* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's current Ring cycle continued with Siegfried (Act III, Scene 3 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) last night. The production, from Francesca Zambello, portrays the title character as an artless, troubled youth in an urban fairytale. The comedy of the work is clear, but other aspects of the production are baffling. The Waldvogel as a girl rather than a bird is an interesting idea, however this conceit ultimately weakens the final scene. When Siegfried sees Brünnhilde for the first time, he has already seen the rather dainty Waldvogel, so his surprise at seeing a woman seems unwarranted. Another muddle was evident after Siegfried drags Mime's body over to the dead Fafner. As Siegfried sings he pours gasoline on the corpses and threatens to light them on fire. The nice Waldvogel vehemently gestures to him that this is unacceptable. This makes little sense since Siegfried can understand her singing as speech, why wouldn't she just vocalize her disapproval? The very end of Act II was moving, having Siegfried run off and then return to take one last look at the only parent he has known made this hero seem less callous.
The changes in staging have been positive. The Wanderer no longer enters from the raised catwalk above where the Waldvogel spends most of her time later. This lends more drama to the Waldvogel's entrance, and Mark Delavan was easier to hear when he did not have to worry about being suspended above the stage. The scene with the Wanderer and Erda is markedly less violent, which distracts less from the music.
Whether from the orchestra or the balcony, Jan Hartley's projections set each scene, and yet were often a confused, overworked jumble. The layering of images only made for further visual disorder. In general, Mark McCullough's lighting design is restrained in comparison, but the green used in Act II was a bit tacky. Michael Yeargan's set added to the humor of Act I, Mime's trailer complete with Rheingold beer and trash strewn about was funny. The other settings may have not been as entertaining, but were servicable. The costumes, by Catherine Zuber, distinguish the characters. Siegfried's costume, a mid-length coat with scarf, looks awfully similiar to director Zambello's attire. It seems that Sieglinde's turquoise dress was transformed into said scarf, as the latter did not appear in Die Walküre.
The orchestra played smoothly under Runnicles. The woodwinds and harps sounded especially great. There were some errors, but it does seem petty to enumerate the specifics. The singers were less overwhelmed by the orchestra than two weeks ago at the prima, especially Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried). Morris was more confident, and his voice sounded fuller, never on the verge of cracking. His high, sweet tenor is very pretty. Mark Delavan's Wanderer also sounded richer and more authoritative.
David Cangelosi continued to impress as Mime. His voice is attractive, has a pleasant, baritonal quality, but his high notes are still brilliant. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) is vocally distinct enough from Delavan to contrast the Alberich and Wotan nicely. Daniel Sumegi (Fafner), Stacey Tappan (Waldvogel), and Ronnita Miller (Erda) gave performances consistent with their appearances at the opening. Nina Stemme continues to be one of strongest contributors to this Ring, her fresh voiced Brünnhilde is exceptional.
* Tattling *
I attended in Orchestra level standing room, feeling I could get the full impact of the projections from here. There was some talking whenever the singing ceased, which was unfortunate given how some my favorite parts of the opera are precisely these moments. I even took a particular music critic's offer for his seat in Act III, just to escape a dreadful woman standing behind me. At least there was little electronic noise this time.