback as Werther, but at least from my perspective, it wasn´t. Measured by the cheers and final standing ovations alone it was, but at the Vienna State Opera that means little. Once the Viennese love someone, they love them forever, and we love Rolando Villazon very much. He knows that as well and that is definitely why he wanted his first opera appearance after nearly 7 months break to be here in Vienna. He would have been much better advised to have started in a small, or at least smaller house. I love him as well, but I do not belong to the fans who leave their ears in the cloakroom. Now I will try and be specific:
First, the good news: Regarding the beautiful timbre, Rolando is completely like he was before. The voice shimmers again in all the colors of the rainbow and does no longer sound so pale and dull as in the Berlin Manon. However, the voice is very, very, very small. Now, he has never had a big voice, but it was always very viable and also filled our giant auditorium easily. Today, however, I heard (was it just me?) a Werther in a continuous piano, which is also beautiful in the phases, but there are also dramatic passages in the opera- and especially top tones. Now, I am truly not a C-fetishist, but occasionally it's quite nice if a high tone is recognizable as such, and it just wasn´t for me. "Oh nature" he sang already transposed, but with beautiful phrasing in the final tone - that is OK, but then it went gradually down from there. In the 2nd act he used some impressive "sighs of desperation" around most high notes - something I also wouldn´t expect from a Rolando Villazon, and at "Traduirre ..." in the 3rd act I almost didn´t hear the phrases in the aria at all. And, furthermore with Marco Armiliato on the podium, Rolando was lucky to have one of the most supporting conductors available who conducted almost a chamber Werther to not overshadow Rolando completely. The final scene of the opera was almost perfect thoug: Because he fitted the "dying voice" perfect, and he, in the truest sense of the word, separated his voice and soul from the body.
Artistically RV was obviously a wonderful Werther from the beginning, but that alone is just too little on an opera stage, but then the end of the opera was simply indescribable. So moving - I would almost say "authentic" – have we never before seen a Werther die in Vienna. There was not one single false gesture, no-melodramatic stumbling around, no pathetic eye-rolling - Rolando produced maximum effect with a minimum of movement. It cannot be done a any better (yes I am really curious about the reviewers: Araiza was once criticized badly because of the final scene, which he played like Villazon did today).
As I said, the applause was huge, and from the bottom of my heart I am happy for him, because that may give him the necessary security. In many passages I had the feeling that he simply did not dare trust his voice yet. Might be that he also sounds even better on Tuesday, which I really hope. At least, RV did not make the mistake to push his voice, which would immediately have been his ruin. He gave what he could give today. And since it nevertheless is the first attempt at ”walking” after 7 months, I just hope that in addition to the beauty of the voice he will have the power to return.
What I find so sympathetic with RV is his ability to be happy, just like a small child. As he showed on his first solo curtain with indescribable applause (as I said, I really give it to him, but he could ......), where he then stood with lowered head for a long time, crushed a few tears, and then he jumped into the air, yelled (the loudest sound I heard from him this evening), and made his usual funny moves. And, of course, as always, he animated his colleagues at the ensemble curtains to "La Ola".
Conclusion: The hope is alive, but today at least, I still see little reason for celebration. And believe me, I would be very happy to be proven wrong by others, if it it generally believed that Rolando returned at the top of his powers.
Reviews (this post will be updated with reviews when they arrive):
AP (Associated Press) was also there, and the reviewer displays similar concerns on the power of the voice, but otherwise found his performance very moving (more here).
Der neue Merker (link here - in German) - basically feels the power of RV´s voice is gone, but he may work that out to his advantage!
Der Standard (link here - in German) - also praises RV´s acting. Does not write about the voice!
Or check out Opera Chic who has also published some live reports.
So - what to make of this comeback? Simply impossible to say without having heard for yourself. With so much hype around the whole thing, it´s hard to know who or what to believe. Including this post! In addition, RV should be given some time to fully recover before being "scrutinized". So this is the last RV post from me, until I actually hear him sing myself or something significant happens...Looking forward to the Verdi Requiem in Berlin - am actually trying to reschedule a meeting in Berlin so I´ll be able to see this (assuming I´ll get a ticket).
I think your conclusion is wise. Quite often, anyway, a first night isn't a night to remember for stellar performances.
Clearly, the fact that he, presumably with the agreement of his doctor and house management, has returned, on schedule,is a very good thing. And absolutely right that the reception at Vienna was so warm. As for objective, critical appraisal, only time will tell.
i was there on the 11th in the 8th row of "parterre" - and, yes, the problem is real: although RV sang without pushing, his voice was clean and lean, and was melting with Sophie Koch's beautifully, it was at times hardly audible even so close to the stage. Besides, his high notes were sometimes falsettoish. The only other time i saw him live was in London (singing Lensky in 1996)- and if his volume level back then was 100 %, now i would say it was around only 50 %....
Nevertheless, his portrayal of Werther was most moving, a perfomance that remains with you perhaps forever. It was genuinely heartfelt and tender - and it was not only due to his exceptional theatre presence, but to equal degree to the exceptional beauty of his phrasing and a well tought-out use of different timbres and an expressive shading of his voice.
i can only hope that he gets back some of his power later: otherwise he won't ever become the dream spinto tenor he could have become. At the moment even cavaradossi seems out of his reach - he could still be a more than serviceable pinkerton though...
i also felt somewhat worried about him singing des grieux next week: the saint sulpice scene might be to much for him at this stage. i hope he will be able to prove that i was fainthearted....
sorry, i was wrong: RV's ROH Lensky in the Pimlott/Jordan Onegin was of course in 2006 and not in 1996 - it seems that it takes me ages to get used to this century :(
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