Die Walküre

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.


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.


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.


Heidi Melton Interview

Melton_heidi_2011 Soprano Heidi Melton (pictured left, photograph by Kristin Hoebermann) sings Third Norn in Götterdämmerung and Sieglinde in Cycle Three's Die Walküre this summer at San Francisco Opera. She sings Third Norn in the Met's upcoming Ring cycle next year. The Opera Tattler caught up with Melton at the War Memorial before rehearsal a few weeks ago.

When did you first start singing?
When I was about 15 or 16, I wanted to be a soccer player. I didn't make it into the premier league, and I felt absolutely terrible. I locked myself in the bathroom at home and cried, and my sister, she picked the lock and talked some sense into me. She challenged me to find what was next. I started taking singing lessons, and it clicked right away.

What was your first Ring?
My first Ring was the one at Deutsche Oper Berlin by Götz Friedrich. It is from the 80s and set in the DC subway. I sang Third Norn, Helmwige, and Gutrune. For Gutrune, I didn't know I was singing the role until a week before, so it was pretty surreal. They had told me that I should look at the role, and thankfully I'm slightly OCD, so I did have the part memorized. I had about two days of rehearsal.

How do you like Berlin?
It is amazing, there is so much history.

What do you miss about the States?
Let me be honest, I really miss American Diet Coke. It is my biggest vice!

Welcome back! You spent three years here as an Adler. Is there a role that sticks out for you?
The funniest story is when I sang Diane in Iphigénie en Tauride. I had to sing from the second balcony, and I was standing up before I was to come in, watching Maestro Stewart carefully. An audience member was absolutely incensed that I was standing up, and kept hissing "Sit down, you sit down!" Once I started singing it was all fine, but I had to have an usher escort me for the rest of the performances.

You are singing Sieglinde soon. How do you relate to this character?
I've fallen in love with Sieglinde. I think you have to, in order to really do your job. Sieglinde is such a woman, not a girl. You do have to get past the incest, of course, in order to relate to the character. She has a serious case of arrested development. But I admire her cunning, and I feel this really comes out in Francesca Zambello's direction.

How have rehearsals been?
Great! I have been doing all the rehearsals for Die Walküre before Anja Kampe arrives. It is also Brandon Jovanovich's first Siegmund, so doing this together has been very rewarding. The most challenging scene has been the beginning of Götterdämmerung, though it doesn't look hard. We are on a pile of rubble, with the scrim down. We are wearing goggles and they had been fogging up, so it was difficult to see!

I hear your nickname is "Pippi." Why?
That's right! My mother named me "Heidi" because she just liked the book by Johanna Spyri. Once my colleagues heard of this, I got the nickname "Pippi," from the Pippi Longstocking books, of course.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 2

Sfopera-walkuere-act1 * Notes * 
The second cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera continued Wednesday night with Die Walküre (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver). The orchestra sounded cleaner than last week. Donald Runnicles seems to be leading an understated, subtle rendering, which is rather beautiful. The strings played especially well, the violin soli were gorgeous. Mark Delavan's Wotan is vulnerable and human. He was especially hard to hear at the end, as he is rather far upstage, but he does have a lovely voice. Most impressive were Brandon Jovanovich as Siegmund and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde. Jovanovich sounded bright and robust. Stemme produces a rich, full sound, and never yelled or screeched.

* Tattling * 
There were lots of people in the balcony for standing room. Most were quiet. Someone's hearing aid made a terrible sound in the first act. One of Hunding's dogs may have barked, or at least yelped. I was told that one of the projections did not work for the last scene in Act I, but did not witness this as I read the score during the performance.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 1

Sfopera-walkuere-act3-2011 * Notes * 
Cycle 1 of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera continued last night with Die Walküre (Act III pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver). Francesca Zambello's production shows the human side of every character, both God and hero alike are shown as flawed yet accessible. The use of fire, dogs, and parachuting Valkyries came together to create a spectacle. The staging could get busy at times, and some of the motivation behind the entrances and exits of characters was not always clear. There was also strange moment of humor when the sword was revealed. Jan Hartley's projections help to tell the story in naive images, but they lack a certain elegance. The sets, from Michael Yeargan, range from Hunding's extremely detailed house to the clean bleakness of Brünnhilde's rock. Catherine Zuber's costumes reinforce the narrative, especially in the changes in wardrobe for the female leads. Sieglinde sheds layered dresses and Brünnhilde's tomboy vest transforms into a warrior woman's bodice.

The orchestra sounded utterly lovely, Donald Runnicles drove the tempi without losing control. The strings were transparent and shimmering. The harp, clarinet, bassoon, and flute had especially fine soli. There was some sourness in the Walhall motive in Act I, but the Völsungen and Siegfried motives were clear and beautiful. The final scene of the opera was superbly played.

As with last year, the Walküren included many current and former Adlers and Merolini: Maya Lahyani (Siegrune), Tamara Wapinsky (Helmwige), Sara Gartland (Gerhilde), Daveda Karanas (Waltraute), Melissa Citro (Ortlinde), and Renée Tatum (Grimgerde). Joined by Lauren McNeese (Rossweise) and Cybele Gouverneur (Schwertleite), they produced a great deal of sound and pulled off their choreography with aplomb.

Daniel Sumegi was a physically imposing Hunding, the somewhat husk-like quality of his voice is not a detriment to this character. Elizabeth Bishop made for a sympathetic Fricka, her voice is full. Mark Delavan may be difficult to hear at times, but his voice has a pleasant timbre and he articulates the words with conviction. Brandon Jovanovich had a promising role debut of Siegmund. His voice rang out with warmth. Anja Kampe's Sieglinde was moving. Her vibrato did not detract from the intensity or beauty of her voice. Nina Stemme continues to be a dazzling Brünnhilde.

* Tattling * 
The audience in standing room upstairs was, for the most part, silent. Some latecomers may have argued aloud with an usher about taking their seats. One of them turned off his cellular phone, which made a chime to indicate this. Another phone rang somewhere in the balcony during a quiet part of the music of Act I. The scene changes were not an issue for this opera, and the prompter was less audible.


Final Dress of SF Opera's Walküre

Sf-opera-walkuere-final-scene-2010 * Notes *
If yesterday's final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Die Walküre (Mark Delavan and Nina Stemme pictured left; photo from the 2010 production by Cory Weaver) is any indication, the cast is disconcertingly strong. Given how gorgeous last year's Walküre was, the promise of an even better run now is remarkable.

* Tattling *
The traffic getting to the Bay Bridge heading west was heavy, as someone suspected of being under the influence of alcohol threatened to jump from the upper deck.


Brandon Jovanovich Interview

Brandon-jovanovich This month tenor Brandon Jovanovich (pictured left, photograph by Peter Dressel) has role debuts of Froh and Siegmund in San Francisco Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen. In August, Jovanovich sings Věc Makropulos at the Salzburg Festival. Next season he performs in Cologne, Munich, Chicago, Berlin, Houston, and Washington, DC. The Opera Tattler spoke to Jovanovich at the War Memorial before rehearsal on Tuesday.

How did you get into opera?
By accident. I sang in high school choir. I had wanted to be a football player, and I went to the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota on a scholarship. The first year I was there it got to -80ºF below with the windchill factor. It was just too cold! I transferred to Northern Arizona University, but they wouldn't give me a scholarship for football without seeing me play. I ended up sending a tape of my choral singing, and was accepted into the music department.

Do you play an instrument?
Unfortunately, no. I can play enough piano to plunk out notes, and occasionally I can play a whole chord. I took about a year of piano at the age of 7 or 8. After the first 6 months I was allowed to take swimming lessons, and in another 6 I got a skateboard. And after the skateboard, well, that was it, no more piano.

How is working in opera? Is it stuffy as it is purported to be?
Since opera has to compete with other forms of entertainment, we do have to move around and act. I'm down two pairs of jeans from Ring rehearsals so far. Really, I've ripped two pairs!

You recently had a debut at the Met as Don José in Carmen (January 2010), and then returned the following season. How did that go?
It was a bit nerve-wracking, but it was great. I was covering Alagna, but it ended up that he sang 6 performances and I the other 6. I didn't get to work much with the director, Richard Eyre, until I went back to sing the role again last Fall, but it was so nice working with him.

Alagna was in the simulcast though, yes? How do you feel about the HD simulcasts?
That's right. It does bring bring opera to the masses. Especially with the HD broadcasts, they are such high quality, and that is wonderful. I am also apprehensive, as I have heard that some directors are looking at their work with an eye for the movie theater. Maybe something looks too much like stage acting for the camera, but that's where we are.

Is this your first Ring?
Yes, it is my first Wagner, in fact. I did hear Die Meistersinger in Chicago back in 1999. The first Ring operas I heard were Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in Los Angeles last year. I was there singing Die Vögel.

That's right, they had Die Vögel on that same steep rake as the Ring. How was that?
It was terrifying. The choreographer, Peggy Hickey, had us doing ankle exercises to keep us injuring ourselves.

How did you get the role of Siegmund?
That's a very good question! I have no idea! They hired me in 2008, I believe. In 2007, when I won the Richard Tucker award. I sang "Winterstürme," so maybe Greg Henkel heard that and thought that this role was in me. Or perhaps they heard it in the Pinkerton I sang here in that same year.

Is it an intimidating role?
On one hand, yes. Wagnerites definitely set the bar at a particular level, and many great singers have sung Siegmund. On the other hand, it is exhilarating. The role fits my voice like a glove.

Is Siegmund a hard role to relate to?
He is a very odd character, even setting aside the whole incest aspect. He's a vigilante who sees the world in black and white.

What are you singing next?
Let's see. I am singing in a couple of Carmen productions, of course. I also have Tenor/Bacchus in Ariadne, Don Carlos, and Samson et Dalila in the next season. I am learning roles from Lohengrin, Fidelio, and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. It is a lot of music to get into my wee little brain!

Your rep is varied, from Baroque to contemporary. What are the challenges of creating a role versus singing ones that everyone knows inside and out?
New works are important and rewarding to sing. You are given a blank slate and you get to create something, first and foremost with the composer, but also with the director, conductor, and your colleagues. I especially like Daniel Catán, as far as his style, his sound was his own, but people can relate to it.

Do you have favorite operas?
I should preface this with, I like everything I work on when I'm working on it, because when you are looking at the music and singing it all the time, you get to appreciate how great it is. But as for particular favorites, I love Peter Grimes and Jenůfa. From the very beginning of Jenůfa a nervousness invades your body, it just doesn't let up, and the very last five minutes are just sublime.

You've described yourself as a goofball before. Please explain.
I don't take myself too seriously, I like to make people laugh in rehearsals and to have fun.

Why don't you have a Wikipedia article?
I was wondering that too! I won't write one myself, and I don't mind not having one. I don't need to be in the limelight all the time.


Die Walküre at the Met (Lepage)

Walkuere-act-3-metWhilst the Opera Tattler attended a performance of Séance on a Wet Afternoon at the David H. Koch Theater on April 28, 2011, Miss LCU was nearby at Lepage's new production of Die Walküre (Act III pictured left, © Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) with the Unbiased Opinionator.

* Notes * 
Of late, James Levine gets credit for simply showing up on the podium. The audience is so thrilled to see the ailing maestro that it seems he can do no wrong. However, I was not terribly impressed with the orchestra for the second performance of this latest Walküre. For one thing, the prelude was especially lackluster and rhythmically bridled. It was as if the orchestra was playing in exact unison to the measured beat of a metronome. There was a paucity of energy and agitato one would expect from music meant to represent a man who is frantically running from his pursuers in a storm. Thankfully things improved as the evening progressed.

As Brünnhilde, Deborah Voigt hit most of her notes and did not struggle with pitch. While she gave a very youthful, sassy portrayal of the valiant Valkyrie, her voice lacked nuance. She was generally at one dynamic level and yelped the high Bs and Cs when singing the word "Hojotoho." It sounded like she had hiccups and looking at the score, the composer did not intend for those octave leaps to end in clipped staccato. Voigt's interaction with Bryn Terfel as Wotan worked well. The two succeeded in establishing their close rapport and fondness for one another in Act II, making the heartbreak of their farewell at the end all the more devastating.

Terfel's Wotan was multifaceted and robust, even until the very end. He clearly did a fine job pacing himself. As Siegmund, Jonas Kaufmann was both convincing and lyrical. His voice carried effortlessly and his "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnermond" consisted of one glorious legato line after another.

In contrast, Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde) gave a somewhat disappointing performance and the strain in her voice was evident as she fought through her last phrases in beginning of Act III, which are among the most beautiful lines of music in the opera. She did have cold on opening night, so perhaps she was still on the mend.

The highlight of the evening was, surprisingly, Stephanie Blythe's portrayal of Fricka. For the first time, I saw Fricka as something other than a vindictive, nagging shrew. I was reminded that she is a woman in pain, someone who has been deeply hurt by Wotan's transgressions. Blythe opens up her character's vulnerabilities to the audience, suggesting that perhaps she, too, deserves a bit of our sympathy. In order to uphold the Law, she demands punishment and justice, but we often mistake her for someone who is solely out to seek revenge.

Wagner was deeply influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer who was known for his pessimistic view of the human condition and his philosophy of the "Will," a concept so important that Wagner felt it was necessary to use Brünnhilde to personify Wotan's Will as a separate entity apart from himself. Schopenhauer also makes a clear distinction between punishment (to prevent future violations of the law) and revenge (motivated by reconciling past wrongdoings with the pure intent to harm and no constructive impact on the future).

Perhaps Fricka is after revenge and cunningly disguises it as punishment. Wagner leaves just enough ambiguity in his score to make us wonder. The true thrill of this particular production was not delivered by Lepage's ostentatious morphing planks, but with subtlety through Blythe's artistry and empathy for her character.

Regietheater seems to operate on the notion that in order for us to make old works exciting and relevant to the younger generations, we must to rely on shock value. The beauty of Wagner's work lies within the inconspicuous moments that expose human frailty and intimacy. Directors may consider paying more attention to the small details hidden in the score rather than embellishing the composers work with obscenely grand spectacles that are neither necessary nor relevant.


Die Walküre at SF Opera

Mark Delavan (Wotan) and Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde) with the Valkyries, photo by Cory Weaver * Notes * 
Die Walküre had a stunning opening last night at San Francisco Opera. There was never a dull moment from the orchestra pit, and Donald Runnicles kept the tempi apace, and rarely overwhelmed the singers. There were some notes that were out of tune or not perfectly clear from the brass, but for the most part, the sound was warm and full. The singing was intensely beautiful. The Walküren included many current and former Adlers and Merolini: Maya Lahyani (Siegrune), Tamara Wapinsky (Helmwige), Wendy Bryn Harmer (Gerhilde), Daveda Karanas (Waltraute), Suzanne Hendrix (Schwertleite). Joined by Priti Gandhi (Rossweise), Pamela Dillard (Grimgerde), and Molly Fillmore (Ortlinde), they sounded hearty.

Raymond Aceto was a mean little bully as Hunding, perfectly appropriate for the role, he did not sound heroic at all and was very believable. Janina Baechle likewise filled the role of Fricka rather perfectly. Mark Delavan did well as Wotan, his voice is pretty, though perhaps slightly light. Christopher Ventris sang Siegmund with conviction, and sounded lovely with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde. Ventris sounded somewhat ragged by the end of Act I, but sang Act II gorgeously. Westbroek had a lot of power, and very little strain. Nina Stemme was also incredible, she has a wonderful control of her voice, and her timbre is pleasing.

Francesca Zambello's production, on the other hand, was at best inoffensive. The projections, designed by Jan Hartley, started off with a watery screen saver and then took a turn toward The Blair Witch Project. The repeated use of lightning was painfully cliché. The sets, from Michael Yeargan, are serviceable enough. The first scene was exceedingly predictable, one could see right away that the front of the house would lift up and the sides would come apart. The second half of Act II looked very familiar, I believe Bayreuth's current Ring has a freeway scene as well. The third act was a crowd pleaser, and while I enjoyed the absurdity and theatrics of parachuting Walküren, it did not seem appropriate to distract from the orchestra at this point in the music.

* Tattling * 
The audience was fairly attentive, though the women in Row T Seats 5 and 7 of the Orchestra Level spoke at two points during Act II, both times when the orchestra was playing. They did not return for Act III. There were some watch alarms at each hour, but they were not close to me, and I could barely hear them. There was an electronic sound, either a phone, watch, or hearing aid, that intoned a noise as Siegmund sang about the circumstances of how he lost his weapons. There were also shrill noises during when Siegmund sings about Sieglinde ("Ist es der Blick der blühenden Frau"). I could not tell if they were coming from the stage or behind it.

John Marcher was kind enough to take me to this performance, and we happened to sit next to Lisa Hirsch, who has, charmingly enough, tattled on herself. SFMike was seen at the intermissions, as were many others.


Die Walküre at LA Opera

LA Opera's Walkuere, photo by Monika Rittershaus/LA Opera * Notes * 
Los Angeles Opera's Ring cycle continued with Die Walküre yesterday evening. The orchestra sounded fairly good under James Conlon, though at times they did play gingerly, carefully hitting each note. The cello solo in the beginning of Act I Scene 1 was lovely, but the brass did not sound clean for Hunding's Leitmotiv. There was a painful brass mistake as Siegmund sang in Act I Scene 3, but otherwise only a few stray sour notes and haziness. The playing was mournful and together for the end. The singing was gorgeous, particularly in Act I, with Eric Halfvarson (Hunding), Michelle DeYoung (Sieglinde), and Plácido Domingo (Siegmund). All three have such beautiful voices, with enough heft to be heard over the orchestra. DeYoung sounded silvery and young, rather different than her role as Fricka the previous evening. Domingo did admirably, considering he had surgery for colon cancer just in March. At times it was difficult to discern exactly what words he was singing, but the prettiness of his voice came through. Ekaterina Semenchuk was strong as Fricka, very rich and stirring. Linda Watson fared less well as Brünnhilde, sounding shrill in Act II, but did have some tender moments in Act III. Her sister Walküren sounded hale and hearty, they even managed their choreography convincingly and no one fell. Vitalij Kowaljow was believable as Wotan, especially during Wotans Abschied von Brünnhilde und Feuerzauber.

The production, from Achim Freyer, is a stylized riot of color and movement, including clown makeup, light sabers, contortionists, dancing, spinning horse/bicycle hybrids, and the like. Sieglinde and Siegmund do spend a lot of their time in Act I singing from across the stage from each other, and it was a palpable relief to see them actually in contact with one another in Act II. The staging is novel, the end of Act II was especially stunning, and the Walküren scene (Act III Scene 1) was amusing.

* Tattling * 
The audience was embarrassingly ill-behaved, talking even during the singing. Watches were heard not only at the hour, but one went off for 10-12 rings as an alarm during Act II. One person's cellular phone rang on at least 3 occasions, once before the watch alarm and twice afterward, and there was yet another phone heard at the end of the act. Cough drops in cellophane seemed to be unwrapped at every quiet moment. On the orchestra level, a certain visitor from New York made her own announcement before Act II about this, and thus managed to enjoy some respite from the crinkling for the rest of the opera.


Die Walküre at the Bayreuther Festpiele

Bayreuther-walkuere * Notes * 
Bayreuth's Ring cycle continued with Die Walküre last night. Once again, the orchestra sounded lovely under the direction of Christian Thielemann, and the brass was particularly fine. The singing was stronger overall than in Das Rheingold. The Walküren did sang admirably, their voices were well-matched. Michelle Breedt was shrill as Fricka, but her characterization of the role was forceful. Linda Watson (Brünnhilde) had a poor start, her notes were not secure and the piercing quality of her voice is unsettling. Watson did have some lovely moments later on, especially when she did not have to overtax herself to be heard over the orchestra. Eva-Maria Westbroek gave a powerful, yet nuanced performance as Sieglinde. She did gasp a bit in Act I, but otherwise her voice was stunning.

Albert Dohmen (Wotan) sounded more assured in Die Walküre than he did the previous night. He sounds best when the orchestration is less heavy. Wotans Abschied von Brünnhilde und Feuerzauber was particularly moving. Kwangchul Youn looked like cruel, brutish Hunding, but in his voice he sounded more stoic and restrained. His physicality in his sudden death was impressive. Endrik Wottrich also embodied the role of Siegmund, but his voice, though warm and pleasant, lacked radiance. Wottrich was also slightly quiet, especially next to Westbroek.

Tankred Dorst's production has both clever and confusing moments. It was entertaining when Siegmund pulled Notung out of a fallen utility pole, and the set for the last act was formidable. On the other hand, the doubling of Wotan in Act II as he sends Brünnhilde off was rather contrived, and the children chasing a man with a bicycle was simply odd. The costumes were appealing, especially the smart red outfits of the Walküren.

* Tattling * 
Someone had a medical emergency near the end of Act I, Scene 2. There was a terrible choking sound and evidently the person fell unconscious. She had to be carried out of the hall by two men, and a door was unlocked to get her help. The people in her row were reluctant to stand up to let her out, and the performance continued as if nothing had happened.


Die Walküre at the Met (Schenk)

Marty-Sohl-Met-Opera * Notes * 
Last night's performance of Die Walküre at the Met was more impressive than Das Rheingold. For the most part, the orchestra continued playing rather cleanly, though there was noticeable trumpet error in Act I. The singing in this act was especially strong. René Pape sounded very different as Hunding than as Fasolt the previous night. Adrianne Pieczonka sang Sieglinde with great beauty, she has a big voice with a controlled vibrato. Her German is clear, especially in contrast to Plácido Domingo's mumbling. Diction aside, Domingo was incredible as Siegmund, very heroic, with lovely high notes and fine volume. The rest of the cast sounded hale as well. Albert Dohmen was distinguished himself by singing his farewell to Brünnhilde quite exquisitely. Yvonne Naef was strident as Fricka, though this is appropriate to the role. As for the Valkyries themselves, they were a disparate bunch, some voices were quite pretty, others rather shrill, and they did not always blend perfectly when singing together. Katarina Dalayman is promising as Brünnhilde, her low notes are warm and pleasant.

The stage was dark for much of the opera, at least from the Family Circle. As a result, it was difficult to discern what exactly was going on, though the characters did pace about the stage quite a bit.

* Tattling * 
One of the Walküren did a face-plant during Act III. This provoked some gasps and titters.

There were two watch alarms at 7pm, and a telephone rang during Act III. Standing room was tight during Act II, and I simply stopped looking at the stage during that act, since it was not of much interest anyway. I noted much whispering from the people next to us, which continued during the singing, and was still audible after they found seats during Act III. The rest of the audience was fairly quiet.

After the first intermission, one of my companions overheard someone say "I either have to go home or die quickly." I hope the person in question got home safely.


The Met's 2008-2009 Season

September 22 2008: Gala
September 23- October 16 2008: Salome
September 24- October 9 2008: La Gioconda
September 27-December 19 2008: Don Giovanni
October 3-25 2008: Lucia di Lammermoor
October 13- November 13 2008: Doctor Atomic
October 20- November 20 2008: La Traviata
October 24- November 22 2008: Madama Butterfly
November 7- December 4 2008: La Damnation de Faust
November 21- December 13 2008: The Queen of Spades
November 28- December 20 2008: Tristan und Isolde
December 8 2008- January 8 2009: Thaïs
December 15 2008- January 10 2009: La Bohème
December 22 2008- January 1 2009: Die Zauberflöte
December 31 2008- February 26 2009: La Rondine
January 9-31 2009: Orfeo ed Euridice
January 24- February 12 2009: Rigoletto
January 26- February 7 2009: Lucia di Lammermoor
January 30- February 21 2009: Eugene Onegin
February 6-28 2009: Adriana Lecouvreur
February 16- May 8 2009: Il Trovatore
February 27- March 7 2009: Madama Butterfly
March 2- April 3 2009: La Sonnambula
March 9-21 2009: Rusalka
March 19- April 10 2009: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci
March 25- May 4 2009: Das Rheingold
March 31- April 22 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
April 1-17 2009: Rigoletto
April 6- May 5 2009: Die Walküre
April 13-24 2009: Don Giovanni
April 18- May 7 2009: Siegfried
April 25- May 9 2009: Götterdämmerung
May 1-9 2009: La Cenerentola

The Met's 125th season includes 6 new productions and 22 revivals. Susan Graham is singing Marguerite and Don Elvira. Karita Mattila sings Tatiana and Salomé. Juha Uusitalo has his Met debut as Jokanaan in Salomé. Deborah Voigt stars in the title role of La Gioconda with Ewa Podleś as La Cieca, and Olga Borodina as Laura Badoero. Thomas Hampson is Athanaël in Thaïs, opposite of Renée Fleming, and Onegin, opposite of Mattila as aforementioned. Fleming also sings the title role in Rusalka. Anna Netrebko will sing Mimi and share the role of Lucia with Diana Damrau. Netrebko's Edgardo is, of course, Rolando Villazón. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (Giuseppe Filianoti in February performances) sing in La Rondine, the production is the same one that was seen in San Francisco last Fall and which will be broadcast this weekend. Gheorghiu stars in L'Elisir opposite of Rolando Villazón. Alagna also appears in Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. John Relyea is in two productions, La Damnation de Faust and La Cenerentola. René Pape sings Hunding and Fasolt in the Ring and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. Daniel Barenboim is making his Met debut conducting Tristan.

McVicar's Il Trovatore is a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera. The Met performances feature Salvatore Licitra, along with Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky for the first performances, and then Marco Berti, Hasmik Papian, Luciana D'Intino, and Željko Lučić.

I am most likely to see Orfeo ed Euridice, the Mark Morris production was my very first opera when it was performed in Berkeley several years ago. I am disappointed to not see Ruth Ann Swenson or Andreas Scholl in this lineup for the next season.

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