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REVIEWS

"This is a spectacular demonstration not only of Christine Brewer’s vocal strength with every note firm from top to bottom, but of her extraordinary versatility in this wide range of repertory. She starts with a flawless account of the Countess’s “Porgi amor” from Figaro with a wonderful range of tone colour. Her other Figaro item has her in duet with Judith Howarth in “Sull’ aria” between the Countess and Susanna, an enchanting trifle. Even more impressive is Leonora’s “Abscheulicher” from Beethoven’s Fidelio, breathtaking not only in its range of expression but in the power and precision of the final section, with Brewer displaying her formidable chest register."

Edward Greenfield, Gramophone

Great Operatic Arias, Vol. 20, Chandos

London Philharmonic, David Parry 2009

"The evening marked the 99th time that Brewer has performed Strauss's "Four Last Songs." The first three set poems of Hermann Hesse to music, while the fourth, by Joseph von Eichendorff, had a special meaning for the composer at the end of his life.

Brewer's voice soared above the wave of strings in "Frühling" ("Spring"), the lyrics establishing the common denominator of the four songs: serenity in the face of eternity. The shimmering strings in "September" capturing the death of summer, and we could hear the birds in the forest. The song explored the lower range of Brewer's voice while a plaintive horn signaled the end of summer.

"Beim Schlafengehen" ("When falling asleep") was the highlight of the four songs, the tenderness of Brewer's singing rising to a level of grandeur. Her forte is an exquisite shift in tone and volume from one word to the next as she brings the lyrics to life. After the long last chord there was an immediate burst of applause from the audience.

The long, lush opening sequence of "Im Abendrot" ("At sunset"), set up another virtuoso display of Brewer's phrasing. This time the drawn out last notes were met by a extended silence before the avalanche of applause."

Lawrance Bernabo, Duluth News Tribune

Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra – January 2018

"Ms. Brewer’s big, sumptuous voice is ideally suited to the Wagner and Strauss repertory… She is in her prime and sounding glorious…To open the program, Ms. Brewer gave a vocally blazing yet lyrically sensual performance of “In questa reggia” from Puccini’s “Turandot.” The voices of many dramatic sopranos come girded in steel. Ms. Brewer is the uncommon singer of her vocal type whose voice can slice through a thick orchestra while still sounding lustrous, and it was thrilling to hear her as the icy, avenging Princess Turandot."

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

"The heart of the programme was the Strauss, with soprano Christine Brewer giving her 96th performance of the Four Last Songs. What is so wonderful about her deep-lodged interpretation is how unpushy it is. She embodies this music effortlessly, every phrase shaped without fuss, every interval subtly shaded. Her voice can be huge and occasionally steely in the upper register, but she wove it among the orchestra like one of the instruments. In Spring she surged and swept with the strings; in September she traded oily, seamless lines with the winds. The words weren’t audible in the high medieval nave of St Mary’s, but it hardly mattered: her dignified gravitas spoke volumes."

Kate Molleson, The Guardian

BBC Scottish Symphony with Martyn Brabbins 2014

"The London Philharmonic pulled out all the stops. Apart from the top soloists - Christine Brewer, Anthony Dean Griffey and Gerald Finley - there were 200 members of the London Philharmonic Choir, plus the Tiffin Boys' Choir of two dozen, a chamber orchestra of 12, the full orchestra and two conductors: Neville Creed and Kurt Masur…Brewer was in magnificent voice, particularly in the "Lacrimosa", soaring over the huge forces although she was placed far behind the orchestra. She seemed positively to weep the notes in the "Benedictus"."

Annette Morreau, Independent

London Philharmonic with Kurt Masur, 2005

"The first song, Frühling (Spring) saw her riding the orchestra with ease. …September saw Brewer in ecstatic mode, caught up in the ambiguous love/death of the end of summer. The phrase “Sommer lächelt” (Summer smiles) was a good example. The ravishing forte on “Sommer” was followed by a heart-stopping pull back to pianissimo on the word “lächelt”. Magical and moving.

Beim Schlafengehen (On Going to Sleep) saw Brewer embracing every ounce of the text and vocally radiant in the big tune, spruiked with distinction by concertmaster Andrew Haveron. Im Abendrot (In the Glow of Sunset) was a superb finale, Brewer caressing phrases like “Bald ist es Schlafenszeit” (soon it is time to sleep). Hers was more lullaby and prayer than farewell. Again, the sheer amplitude of the voice impressed, until the emotional twist and a heart-stopping realisation on the final word, “Tod” (death)."

Clive Paget, Limelight 2014

Strauss Four Last Songs with David Robertson and Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Brewer does loud very well, but she has another, less expected strength: a golden quiet sound that floats like a flower borne on an ocean’s gentle swell. Both of these qualities came to the fore in the best piece of the night, Susan B. Anthony’s final aria from Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s second opera, “The Mother of Us All.” As the text evoked big sentiments and thoughts without quite pinning them down, Thomson’s music evoked a range of American idioms — the hymn, the Stephen Foster ballad, the march — and it fitted Brewer like a glove: big and outspoken and American and golden. At the end, she let loose with a messa di voce — a note that begins quietly, swells to full volume and returns to quiet — that could give you chills."

Anne Midgette, Washington Post 2011

"The program opened with the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, with Ms Brewer as the soloist. Throughout this concert Welser-Möst seemed in his element; although his readings of standard orchestral repertoire are never less than competent, the drama of Wagner’s music seemed to inspire him, in the same way that Bruckner’s symphonies lead him to probing interpretation. Time and again this evening there were details of orchestral texture revealed and a sense of forward motion that was not rushed, but always supported the music’s drama, as well as the singers’ performance. Christine Brewer is without doubt one of the leading dramatic sopranos of our day (indeed, her program biography noted that BBC Music Magazine had named her one of the top 20 sopranos of all time, a quite remarkable accolade.) Her voice in the Love-Death music was colorful and rich, especially so in her lower range. In the very soft opening of the aria, very low in the soprano range, some sopranos struggle to make themselves heard; not here. Ms Brewer’s voice continues its richness up to the top of the range.  Ms Brewer’s vocalism convinced us of Isolde’s radiant transfiguration.

Christine Brewer returned to sing the final scene in Götterdämmerung… Ms Brewer gave a riveting performance of the Immolation Scene, pouring out rivers of energized sound, yet at the end one felt like she still had more to give. Certainly, singing just one scene and singing the whole, five-hour opera are quite different challenges, but this was impressive. The sound was robust and full, strong, but warm. She had a sympathetic partner in Franz Welser-Möst, who was attuned to both singers’ needs in phrasing and breathing. This concert can be considered one of the highlights of the 2013 Blossom season. It was glorious from beginning to end."

Timothy Robson, Bachtrack 2013

Cleveland Orchestra (Blossom Festival) with Franz Welser-Möst

"Aficionados of big voices have been waiting for Christine Brewer to appear in a Los Angeles Opera production for a long time. But Brewer’s LA Opera debut finally came Wednesday night in a most unorthodox way -- slipping into the cast of Britten’s chamber opera “Albert Herring” toward the end of its run.  That’s right -- a chamber opera, and a comedy at that, written for an ensemble cast of equals. 

 

Fortunately, Brewer’s part -- that of the lordly arbiter of small-town morals, Lady Billows (which she sang in the Santa Fe edition of this production in 2010) --  can sort of lend itself to a Wagnerian soprano. Britten used one, Sylvia Fisher, on his own recording of “Herring.” 

So with more than a hint of self-parody, and maybe a bit of “The Mikado’s” Katisha, Brewer’s battle-axe of a Lady Billows stalked the stage with a mostly sour expression, rolling her Rs with relish, her diction easily intelligible. She seemed to be doing her best to rein herself in so as not to dominate the vocal ensembles -- which worked pretty well -- carefully unleashing her power in appropriate passages of solo pomposity. She was a focal point, but not to the point where the balances were capsized.

 

As later performances in a run often do, this “Herring” looked and sounded even snappier than the one on opening night, with conductor James Conlon characterizing each note more sharply and comically than ever. One also can’t discount the galvanizing effect that the formidable Brewer’s presence might have had.  When Brewer’s Lady Billows spit out the word “whip!” and the cast flinched, it didn’t feel like acting; it was more like a natural response to a force of nature."

Richard S. Ginell, LA Times

Los Angeles Opera with James Conlon, 2013