Waltraud Meier: A Portrait of the Singer

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: TDK
WORKS: Das Lied von der Erde
PERFORMER: Waltraud Meier (mezzo-soprano), Torsten Kerl (tenor); WDR SO/Semyon Bychkov (Philharmonie, Cologne, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-WMLVE

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For the non-German market, at least, the priorities seem wrong with this release. A profile of the German mezzo Waltraud Meier would seem to be just the sort of ‘added extra’ to fill out a full operatic performance – the kind of thing that Opus Arte, almost singularly among DVD companies, provides as a matter of course.

Instead, this revealing but lumbering 85-minute portrait is treated as the main item, with an admittedly generous concert of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (with tenor Torsten Kerl and Semyon Bychkov conducting the WDR orchestra) tacked on. An all-too-rare Covent Garden appearance this month as Ortrud in Lohengrin is the obvious UK peg.

The film certainly encapsulates why Meier has been one of the most highly regarded of Wagnerian singers since she first came to international attention singing Kundry at Bayreuth 20 years ago. Sadly, there’s no footage of her in that signature role, though there are some brief snatches of her in rehearsal for Die Walküre (as Sieglinde with Domingo) and Tristan und Isolde, as well as stage appearances as Ortrud, Amneris (Aida), Marie (Wozzeck), and so on.

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In conversation she comes across as a singer of rare intelligence and dissects the craft behind her art with great insight (the subtitling is good, if absent from the musical excerpts), though apart from the odd scene of her shopping, or dining out, or cleaning her bike, the ‘woman behind the artist’ element to the film is a little unfocused. It would be good to have more of Meier’s stage roles on DVD, but the Das Lied here is a good example of her commitment to text and feeling, though Bychkov’s accompaniment is a little bland. Matthew Rye