* Notes *
Today's premiere of Götterdämmerung (Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) at San Francisco Opera was arresting. Maestro Donald Runnicles had the orchestra sounding vivid and beautiful. There were bad notes and cloudiness here and there in the brass, but nonetheless it hardly mattered. The woodwinds were evocative, the strings shimmering. The balance of orchestra and singers was not always favorable to the latter. For the most part the singing was audible and it was a great pleasure to hear the chorus sing this music.
The cast was strong. The Rheintöchter (Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum) sounded pretty and plaintive. The Norns (Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton) were well matched yet completely distinct from one another. Karanas also sang Waltraute convincingly, her pleading with Brünnhilde was poignant. Gordon Hawkins was suitably haunting as Alberich. Melissa Citro was a piercing Gutrune, and she channeled hysteria appropriately in the last act. Citro's mincing steps and girlishness read clearly even at the back of the house.
Gerd Grochowski played the consummate Gunther, plainly conveying the cowardice of the character. Andrea Silvestrelli (Hagen) was nearly faultless. He was brilliantly evil, and the texture of his voice worked to his advantage. His rich sound does seem to have an endless depth to it. Ian Storey (Siegfried) has some fine heft and volume to his voice, but he did sound somewhat sour. His control is somewhat imperfect, and he cracked at least one note in Act II. This said, his death scene was captivating. However, the obvious star of the performance was Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde. Her voice is powerful without being strained, her low notes have strength and warmth, and her high notes ring out with clarity.
Francesca Zambello's production ran out of steam by the end. For one thing, the torch Brünnhilde used to set the funeral pyre alight went out before she made it all the way upstage where this to take place. It was also confusing as to why Hagen exited the stage only to return much later to deliver his last line and meet his deserved demise. Zambello did infuse some humor into the early scenes with the Gibichungs, and if nothing else, she engaged the audience. Again, the projections from Jan Hartley seemed stylistically incoherent, and the overlap of images only created more of a muddle. Unfortunately, the noise of the set changes and some of the staging could be distracting. On the other hand, Michael Yeargan's sets looked nice and simple, and the Gibichung Hall was particularly elegant.
* Tattling *
The audience in the balcony had some restless members. There was some quiet talking, and someone's mobile phone chimed during the first scene with the Norns. Axel Feldheim and SF Mike were silent and attentive.
The orchestra and crew all took their ovation onstage along with the maestri, principal cast, chorus, and supers.