Monday, February 20, 2012


GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG      (New Production)
18 February 2011

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG      (New Production)
Metropolitan Opera HD Live Transmission
11 February 2011

© Sam H. Shirakawa
Lance Ryan, Britte Stallmeister, Jenny Carlstadt, Katharina Magiera

There are two good reasons for visiting Oper Frankfurt’s new production of Götterdammerung. The first is Canadian Lance Ryan, who you may have seen and/or heard as the most recent Siegfried at Bayreuth. At the performance I attended in Frankfurt, a worrisome beat dogged his mid-range well into the first act. But once he found his stride, Ryan proved himself the leader of today’s ever-growing pack of powerhouse Siegfrieds, outclassing most of his Frankfurt colleagues in vocal size and stage presence.
Anja Fidelia Ulrich

The other reason to go to this Götterdämmerung is Anja Fidelia Ulrich’s supple, big voiced Gutrune. Ulrich first joined Oper Frankfurt in 2004 and hasn’t stopped growing since. Her voice has warmth and flexibility and opens out easily toward the top. A singer to follow.

The rest of the cast, while technically and musically objection-free, is workaday. They all have their moments, but their individual and collective efforts rarely take flight.

Susan Bullock is a smallish-voiced but energetic Brünnhilde. She hangs in there from start to finish, belting out her part in the big scenes comfortably within the limits of her capacities. Seldom though, does the soprano from Cheshire compel the ear into submission. Johannes Martin Kränzle scores as a strong voiced Gunther.  He may have the toughest assignment: making the role sound convincingly weak. Jochen Schmeckenbecker turns in a beautifully sung Alberich minus the menace. Gregory Frank, through no fault of his own, is way too attractive a stage presence for Hagen. Meredith Arwady and Angel Blue are fine Norns. Claudia Mahnke doubled dutifully as the Second Norn and Waltraute. Britte Stallmeister, Jenny Carlstadt and Katharina Magiera as the Rhine Maidens sang in fascinating clockwork unison. I don’t recall ever hearing this scene sung with such precision.

Vera Nemirova’s production designed by Jens Kilian is technically complex: Four concentric turntables turning, rising and falling to form the various settings in the opera. The fluidity of the changes are a delight to behold, as locales ebb and flow into each other according to the dictates of the music. Perhaps the most interesting detail is the Rhine Maidens as Green activists, touting a sign that reads “Save the Rhine.” They ferry Siegfried in a lifeboat on his Journey to the Gibichungs and to his doom. Telling are Ingeborg Bernerth’s costumes. Siegfried arrives at the Gebichung’s estate clad in Teutonic tunic and helmet. Once he drinks the amnesia potion and changes into a suit, he's finished.
Above/Below: Oper Frankfurt interior    (Photos: Shirakawa)

It took the orchestra some time to get its act together. Unfortunate, because Sebastian Weigle has some wonderful ideas that never quite made it across into a coherent view of the work. He is still cutting his teeth on this behemoth, but he leaves no doubt that he’s a comer. His sensiblities call to mind Colin Davis back in the 1960s.
Deborah Voigt   (Metropolitan Opera)

Speaking of getting an act together, a brief word now about the live Metropolitan Opera relay of Götterdämmerung on 11 February. Deborah Voigt obviously used the time between her Siegfried Brünnhilde and the live broadcast of Götterdämmerung to clean up her vocal house. Her former Valkyrie in the relay embodied a transformation that was well-nigh miraculous, especially since it happened so quickly -- within three months. The voice was more solid in each range and her upper notes at times took on an Italianate warmth that I haven’t heard from her in years. Of course, I heard it digitally, so it's impossible to tell how she sounded live-live.

German acquaintances of mine complained that Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried is “too American” -- i.e. too much swagger for their taste. Not sure I agree. But he does need to attend more dialogue coach sessions to sharpen his pronunciation.

Waltraud Meyer, Wendy Bryyn Harmer, Eric Owens, Iain Paterson and Hans-Peter König were all in superb form. Fabio Luisi’s lighter touch with the orchestral blend is refreshing.

Not so refreshing is Robert Le Page’s production. It’s getting old fast. Who among those attending the upcoming complete cycles fancies sitting through 15 hours of people dwarfed by Carl Fillion’s gyrating planks? Lieber du als ich, mein kleiner.

The telecast was, by and large, technically excellent, but there were some distracting video/audio glitches, especially during Alberich’s rant, several jumbled subtitles, and an amber (intentional?) colorcast over most of the second act. Probable causes of these incidents should be easy to locate: idiosyncracies in the capture equipment, in the output configuration, in the transmission path, or maybe in the projection system at the cinema where I viewed the broadcast (Düsseldorf). At 28 Euros per ticket ($37 -- 50 percent more than the tab usually charged in US cinemas), the Met can afford to effect measures to forestall such gaffes.

Photos Frankfurt Götterdämmerung: Monica Ritterhaus

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