Posts Tagged ‘Siegfried’

Siegfried, Staatsoper Berlin, Schiller Theater, April 2013

8 April, 2013

The first two operas of this cycle experienced slight problems: orchestra lights failed a couple of times during Rheingold, and stage backdrop lighting flashed and failed in Walküre. But Siegfried saw a more serious disruption when the eponymous hero failed to show up for Act I. Why, we were not told, but the role was admirably sung from the wings by Andreas Schager, with an assistant stage manager going through the motions on stage. So vocally effective was Schager that Daniel Barenboim brought him on for a special curtain call at the end of the act, and the audience roared their appreciation.

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Canadian tenor Lance Ryan thankfully turned up for Act II, which was just as well since Schager was singing in a concert performance of Zauberflöte with the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle later the same evening. At the end of Act II, Ryan declined a solo curtain call, and at the end of the opera, after a superb performance in Act III, the restrained applause marked audience disapproval for his early absence.  But he was exceptionally good, and I regret not hearing him in all three acts. His final scene with Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde produced glorious singing, and his Sei mein! followed by her beautifully gentle Oh Siegfried! Dein war ich von je! was a moving moment.

Forging the sword

Forging the sword

Of course Daniel Barenboim in the orchestra pit was the magician bringing Wagner’s great moments to fulfilment, and this third episode of the Ring was a musical triumph. Peter Bronder sang and acted strongly as the ill-favoured Mime, and Norwegian bass-baritone Terje Stensvold gave a commanding performance as The Wanderer.

Mikhail Petrenko sang a strong Fafner from behind the stage, but here we find one of the problems in this Guy Cassiers production. The dragon was portrayed by five dancers wafting a vast printed silk sheet, but since the voice came from elsewhere this lacked conviction, and after the dragon’s death they attached themselves to Siegfried, making interminably dull geometric patterns with five swords. The dismemberment of voice and body had already occurred to the Woodbird, with a double performing insipid and unmusical movements on stage while the singing Woodbird (Rinnat Moriah, a perfectly handsome young woman) was off-stage.

Siegfried and dancers

Siegfried and dancers

Good lighting and sets, except that the forging of the sword was essentially done by atmospheric lighting and seven flat screen videos, plus a few tap-taps in the upstairs part of the set, as if a saucepan were being mended. Otherwise I liked the intriguing design for Mime’s home, which Wotan navigated with admirable aplomb as it turned from horizontal to vertical. Forest lighting was wonderful, and the meeting of Alberich and the Wanderer in Act II was very effective. If the superfluously irritating dancers had been absent, this act would have been perfect — they were not there in Walküre, and I’m sure most of us hope for the same with Götterdämmerung.

This performance was on April 7, and the final instalment of The Ring takes place on April 10.

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Siegfried, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012

30 September, 2012

Wotan’s meeting with Erda that starts Act III of Siegfried is a focal point in his demise.  After awakening her for advice she tells him to ask Brünnhilde, their daughter bold and wise, but learning Wotan has cast her aside, she asks why he who taught defiance punished defiance, why he who ruled by vows now rules by perjury. Wotan responds angrily, and in most productions Erda simply sinks back down into the earth, but in Keith Warner’s staging he stabs her in the side with his spear and she slumps over the side of her throne.

Act I, all images ROH/ Clive Barda

This deeply flawed Wotan, whose downfall may be represented by the crash-landed aeroplane we see in Act I, was superbly portrayed and sung by Bryn Terfel, and his encounters with Mime in Act I, Alberich in Act II, and Siegfried in Act III were beautifully represented. While Wotan is the key to this opera, the cast was a strong one despite the illness of Wolfgang Koch as Alberich, which led to an interesting last minute scramble.

According to Kasper Holten, who appeared on stage before the start, Koch informed the ROH this morning that he would be unable to sing, so they flew Jochen Schmeckenbecher in from Vienna. Holten smilingly told us he was already on his way through passport control, and from the wings in Act II, with Koch acting the role on stage, he gave a fine performance.

As Mime, Gerhard Siegel was in excellent voice, his acting superb, and in Act II this scheming liar dons an ass’s head whenever he speaks his true thoughts to Siegfried. This is a nice aspect of the production, as is the representation of Fafner. After he puts on the tarnhelm, turns into a dragon and is fatally wounded, Siegfried places the helm on the floor, lifts it up and the head continues to sing. Later he brings the dead head to stage front, placing it next to the body of Mime. While still alive, Eric Halfvarson sang a wonderful Fafner, his deep notes carrying an air of otherworldly wisdom and menace. Lovely singing from Sophie Bevan as the Woodbird, and her clever contemporaneous contortions on the trapeze were a wonder to behold.

Woodbird and Siegfried

She interacted well with Siegfried, whom Stefan Vinke portrayed to perfection as a strong brash fellow. His powerful singing had a great clarity of tone, and he seemed entirely at ease on stage. Sadly this was not so true for Susan Bullock’s Brünnhilde, and though her voice showed charm, particularly in unaccompanied passages, her stage presence failed to convey the power of this role. Whether she will have the imperious glance to face down Gutrune in Act III of Götterdämmerung remains to be seen on Monday.

End of Act III

The orchestra was on top form under Antonio Pappano’s direction, giving great support to the singers, and I loved the percussion work by Stefan Vinke’s Siegfried as he tempers the sword. A wonderful performance all round, and such a pity that Bryn Terfel is now out of it. His response to the thunderous applause was admirably restrained, and he seems to be happy to be just one of an excellent team.

There are four Ring cycles, the final Siegfried being on October 31 — for details click here. There will also be a live broadcast on Radio 3 on Sunday, October 21 at 2:45 pm, and Christmas broadcasts of Acts I, II and III on December 28, 31 and January 1 at 4:30 pm.

Siegfried, Metropolitan Opera, Met live cinema relay, November 2011

6 November, 2011

In the final part of the intermission feature from the second interval, as Renee Fleming went to meet Bryn Terfel in his dressing room, he said he was wondering when she would get round to him. Was he feeling left out? Perhaps so, but never mind because in the third act he was superb as the Wanderer. When Siegfried asks, who are you then, who wants to restrain me? Terfel’s lengthy response came over superbly, with a strong focus on Wotan’s psychological angst, ‘wer sie erweckt, wer sie gewänne, machtlos macht’ er mich ewig!‘ (whoever wakes her, whoever wins her, would render me powerless forever!).

Mime and Siegfried, all images Ken Howard

This production by Robert Lepage, brilliantly conducted by Fabio Luisi, brings nuances in the score and the libretto that had previously passed me by, and in Act I, Gerhard Siegel gives one of the finest portrayals of Mime that I have ever seen. After his encounter with the Wanderer, and his failure to ask the one question he really needs answering, he muses on what he has just learned: that only one who knows no fear can kill the dragon. He has already forfeit his head to the Wanderer and knows that Siegfried will lop it off unless he learns fear from the Dragon Fafner. But how can he kill the dragon if he learns fear? “Verfluchte Klemme!” (Damned dilemma!) he sings, and you feel for the poor fellow who has devoted eighteen years to bringing up the boy who will kill the dragon, but will also finish his own ill-fated existence. Gerhard Siegel acts everyone else off the stage, making me think of him as an Asperger’s victim embroiled in teenage fantasies that he can never fulfil.

Siegfried and the Sword

As for the real teenager, Siegfried, Jay Hunter Morris sang the role with huge conviction. There are not many people in the world who can do this well, but their number has just increased by one with this great new Heldentenor, and the intermission features showed he was utterly dedicated and loved what he was doing. He looked the part too, as a Christ-like figure full of spirit, rather than the rambunctious oaf he sometimes appears.

Alberich and the Wanderer

Eric Owens reprised his wonderful Alberich from Rheingold, and Patricia Bardon looked and sang a beautiful Erda, with Deborah Voigt bringing back her Brünnhilde from Walküre. After a mythical eighteen year sleep, and a real absence of over four hours while the other singers have warmed up, or even died, she has to come in with Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht! and it’s a tough call. As she began expressing her love for Siegfried, the voice took on more confidence and she was terrific.

Brünnhilde and Siegfried

One of the odd moments in the last scene is when Siegfried loosens the breastplate of the sleeping hero, and cries, Das is kein Mann! This sometimes sounds foolishly naive but the way Jay Hunter Morris tackled it, facing the audience with this revelation, it all made sense. Making sense is a vital feature of this production, and Terfel helped bring out the subtleties of Wotan’s dilemmas. Technically I regret that the shards of the sword looked fake, unlike the eventual sword itself — an important point when you have close-ups on the cinema screen — but the Woodbird flitted around like a well-rehearsed pet animal, and we shall doubtless see more of these clever 3D-projections in other productions.

Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2011

25 July, 2011

The first act of this opera is long, and can sometimes drag with a middle-aged Siegfried mocking his guardian Mime before finally re-forging the mighty sword. One can yearn for Act II where Alberich and Fafner reappear from earlier in the Ring, but here at Longborough I wouldn’t have wanted Act I to last a minute less, because Daniel Brenna and Colin Judson were riveting as Siegfried and Mime.

Colin Judson as Mime, all photos by Clive Barda

It seemed incredible that a mere twenty-something could be singing Siegfried, though Daniel Brenna is in fact in his early to mid-forties despite his brilliant portrayal of a rambunctious young man. His enunciation of the words was so strikingly good that I needed no surtitles — it was as though he were merely speaking, yet with excellent pitch and an admirable heroic tone. Colin Judson was equally superb in his portrayal of the insecure and dissimulating dwarf Mime. Of course he deserves to die in Act II after inadvertently expressing his true feelings, but from a vocal point of view I was sorry to see him go.

The Act I set with its huge circular furnace door makes a strong impression, and in forging the sword, Siegfried hammered like a percussionist with fine musical effect. Wotan even makes a silent appearance as the Wanderer before coming back to converse with Mime whose inane questioning reminded me of a recent Commons enquiry, though at least Mime forfeits his head when he can’t answer the one question he himself should have asked.

Phillip Joll in Act I

As the Wanderer, Phillip Joll showed power and gravitas, particularly in his Act II dialogue with Nicholas Folwell’s strongly sung Alberich, and when he wakes Fafner, we hear the deep voice of Julian Close who will cover the same role at the Metropolitan Opera next season. I like Fafner’s appearance in this production, in scaffolding with headlights, I like his dying as a mere mortal, and I like the woodbird in her pretty skirt and flighty movements, delightfully sung by Allison Bell. But the main attraction in Act II was Siegfried himself. His soliloquy when he muses about his mother is one I’ve heard beautifully sung before, but Daniel Brenna gave it a real sense of emotion, particularly in his crescendo on the word Mutter when he wishes he could see her.

Daniel Brenna and Alwyn Mellor

In her Act III portrayal of Erda, Evelyn Krahe’s slow movements and almost ghostly appearance, helped give a sense of power to the role, adding to the other well-judged and well-timed stage movements in Alan Privett’s production, with choreography by Suzanne Firth. In the final scene with Siegfried, Alwyn Mellor showed immense power and presence as Brünnhilde, and although Longborough has only 500 seats, she will sing the same role in The Ring at Seattle in 2013, in an auditorium for 2,500. The orchestra of about 65 members played Wagner’s music beautifully under the sensitive direction of Anthony Negus, and I loved the horn calls in Act II. Congratulations to Longborough for following up last year’s Walküre, and I can’t wait for Götterdämmerung next summer, to say nothing of the whole Ring in Wagner’s bicentenary year of 2013.

Performances continue until July 30 — for details click here.