Christine Brewer: Brunnhilde, Beethoven and Strauss - A busy few months ahead

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 16 December 2011 | 4:25:00 am

Dominant as ever in the concert hall this winter, Christine Brewer – styled “the ideal modern Wagnerian soprano” by the Los Angeles Times – joins the San Francisco Symphony and guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen for three concert performances of excerpts from Götterdämmerung, the closing chapter of Wagner’s monumental Ring cycle (Dec 8-10). Following her recent account of the German composer’s Wesendonck Lieder with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, “a performance that was a model of vocal allure and musical intelligence” (South Florida Classical Review), Brewer reprises the work – coupled with Beethoven’s “Ah! perfido” – with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Ward Stare (Jan 20 & 21). She returns to Beethoven for four performances of the Missa solemnis with the Boston Symphony led by Kurt Masur, first at the orchestra’s Boston home (Feb 23-25) and then at New York’s Carnegie Hall (March 6). Early in the new year, the “superlative Strauss singer” (New York Times) assays the great late Romantic’s Four Last Songs with the St. Louis Symphony under David Robertson (Jan 13 & 14).

It was with the Missa solemnis that the Grammy Award-winning soprano helped the New York Philharmonic close out the 2009-10 season, prompting the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini to report: “Brewer sang splendidly, floating the soaring solo lines yet bringing some Wagnerian intensity even to hushed pianissimos.” With the Boston Symphony – at both Symphony Hall and Carnegie Hall – Brewer will be joined by mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill, and bass-baritone Eric Owens.

Brewer: Strauss - Befreit

A week after her Carnegie Hall appearance, the soprano will make her much-anticipated Los Angeles Opera debut (March 14 & 17), starring in the hit Santa Fe Opera production of Albert Herring, which she headlined last season. In Santa Fe Opera’s new staging,Benjamin Britten’s comic opera proved to be “the hit of the season,” and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch praised the production’s “first-rate cast,” naming Brewer the standout star who “gave a terrific performance in every particular.” The Santa Fe New Mexicanconfirmed that although “Santa Fe Opera fills the leading roles with a cast that spills into the realm of the starry … the show is stolen by the soprano Christine Brewer.” At LA Opera, Brewer will be joined, as in Santa Fe, by tenor Alek Shrader in the title role, under Paul Curran’s direction. James Conlon, the company’s Music Director, will conduct.


On Mother’s Day, the versatile soprano presents a recital of music by Samuel Barber, Alan Smith, Charles Ives, Virgil Thomson with her regular collaborator, pianist Craig Rutenberg, at New York’s Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center (May 13). The recital also includes a premiere of a song setting by Alan Smith of a poem that Brewer’s daughter Elisabeth wrote called "For the Color of My Mother.”

Mother’s Day is not the only American custom Brewer honors each year: another is the backyard Hootenanny that she and her family, natives of Lebanon, Illinois, have hosted around Labor Day for the past quarter-century. As Brewer explains, what has since grown into a time-honored tradition began quite spontaneously:

“My husband plays guitar and dulcimer, I play guitar, harmonica, sometime mandolin; my cousin’s a very good guitarist, and we had a good friend who played banjo. We got some bales of hay and put them in our back yard and invited a few friends and neighbors – we had maybe 20 or 30 folks that first time.