Taking the Right Turn: William Littler Follows Adrianne Pieczonka's Path to Wagner and Bayreuth

Opera Canada, September-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Taking the Right Turn: William Littler Follows Adrianne Pieczonka's Path to Wagner and Bayreuth


LEAVING THE RAILWAY STATION IN the Bavarian town of Bayreuth leads to an immediate choice between a left turn down Bahnhofstrasse or a right turn up Burgerreuther Strasse. In April 1871, Richard Wagner initially turned left, heading in the direction of the Margravial Opera House, said at the time to possess Germany's largest stage. He needed such a stage for his outsized music dramas, in particular his grand tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Disappointed by the ornate, 18th-century theatre he discovered across the street from the old palace of the Margraves, but charmed by Bayreuth itself, he subsequently retraced his steps, took the right turn and headed up a gentle slope to what is still known today as the Green Hill. There, with the financial support of King Ludwig II, he built his own festival theatre. Ever since it opened in August 1876 with the first complete Ring cycles, it has come to represent not only a geographic but also an artistic summit, worthy of a climb by anyone--performer as well as audience member--eager to experience the music dramas in the specific physical environment constructed for them.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This summer, it was Adrianne Pieczonka's turn to make the climb, singing Sieglinde in Die Walkure in Bayreuth's new production of the Ring for her Festspielhaus debut. And an auspicious one it proved. At the end of the first performance, on July 27, the audience gave Pieczonka a tumultuous roar of approval. The New York Times pronounced her "luminous soprano" a standout, and London's Guardian described her "radiantly sung Sieglinde" as the "vocal highlight" of the performance. The German press was just as enthusiastic. Die Zeit hailed her as the "Sieglinde of our time," while the Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote that "of all soloists, hers was the highest level of vocal accomplishment."

Not that Pieczonka was a stranger to Wagner's music dramas when she arrived in Bayreuth. Her Wagnerian credentials date back to 1993, when she sang Freia in Das Rheingold in Vienna. Since then she has added Elsa in Lohengrin, Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and Elisabeth in Tannhauser as well as Sieglinde, which she also sings this September in the Canadian Opera Company's (and Canada's) first complete presentation of the Ring.

A born Wagnerian? Not quite. The University of Toronto Opera Division assigned the statuesque student from Burlington, ON, a variety of secondary roles in a broad repertory, not even sure whether her destiny would be as a soprano or mezzo until Mary Morrison worked with her to develop what has since become one of the particular glories of her voice, an open, ringing top. Her professional debut, in 1988, was with the COC as the First Prisoner in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and in her first season as a contract artist with the Volksoper in Vienna, the then 25-year-old was already portraying (in German) the Countess in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She achieved one of her greatest early successes as Tatiana in Harry Kupfer's production of Yevgeny Onegin for the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and it was as Ellen Orford in Britten's Peter Grimes that she made her debut in Hamburg. When, after a hiatus of several years, the COC brought her back to its Hummingbird Centre stage in 1994, it was as Mimi in La boheme. Talk about versatility!

Pieczonka describes herself as "somewhere between a lyric and a dramatic soprano," which places her roughly in the category of a lyrico-spinto, able to move vocally in either direction. It is from this vocal perspective that she approaches Wagner, rather than as a heroic belter in the Birgit Nilsson manner. Like her fellow Canadian, Ben Heppner, she has thus far shied away from the very heaviest Wagner roles (in her case Isolde and Brunnhilde) in order to preserve the flexibility in her voice to be able to continue singing Mozart. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Taking the Right Turn: William Littler Follows Adrianne Pieczonka's Path to Wagner and Bayreuth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.