August 2, 2021

Nina Stemme, the first Isolde of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence

It was not until her day off, Thursday, June 17, to meet her. But the Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, is there, blond hair and a short bob, blue-green eyes, in the small salon of the Grand Théâtre de Provence. Ten o’clock in the morning sharp. It’s early for a singer who, the night before, gave the general with piano of Tristan and Isolde, by Wagner, performed for the first time at the Festival d’art lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, where the great Wagnerian will make her debut, from July 2 to 15, in the mythical role of Isolde, of which she has been, since 2003 , an absolute reference. A position conquered at the Glyndebourne Festival, in the production directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff (DVD Opus Arte), resumed in particular at the Baden-Baden Festival, in 2007. Fascinating ease and presence, the singer (who reminded us of Romy Schneider from The important thing is to love, 1975, de Zulawski) embodied a lover of charm and fire.

Warm amber voice, powerful projection, generous breath, a line of song of incomparable grace and shape

“At the time, I was a young woman who played a very haughty young princess. Today, I am a mature woman, which corresponds moreover to the wish of the director, Simon Stone. The feelings, the emotions, deepened. They are less violent and more human. ” Putting a role sung over a hundred times on the job is what fascinates Nina Stemme. Did she polish it for that, this character worked under the rule of the Wagnerian pianist and vocal coach Richard Trimborn, familiar with conductors like Carlos Kleiber or Wolfgang Sawallisch? “For two years, we worked measure by measure, harmony by harmony, phrase by phrase. He even followed me to my home in Stockholm when I met my children and my husband, who is a scenographer. I always knew I was going to live with Isolde for a long time. “

Read also: Nina Stemme, an Isolde of charm and fire in “Tristan”

Warm amber voice, powerful projection, generous breath, a line of song of incomparable grace and modeling: hard to believe that this sympathetic woman, in short jeans and pink top, so quietly installed in the Aix morning, will transform into a living torch on a board. And yet, it is she that we have seen love and suffer, suffer and kill, kill and die, in the sulphurous Lady Macbeth de Mzensk, by Shostakovich, staged at the Salzburg Festival in 2019 by Andreas Kriegenburg, conducted by the late Mariss Jansons. The same one that set the Opéra Bastille on fire in The Maiden of the West, by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, in 2014, where she camped a Minnie more Calamity Jane than Caroline Ingalls, desperate to save her lover from the gallows. Strong woman. Telluric woman. But also capable of infinite nuances, as in the famous Wagnerian “Liebestod”, this death of love from Isolde, in which she likes to drown. “In Wagner, you need a great endurance to keep the same instrument throughout the opera, she sighs. But you also have to know how to play with the orchestra, especially in this “Liebestod” written so that the voice plunges into the music, emerges from it, and plunges again. “

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