Teatro Real de Madrid 2018-19 Review: Bryn Terfel in Recital

Welsh Bass-Baritone Gives A Magical Performance In Spain

By Mauricio Villa

There are good singers, there are good actors, and there are good performers. but it is a miracle of the arts when you can find all three of them combined in the same artist, as is the case with Bryn Terfel.

What this bass-baritone presented on the stage of Teatro Real on Feb. 22, 2019 was something rarely seen or heard today: the voice and the music at the service of dramatic purposes. Every accent or different approach to the same word, every glance and every gesture contributed to enhance the characters portrayed in every piece.

Terfel presented a program which included two long Wagner scenes, an aria from Boito’s “Mefistofele,” and Broadway musical songs.


After the beautifully played prelude to the third act of “Lohengrin,” Terfel walked onto the stage, gave a timid bow to an enthusiastic audience and turned around to face the orchestra behind him as he prepared for “Was duftet doch der Flieder” from “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” He sang the piece with very calm and solemn timbre and little gesturing; he mostly held his hands in front of him but with a delightful German diction, savoring each word, rejoicing in the low notes, and capturing the audience.

After an orchestral version of “The Ride of the Valkyres,” the bass-baritone took on the last scene of “Die Walküre,” which was pure magic. He gave a passion portrayal of Wotan, combined with sonorous lyricism that could be freely heard throughout the theater. Every note and gesture, whether it be a potent forte or even gentle piani in tender moments, was perfectly audible. He was so immersed in the character that he did not doubt about calling Loge by hitting the stage floor with an imaginary spear or by drawing a circle of fire with his hand in the air.

Change of Pace

After the Overture of Offenbach’s “La Belle Hélène” he delighted the audience with an unforgettable performance of “Son lo spirito che nega” from Boito’s “Mefistofele,” presenting an amusing and cynical demon who even invited the audience to whistle with him as rock star do in concerts. He was always looking for different musical dynamics to perform the several repetitions of the words ”No” and “Schifio.”

From this point onward, the recital became a pure party with melodies from classical Broadway songs which Terfel explored with enthusiasm and passion. He interpolated the Spanish sentence “Oh que bonito es Madrid” in “Oh what a beautiful morning” from “Oklahoma.” He walked from one side of the stage to the other, breaking the static nature of the recital. In one moment he threw his jacket to the floor and sang “If I were a rich man” sleeveless. He just gave a single encore – the traditional Welsh song “Ar Hyd y nos,” leaving the audience wanting for more.

Bryn Terfel had a good time and  Teatro Real’s audience did as well. However, the recital felt like it could have included a bit more music, especially in the encore segment of the program.

Maestro Josep Caballe Domenech did a solid job with the orchestra, though there was some unevenness in some segments of the performance, particularly “The Ride of the Valkyries.”

On the whole, it was a magical evening from a magnificent artist who we hope to see back in Madrid as soon as is possible.


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