Der Ring des Nibelungen

Götterdämmerung at the Bayreuther Festpiele

Goetterdaemmerung-2013* Notes * 
The second cycle of the Frank Castorf's new Der Ring des Nibelungen at Bayreuth ended with Götterdämmerung on Monday. The proceedings were somewhat less nonsensical than the Siegfried, at least there were no gunshots interrupting the music. The turning set included döner kabob and produce stands, two different sets of stairs, a neon sign for "Plaste und Elaste Werk in Schokpau," and a classical building wrapped up by a very large sheet, which turns out to be the New York Stock Exchange. With so many different venues, one would think it would be possible to knock out the five scenes in the first third of the piece, yet somehow Castorf proves incompetent, and has to bring down the curtain before the Waltraute's appearance. At least Act I Scene 3 has the sisters singing to one another and acting as human sisters would.

Unfortunately, this does not hold for much of the rest of the staging. A pram filled with potatoes is thrown down a flight of stairs, creating a great deal of noise for no real dramatic reason. The long-suffering supernumerary who has played shopkeeper, bear, and waiter throughout the four operas is punched in the nose early in the Götterdämmerung, appears in a bridal veil and heels in the potato pram scene, and is later run over by the Rheintöchter. The various video clips shown are simply distracting, and after enduring so many hours of this production, I gave up trying to make sense of what was being shown on the screens and stopped looking at them.

Thankfully, Kirill Petrenko conducted a vibrant and buoyant orchestra. Again, the harps sound wonderful, as do the low strings. The principal horn did not sound confident, but the trumpets played remarkably well. The clarity of the orchestra supported the singers and did not overwhelm them. The chorus was also brilliant, the members singing with each other as if they were one being.

Of the three Norns, Christiane Kohl (Third Norn) was weakest, her voice is not adequately supported. Okka von der Damerau was strong as both First Norn and Floßhilde. Claudia Mahnke sounded beautifully legato as both Second Norn and Waltraute. Mirella Hagen (Woglinde) and Julia Rutigliano (Wellgunde) were lovely. Allison Oakes made for a pretty Gutrun and Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester was a fine Gunther. Martin Winkler made for a powerful Alberich. Attila Jun was brash as Hagen. Lance Ryan's Siegfried again was inconsistent. Sometimes he sounded perfectly good, and other times it was as if he were yodeling. Catherine Foster has nice high notes as Brünnhilde, but her lower range is less resonant.

* Tattling * 
The man to my right rolled up the legs of his tuxedo, as it was a bit warm in the house. He fell asleep a few times during Act I. There was some booing at the very end of the ovation, presumably for the production.


Siegfried at the Bayreuther Festpiele

Siegfried-2013 * Notes * 
A second performance of the new Siegfried at Bayreuth was held on Saturday. It seems that Frank Castorf put more time into this opera than the previous two of Der Ring des Nibulungen, and the results are unfortunate. The action is set at Bahnhof Alexanderplatz in Berlin and an alternate version of Mount Rushmore with depictions of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. These settings are very specific, so using them to represent different scenes is problematic. On the positive side, the projections are fairly subdued. Showing backstage before Erda's entrance is engaging and less irrelevant than much of what we have seen in previously.

None of the characters seem to act in human ways, their movements are rarely motivated by anything in the libretto or on the stage. More than one of the singers climbs the stage right stairs to touch Marx's mustache. The staging is also very noisy, Siegfried throws lawn furniture and books, Mime cuts carrots as loudly as possible. The worst part is when Siegfried shoots Fafner with a machine gun. This Siegfried is a brutish, violent lout, so it is hard to see why the showgirl Waldvogel is so taken with him, much less Brünnhilde.

Kirill Petrenko continues to conduct the orchestra with a translucency and lightness. The harps sound particularly gorgeous. The horn solo in Act II was strangely vulnerable. The balance between orchestra and singers remained fine.

Mirella Hagen is a charming Waldvogel, gamely flitting about the stage in her clumsily enormous costume. Her voice is markedly bird-like. She is inexplicably eaten by a crocodile at the end of the opera. Nadine Weissmann (Erda) sounded unearthly. Sorin Coliban threatened as Fafner. Martin Winkler's Alberich has a differentiated sound from Wolfgang Koch's Der Wanderer. Koch sang with mastery and beauty. Burkhard Ulrich sounded bright as Mime, his German was particularly easy to understand. As Brünnhilde, Catherine Foster floated her opening notes hailing the sun, light, and day. Lance Ryan (Siegfried) was inconsistent and not terribly secure. He did sing the line "So starb meine Mutter an mir?" with particular tenderness.

* Tattling * 
There was strong booing for the production at the end of each act and when the principals took a bow on the set after the opera.


Die Walküre at the Bayreuther Festpiele

Walkuere-2013* Notes * 
Frank Castorf's new Der Ring des Nibelungen continued with Die Walküre at Bayreuth last night. The production continues to be dramatically vacuous. The set looked to be a large barn situated in Azerbaijan, which did transform into an oil derrick for Acts II and III. The live video captures are distracting, at times blocking the action, only to show mediated versions of what they are covering. Some of the prerecorded parts are rather nonsensical, near the end of Act I, there is a short film depicting a woman messily eating cake. The woman answers the telephone and then sets it down on the cake, then tries on a sleeveless dress, only putting one of her arms through an armhole before returning to her cake and telephone.

The staging is often overwrought, doors are opened, objects brought out, and so forth. There are a lot of unnecessary props, such as the giant pumpjack that extends over the edge of the stage in Act III. The effect is creepy, but has little else to do with anything else happening in the production at that moment, much less in the libretto. Oddly though there is not a lot for the singers to do while they are singing, often they just stand and are ignored by the other characters.

The orchestra continued to float lucidly under the direction of Kirill Petrenko. The brass was not completely translucent at all times, but for the most part sounded lovely. There were no obvious errors as with the previous night. The string soli were radiant. The sound of the singing was not swallowed up by the playing.

The Walküren made a fine effort, some were easier to hear than others. Franz-Josef Selig sounded robust as Hunding. Claudia Mahnke was an effective Fricka. Catherine Foster's Brünnhilde has a wonderful lightness, she did not bear down on her voice or scream her notes. Wolfgang Koch sang Wotan with nuance and color, despite the production. Johan Botha sounded utterly secure as Siegmund, never straining. Anja Kampe (Sieglinde) was the obvious audience favorite, her brilliant, searing voice did not disappoint.

* Tattling * 
In short, everyone was better-behaved for this second performance of Der Ring. The woman who thought I was in her seat the night before greeted us in a conciliatory manner on Thursday. She brought her daughter to Walküre, and they were fairly still and quiet. The woman in Orchestra Left Row 20 Seat 26 who talked a lot also brought a different person to the opera, and they whispered but not that much.


Rheingold at the Bayreuther Festspiele

Rheingold-2013* Notes * 
The second cycle of Frank Castorf's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuther Festspiele opened yesterday with Das Rheingold. The production is a hodgepodge of Americana that does not give the characters any place to go. The action takes place at a Texan motel and gas station, all carefully arranged on a turntable. An electronic billboard above shows both live video capture and prerecorded footage.

It was impressive how well-coordinated the performance is, but often the characters act in completely irrational ways that have nothing to do with the opera or even normal human behavior. For instance, Nibelheim is depicted as an Airstream that is dragged into the gas station by stagehands. At the top of Scene 3, Wotan and Loge have taken Alberich and Mime hostage, and tied them to posts. This is completely against the text, and makes the rest of the scene unnecessary. There are also no vocal Nibelungen, and thus part of the score is missing, as their cries and screams simply were absent.

Kirill Petrenko conducted the orchestra with a beautiful lightness. Maestro Petrenko perhaps does not instill the same sort of fear as Christian Thielemann does, and an obvious brass error was heard in Scene 4 before Fafner, Fasolt, and Freia enter. Nevertheless, the music sounded palpably fresh and dazzling. The orchestra only rarely overwhelmed the singers.

Singing is fine. The smaller roles are not terribly strong, Oleksandr Pushniak (Donner) was wheezy, while Lothar Odinius (Froh) and Burkhard Ulrich (Mime) were fairly nondescript. However, all three acted splendidly. Pushniak twirled his mustache in a charming way. Ulrich was endearing when he found that the Airstream was all his, and not only started maniacally polishing it, but cheerfully switched out the Confederate flag of the motel with a rainbow one. Mirella Hagen (Woglinde), Julia Rutigliano (Wellgunde), and Okka von der Damerau (Floßhilde) looked rather listless as the Rheintöchter but sounded pretty. The Riesen are cast distinctly, Sorin Coliban's Fafner is grumbly, while Günther Groissböck's Fasolt is almost sweet. Nadine Weissmann made for an ethereal Erda, her sound is delicate yet not too quiet. Elisabet Strid (Freia) had a much more muscular voice. Claudia Mahnke was a bit breathy as Fricka, but her voice is neither shrill nor strident.

Norbert Ernst was a unctuous enough Loge, with a nice voice. There was a little strain in his higher notes, but his acting made up for this. For me, the weakest link was Martin Winkler, whose vibrato I find disagreeable. His Alberich is made to be extremely puerile, which does not do him any favors. His voice sounds more than passable when the his music is not highly orchestrated, but does not have the brightness to cut through when it is. Wolfgang Koch, on the other hand, is an excellent Wotan. He sings with effortlessness, power, and warmth.

* Tattling *
This was the worst-behaved audience of my time in Bayreuth so far. There was an electronic sound at the beginning of the first scene. Talking was heard during the music irrespective of singing. I hushed the loud couple in Orchestra Left Row 20 Seats 25 and 26, and thankfully they whispered instead for the rest of the opera. Gallingly, the female half of the couple screamed "Bravo" at singers she had not been fully listening to.

An uptight German-speaking couple (possibly mother and son) in Orchestra Right Row 21 Seats 27 and 28 were convinced I was in one of their seats despite the fact that my ticket clearly shows that I am in Orchestra Left Row 21 Seat 27. I tried to gently remind them that 27 comes after 28, and that logically Orchestra Right Seat 27 would be to the right of Seat 28. They remained doubtful, talking to the usher on the right side of the house, then harassing a grey-haired East Asian couple, oblivious to the fact that they were not me and Axel Feldheim. By the time they made it back to the middle of the row, they refused to believe me, my companion, or the kindly person in Orchestra Left Row 21 Seat 25 that they were in the wrong.

The son demanded that we speak to the usher on the left side of Row 21, so we made everyone on the left side of the row get up to let us through. Finally, the usher explained that 27 comes before 28, so the pair's other seat is to the right of 28, since their tickets clearly read "Parkett Rechts." We marched back to the middle of the row, inconveniencing 25 people yet again. When the high-strung man explained to his mother that they were mistaken, she shooed away the European-looking (but evidently not German-speaking) man in her seat, even taking his seat cushion and sort of pushing it at him. After all this, these two did not even apologize for their various rude blunders. At least they were very quiet, the man hardly shifted in his seat, and managed not to elbow me even once.


Götterdämmerung at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-goetterdaemmerung-2012* Notes * 
The second Ring cycle the Met this season came to a rather disappointing conclusion with Götterdämmerung yesterday. Though there were many fine individual contributions to the piece, in the end both playing and staging fell short. Robert Lepage's production was not consistent with the earlier parts of the cycle. Why should Grane finally appear as a horse puppet (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) in this opera, and not in Walküre or Siegfried? Why is it that the projections have Siegfried and Hagen walking on water? It just seemed a bit sloppy. The statues used to portray the Gods looked like they were stolen from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Even still, there were nicely rendered scenes, as with the prologue with its tree-like web.

The orchestra did not seem terribly concerned with Maestro Luisi, the musicians were not always together, and there was rushing, especially near the end. Singers were overwhelmed now and again. The harps did sound gorgeous during Act III. The chorus was cohesive.

Eric Owens had a sore throat, so Richard Paul Fink sang Alberich instead. Fink is secure in the role, and has the right mix of beauty and menace. Hans-Peter König sang a threatening Hagen. Wendy Bryn Harmer sang a pretty Gutrune.

Katarina Dalayman was fairly good as Brünnhilde, though her changes in volume were abrupt. Jay Hunter Morris was a strong Siegfried, sounding youthful and poignant, although he lacked baritonal warmth.

* Tattling *
The French-speakers in Family Circle Standing Room Places 25 and 26 talked a lot in Act I, and had to be hushed. They were preoccupied by taking Seats 202 and 204. It was odd that the male half of the couple seemed so worried about sitting, yet slept through most of Acts II and III. Both halves of this pair had not seemed to have bathed in some time, and their odor could be detected from several feet away.


Siegfried at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-siegfried-2012* Notes * 
The second Ring cycle this season at the Met continued last night with Siegfried. The production, directed by Robert Lepage, proved to be even more traditional than its most recent predecessor. Here we have both bear and giant serpent, and so many of Lionel Arnould's projected images are literally from the text. The innovation comes in as far as puppetry and illusion, and it is a spectacle. François St-Aubin's costumes continue to be perfectly in keeping with the narrative, though Erda's dress was blinding.

Luisi and the orchestra gave an orderly rendition of the music, though there were a few noticeable brass errors. There were certainly moments when the orchestra overwhelmed the singers. The strings were clear, and the harps played particularly well in Act III.

Erin Morley's diction as the Forest Bird was lacking, perhaps being off stage muffled her syllables. Patricia Bardon (Erda) sounded icy but well-supported, her highest note was pushed too hard to sound pretty. Hans-Peter König was a credible Fafner. Gerhard Siegel was fairly winsome as Mime, and appropriately duplicitous. Eric Owens gave a powerful performance as Alberich.

Byrn Terfel's Wanderer was only slightly light in Act II, but strong in Act III. Katarina Dalayman did not always sing Brünnhilde perfectly smoothly. Her voice does have a lovely warmth even if her volume control is not terribly nuanced. Jay Hunter Morris (pictured above in Act II, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) seemed confident in the title role, he may have been slightly quiet in Act I but sounded oddly fresh in Act III.

* Tattling *
The ushers tried to seat latecomers, and unfortunately put one such person next to me in Family Circle standing room. Said person was quite rude, leaving her backpack and coat in the walk way, not silencing her watch alarm, and completely unable to be still. The latter would not have been a problem except that she was wearing clothes out of a noisy synthetic material.

The man in FC Standing Place 26 giggled through most of the first two acts.


Die Walküre at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-walkuere-2012* Notes * 
The second Ring cycle this season at the Met continued with a matinée of Die Walküre (Act II, Scene 1 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) yesterday. The limitations of "The Machine" became more apparent in this opera. Robert Lepage's direction is restricted by how the set moves and where people can exit and enter the stage. The motivation for the characters movements are clearly tied to this, and is therefore fairly predictable. Lionel Arnould's video images are less abstract in
Walküre than Rheingold, with shadowy figures playing out the various narratives. The giant eyeball near the end of Act II, Scene 1 that doubled as a crystal ball was particularly silly. Other effects were staged very nicely. The Ride of the Valkyries was spectacular, as was the final Fire Music. The costumes, from François St-Aubin, were rather shiny.

The music was played neatly by the orchestra, Luisi did not push the music, and there were only a few minor brass errors. The Walküren were even and strong, very little if any shrillness was noted.

Frank van Aken, the husband of Eva-Maria Westbroek, sang in place of Jonas Kaufmann, who is reportedly ill. As Siegmund, van Aken blended well with his wife, who sang Sieglinde. Unfortunately, his voice is too small for the Met, and he had some noticeable intonation problems, perhaps because he was trying to sing as loudly as possible. Westbroek's voice is rawer than I remembered, having a roughness at the top. She sang her part in Act III with strength. Hans-Peter König sang Hunding with the right power and menace.

Stephanie Blythe sounded robust as Fricka. Katarina Dalayman made for a pretty, resonant Brünnhilde. The afternoon belonged to Byrn Terfel (Wotan), who sang this opera with authority and richness.

* Tattling *
Family Circle was not full, so many standees took seats. This made the standing area much more roomy.


Das Rheingold at the Met (Cycle 2)

Met-rheingold-2012* Notes * 
A second Ring cycle began with Das Rheingold (Scene 4 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) last night at the Met. Robert Lepage's production involves a series of about 24 jointed panels that can be arranged in many different configurations. Known as "The Machine," Carl Fillion's set is not unlike a huge shape-shifting robot. The scene changes were certainly resolved in breathtaking ways. However, the main drawback is not that "The Machine" is slightly noisy, snapping here and there, but that it placed the singers awkwardly upstage or on terrifying rakes where they do not seem as able to project well. The lighting, designed by Etienne Boucher, is attractively simple. The video images, from Lionel Arnould, evoke nature and space. Only the rainbow bridge was busy, with its dancing strings of multicolored light. François St-Aubin's costumes did not appear markedly different from the previous Ring production, traditional, perhaps taking on the aesthetic of comic book superheros in the armor of the Gods.

The orchestra sounded clear and secure under Fabio Luisi, and the tempi were moderate. The brass was clean. The singing was consistent around. Wendy Bryn Harmer was an incredibly hearty, bright Freia. Franz-Josef Selig (Fasolt) and Hans-Peter König (Fafner) turned out perfectly respectable performances. Adam Klein did not quite sparkle as Loge, but since he stepped in at the last moment for an ailing Stefan Margita, it is understandable. Patricia Bardon's Erda had an ethereal quality that was appealing. Stephanie Blythe was a sympathetic Fricka, warm with the right amount of steeliness. Eric Owens impressed as Alberich, his renunciation of love in Scene 1 was poignant, and his curse in Scene 4 haunting. As Wotan, Bryn Terfel's voice has a beautiful richness to it, but seemed a touch light at times.

* Tattling * 
An usher attempted to seat a pair of latecomers in Family Circle after the music had started. Unfortunately one of their seats had been taken, and there was a flurry of whispered instructions. A watch alarm sounded at 9pm and 10pm. Some were having respiratory issues, loud nose blowing and sniffles were heard, as were the usual crinkles of cough drops being unwrapped.


SF Opera's Ring Cycle 3 Media Round-Up

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-act1-scene3Production Web Site | SF Opera's Ring Blog | Cycle 1 Reviews | Cycle 2 Reviews

Pictured left is Act I, Scene 3 of San Francisco Opera's Götterdämmerung with Daveda Karanas (Waltraute) and Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde) by Cory Weaver.

Whole Cycle: Echovar | oboeinsight | Wall Street Journal

Civic Center: Götterdämmerung

Not For Fun Only: Rheingold | Walküre | Siegfried | Götterdämmerung


SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 3

Sfopera-goetterdaemmerung-prologue2 * Notes * 
Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera came to a spectacular conclusion with Götterdämmerung (Prologue pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) today. The orchestra played beautifully for Maestro Donald Runnicles. There were only two or three sour moments, and even these were fleeting and did not detract from the overall brilliance of the performance. The horn and harp were striking. The music of Siegfried's funeral march was incredibly moving, as was the very end of the opera. The chorus sounded strong and the greeting of Gunther and Brünnhilde was gorgeous.

The principal singers gave performances consistent with their previous ones, only with greater focus and intensity. Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum may have looked like they had seen better days as the Rhinemaidens, but they sounded great. They held it together for the wild part of the music that starts with "So weise und stark verwähnt sich der Held." Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton were memorable as the Norns, each voice distinctive, but singing together. Daveda Karanas also made the Waltraute/Brünnhilde scene in Act I very human and believable. Andrea Silvestrelli was menancing as Hagen, singing with force and richness. Ian Storey was only overwhelmed a few times as Siegfried, his voice has warmth and was particularly effective in Act III. Nina Stemme was truly a wonder as Brünnhilde, going from strength to strength.

* Tattling * 
Every seat was sold, and even standing room was at capacity. I heard there were altercations in the balcony over places at the rail. It was noted that the person seated in the balcony with the service dog was late today, and her dog was allowed to roam freely around the standing area.

As for the orchestra level, there was the usual talking, laughing, clapping, and electronic noise. People were all too amused by the remote control used in the first scene of Act II.


SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 3

Sfopera-siegfried-act-2-7 * Notes * 
The third Ring cycle at San Francisco Opera continued yesterday with Siegfried (Act II, Scene 3 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver). The orchestra sounded better than ever under Donald Runnicles. The brass was particularly clean, especially in the Act I Vorspiel and before Brünnhilde makes her vocal entrance in Act III, Scene 3. A clarinet squeaked once in Act II, but overall playing of the clarinet and the rest of the woodwinds was gorgeous, the Woodbird music was very pretty. Again, the fire music at the end of Act III, Scene 2 was wonderful.

The singing was strong. Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried) sounded young and sweet, his voice is more open and has a fuller bloom to it than when he debuted the role more than a month ago. His acting skills are evident, I especially liked watching him mimic the movements of Mime, sung by David Cangelosi. The latter gave a performance with great physicality and a full range of colors in the voice. Cangelosi enunciates well, yet maintains a bright lyricism. Mark Delavan (Wanderer) would occasionally be overwhelmed when we got to brass-heavy parts of the music, though perhaps this was only because my seat was right in front of that section. He did sing beautifully. Nina Stemme is a stunning Brünnhilde. At this point, it is hard to imagine anyone else in this role, as Stemme embodies the character so perfectly.

* Tattling * 
The audience had a hard time being quiet during the music that did not include singing, but because the performance was so engaging, the talking was easy enough to ignore. At least no electronic noise was heard, at least, not on the orchestra level where I was seated. The person next to me in Row L Seat 6 took photographs of the projects at the top of Act II until the woman in M 4 hissed at him to stop.


David Cangelosi Interview

David-cangelosi-in-siegfried-at-sfopera Tenor David Cangelosi (pictured left in Siegfried Act I, photograph by Cory Weaver) sings Mime in San Francisco Opera's current Ring production. Cangelosi has been blogging himself since 2009, and graciously agreed to meet with The Opera Tattler and Miss LCU before the final dress rehearsal of Das Rheingold last month.

What are your dream roles?
Mime is my dream role! Years ago I received the Solti Ring box set on cassette tape, and for some reason, I started listening to Siegfried first. I got into opera to sing this role.

You are clearly an athlete. How does your training as a springboard diver help you as an opera singer?
I've always been athletic and wiry. I have really good control of my body in the air, so springboard diving came very naturally to me. Being physically strong helps my stamina on stage. In Siegfried I am on stage for 90 minutes without a break, and my Mime is very physical, so it is pretty exhausting.

What makes a good Mime?
For any role, I make sure to listen to what the other characters say to me. 90 to 95 percent of what I do is simply to react. I've never had an acting lesson!

How does Francesca Zambello's production compare to your experiences at Lyric and the Met?
Zambello is great, she really challenged me. She is interested in a longer emotional arc of the character, from Das Rheingold into Siegfried, and she adds a human touch to Mime's narrative. You will notice that in the last scene of Das Rheingold she has me wait around, and then I run off stage right. So it makes sense how I get from Nibelheim to the forest.

Do you sympathize with Mime?
There's really no black and white in these operas, all of the characters have a humanity to them. I don't think Mime planned to kill Siegfried from the beginning. Of course, Mime has his own agenda, but he raised this child, and I think he does care for Siegfried. But there is a point at which Mime chooses himself over Siegfried, obviously.

What are your favorite hair products?
Local business Nancy Boy in Hayes Valley makes some great products that aren't too heavily scented.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 3

Sfopera-walkuere-act-2 * Notes * 
Cycle 3's Die Walküre (Act II, Scene 1 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) at San Francisco Opera was performed yesterday with Heidi Melton debuting the role of Sieglinde. Melton has a warmth to her voice, but also conveys the fragility of the character. She did sound a bit rough early on in Act I, Scene 3, but she recovered well. Her last notes of the opera, in Act III, Scene 1, were lovely.

Brandon Jovanovich's Siegmund was better than ever, sounding stronger and more legato. Mark Delavan (Wotan) sounded especially poignant in Act II, and his interaction with Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka) were profoundly human. Nina Stemme consistently is arresting as Brünnhilde. The orchestra, conducted by Donald Runnicles, is resplendent.

* Tattling * 
The house was full. A seeing-eye dog barked once in Act I. There was talking and laughing during the music, and the woman in P 8 of the Orchestra Level even finished a Facebook comment during the Act III Prelude. There was also lots of clapping over the music, first for the piggyback ride Wotan gave Brünnhilde in Act II, then for the entrance of the Walküren, and finally when the Walkürenritt ended.


SF Opera's Das Rheingold Cycle 3

Sfopera-rheingold-gods * Notes *
The third and final Ring cycle of the season at San Francisco Opera started with Das Rheingold (Brandon Jovanovich, Elizabeth Bishop, Melissa Citro, and Gerd Grochoski in Scene 4 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) last Tuesday. Maestro Runnicles had the orchestra sounding noticeably cleaner this time around, especially the brass. The playing was gorgeous. The low strings and the harp were absolutely lovely. The balances were better, only the baritones were overwhelmed briefly when the orchestration was heavy. There were strong contributions all around, especially from Mark Delavan (Wotan), Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka), Andrea Silvestrelli (Fasolt), and Ronnita Miller (Erda). Štefan Margita's Loge was most impressive.

It was illuminating to sit so close to the stage this time around. One suspects that Francesca Zambello's directorial style is rather detail-oriented and very specific. The expressions and gestures used do create a sense of intimacy, but perhaps do not read that well from the back of the house.

* Tattling *
One could hear the squeaks of pulleys during the set changes. There was talking during these times as well. Electronic noise was at a minimum, but a watch alarm sounded at the beginning of the piece.