In recent years the German tenor Klaus Florian Vogt has gained fame for his lyrical portrayals of Wagnerian characters like Lohengrin, Parsifal, and Walther von Stolzing in Die Meisteresinger von Nürnberg. His concert at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with conductor Peter Schneider and the house orchestra showed a wider range of repertoire, but it is still in his home Wagnerian territory that his greatest strengths lie.

© Alex Lipp
© Alex Lipp

Vogt has a unique and instantly recognizable voice, with all the sweetness and clarity of a Mozart tenor but also the volume to cut through a Wagnerian orchestra with ease and without losing its beauty. His program progressed roughly chronologically from Mozart to Korngold, but also from the lightest singing to that most demanding of volume, sneaking up on his audience with surprising force.

Beginning his part of the program with the virtuosic “Se all’impero” from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito was a gutsy move but not an entirely successful one. Vogt’s customary repertoire does not require coloratura technique (or Italian), and he showed little affinity for it, despite elegant phrasing. Much better was Tamino’s “Bildnis” aria from The Magic Flue, which highlighted his lyric qualities and a innocent honesty fitting to Tamino’s character.

The orchestral interludes, obligatory in a concert of this form, were conducted by stalwart Peter Schneider with the excellent Deutsche Oper Berlin orchestra. The opening Tito overture sounded flat, but things improved with the program’s move to the 19th century with a dramatic rendition of the overture to Weber’s rarity Oberon. Vogt followed the Huön’s “Ich juble im Glück” from the same opera, another fast piece but this time he showed mastery of the fast text and ringing high notes.

This was followed by Lortzing’s Lionel’s “Lebe wohl, mein flandrisch Mädchen” from Zar und Zimmermann a rarity outside of Germany but something of a chestnut here, sung with smooth legato and a beautiful piano. Yet for most of the first half Vogt seemed to be holding back. Only the last item Max’s aria from Der Freischütz gave an opportunity for a more heroic and dramatic portrayal.

Vogt’s brand of heroism is a very specific one, as revealed by the concert’s second half. After a quite brilliant and emphatic rendition of the prelude to the third act of Lohengrin by Schneider and the orchestra, his intense rendition of “In fernem Land,” the title character’s so-called “Grail Narrative,” was transfixing, with perfect weight on each word and a powerful crescendo from the ghostly, otherworldly opening to the revelation of the Holy Grail at the end.

But Vogt may have limits as a Wagnerian, at least at this point. His rendition of Siegmund’s “Winterstürm” from Die Walküre was less convincing. While his gentle, lullaby-like interpretation was pretty, it is lacked heft and the dark and stormy aspect of the lower-lying passages. For all its freshness, Vogt’s singing sometimes approaches the studious, or even bloodless. But he was back on comfortable territory with Walther’s “Preislied” from Die Meistersinger, .To hear Wagner sung with such beautiful tone and ease is remarkable indeed.

Soprano Manuela Uhl made a cameo with an old-fashioned, somewhat dry-toned rendition of the beautiful, too-rarely performed Marietta’s Lied from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, followed by the duet. It was given a life-suckingly slow tempo by Schneider and threatened to denigrate into schlock, but hung onto its lyric outpouring. Vogt finished the program back in the nineteenth century with “Ach, so fromm” from von Flotow’s Martha, another German favorite delivered with a wonderfully indulgent portamento at the end.