SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 1

_37A3596* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's current Ring cycle continued with beautifully played Siegfried (Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) last night. There was also much fine singing.

The orchestra seems more settled than in the previous two performances of the cycle, there were fewer intonation errors in the brass, and the horn solo in Act II was nearly perfect. Donald Runnicles seems to bring out the best in the musicians. I especially loved the harps. The singers were never overwhelmed by the orchestra, and almost always synchronized.

Tenor Daniel Brenna is a confident Siegfried, with a sweet, well-nuanced sound. He projects a youthful aplomb that suits the character. Soprano Iréne Theorin is a powerful Brünnhilde, some of her top notes can be harsh but she has a lot of strength.

Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley's Wanderer is likewise incisive and the contrast between him and the warm brightness of tenor David Cangelosi (Mime), the richer tones of bass-baritone Falk Struckmann (Alberich), and the lush timbre of mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Erda) all worked well.

Bass Raymond Aceto is effective of Fafner, his death scene conveyed both a sense of wonder and regret. Soprano Stacey Tappan sounds wonderfully bird-like as the Forest Bird, though I still don't think having her be a studious girl that gestures a lot makes much sense.

Other elements of the staging have the same holes as before too. It isn’t clear what Fafner’s hiding place is exactly, Grane is referred to but isn’t represented, and so forth. The colors of the projections — many are of clouds or fire — look much brighter, I noticed a lot more lime, pink, and purple.

Tattling * 
I was scolded for taking all the spaces in orchestra standing room by someone looking for a spot at the rail because I was saving a place for a friend rushing over from work. I could see the woman's point, but on the other hand, I bought two tickets and ran out the door right after nursing my one-year old at 7:30am to secure a good position in line.

There wasn't much talking around us during the performance, and no electronic noise either. I thought I heard a crying infant in the first act at the back of the orchestra level, but it seems the baby was taken out into the lobby fairly quickly. I can only guess this was the child of one of the singers.

I think there were two mishaps onstage. One of Mime's eggs in Act I dropped and bounced off the floor. The Wood Bird tripped near the end of Act II. In both cases, the singers involved handled themselves with admirable calmness.

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.

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.

Casting Change for The Met's Siegfried & Götterdämmerung

Sieg3_1209aJay Hunter Morris (pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) in the title role of the Metropolitan Opera's Siegfried, on April 21 and 30, 2012, as part of Ring Cycles 1 and 2. Morris will also sing Siegfried in Götterdämmerung for the second RingCycle on May 3, 2012. Lehman has withdrawn due to illness.

The Met's Press Releases | The Met's Official Site

SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 2

Sfopera-siegfried-act2-6 * Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's second Ring cycle continued with Siegfried (Act II, Scene 3 pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) on Friday. The orchestra played clearly. The sound of the off-stage horn in Act II, Scene 2 was clean and pleasant. The music for Siegfried passing through the magic fire at the end of Act III, Scene 2 was also played well. Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried) sounded richer than in previous performances, though he does not have the baritonal darkness of a Heldentenor in his voice, he is pleasant to hear. He also made it all the way to the end of the performance without being in danger of losing his voice. Mark Delavan sang with a pretty warmth, though not a great deal of volume. He made an endearing substitution of "Schwarz" for "Licht" for his last answer in Act I, Scene 2. David Cangelosi was strong as Mime. Nina Stemme was again incredible as Brünnhilde.

* Tattling * 
The audience was exceptionally ill-behaved. A cellular phone rang many times when Mime was singing about Sieglinde in Act I, Scene 1. There was another mobile that rang during Act I, Scene 2. I was reading the score in the back on an iPad, and a late-comer asked me how much longer Act I would go, and scared me out of my skin. I responded that we had another scene to go, and asked her not to speak to me, as I was trying to listen to the music.

Some other late-comers to Act II dropped their personal effects on the bench I was sitting on, and the female half of the couple chose rest the upper half of her body on them, making a horrible crunching sound on some sort of plastic water bottle. Later in the act they talked extensively, right in front of where I was seated. In Act III the person next to me sang along for a bit of the prologue, but noticed the look I gave him, and was silent for the rest of the performance.

SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 1

Siegfried-act-3-scene-3 * 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.

SF Opera's Siegfried Media Round-Up


Production Web Site | SF Opera's Ring Blog

Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) are coming in, and it certainly makes for interesting reading.

Performance Reviews: Financial Times | Not For Fun Only | The Reverberate Hills | San Francisco Chronicle | Commanday on SFCV | Serinus on SFCV | SF Examiner | San Jose Mercury News

Siegfried at SF Opera

Siegfried-act2-fafner * Notes * 
Francesca Zambello's production of Siegfried (pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) opened today at San Francisco Opera. Though this opera is nearly 4 hours of music, it breezed by this afternoon. The orchestra was luminious under Donald Runnicles. The brass was warm with only a bit of haziness, and most of the horn calls were clear and lovely. The woodwinds sounded gorgeous, especially the clarinet. The orchestra did seem to overwhelm the singing at times, but it was hard to care too much about this since the playing was so pretty.

The singing was solid. David Cangelosi was perfect for Mime. His voice is bright, and he was both slippery and sniveling. He was able to cartwheel, somersault, and dance. Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) has a rich voice with a good deal of vibrato. Daniel Sumegi was a grave Fafner. He was gravelly at times, but it worked for the role. Stacey Tappan was charming as the Woodbird, her movements were bird-like, as is her voice. Ronnita Miller was a determined Erda, the top of her voice shines, and the bottom has an attractive warmth.

Mark Delavan was fine as the Wanderer, though perhaps light. He was more detached than in Die Walküre, as is suitable. He was funny in the first act, somewhat mocking in the second, and even menacing in the third. Nina Stemme was brilliant as Brünnhilde, her first lines in Act III were particularly evocative. In the title role, Jay Hunter Morris paced himself carefully. There were times when he seemed somewhat quiet, but he never came off as harsh. His Siegfried was youthful but not childish.

At the very least, the innocuous production did not get in the way of the music. Jan Hartley's heavy-handed projections lacked aesthetic cohesion, and the ones used during the Act III overture were ridiculous. Michael Yeargan's sets were quiet and benign. At times the approach was brutal, as with the Woodbird. She simply appeared as a studious young lady who used a lot of hand gestures, even after Siegfried could understand her language. Zambello handled the dragon amusingly, using a huge trash compactor robot to good effect. In general, the humor of Siegfried came through, and one could not fault Zambello for being boring.

* Tattling * 
The audience in the balcony seemed silent enough. There was some whispering, but no electronic noise. Axel Feldheim was, as usual, an ideal opera companion. During the ovation, we saw that SF Mike had joined us, and together we met Patrick Vaz at the stage door.

I helped the SF Opera Guild with tea and coffee service for the musicians, and did standing room in balcony. This meant I ran up and down the stairs of the War Memorial 4 times.

Final Dress of SF Opera's Siegfried

Siegfried-act1-scene1 * Notes *
The final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's Siegfried (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) was last Thursday. There was a little roughness in the brass, but the orchestra generally sounded quite pretty under Maestro Runnicles. The production is consistent with both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. There were some elements of the staging that were very entertaining, and others worked less well. Most of singing was not at full volume, but what we heard showed promise. One is especially curious to hear Jay Hunter Morris, his acting was strong, and he projected youth convincingly.

* Tattling * 
Unfortunately, I was late to this rehearsal, taking a seat as quietly as I could. I did sneak away at the second break, as to leave the ending a surprise for the opening tomorrow.

Siegfried at LA Opera

LA Opera's Siegfried, Photo by: Monika Rittershaus/LA Opera * Notes * 
Siegfried was performed yesterday as part of Los Angeles Opera's Ring Festival. James Conlon kept the orchestra sounding fairly restrained, the brass continued to have rough patches, but the singing and playing was more synchronized than in the first two operas. Stacey Tappan shimmered as the Waldvogel, her fluttery voice is suited to the role. Jill Grove sounded rather nice as Erda, earthy but not overly pretty. Eric Halfvarson's Fafner was remarkably sympathetic, especially in his death scene. Graham Clark likewise was fine as Mime, his voice is bright, his acting was clear and strong.

Again, both Richard Paul Fink (Alberich) and Vitalij Kowaljow (Wotan) continued to impress, embodying their roles with vigor. The two leads fared less well, though both were maddening in that sometimes their voices were extraordinarily lovely. Linda Watson could sound harsh as Brünnhilde, but her "Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht!" was splendidly beautiful. John Treleaven also could sound brilliant and sweet, but more often he was just getting through this very difficult music, and was still standing at the end, at least.

Achim Freyer's production is consistent in its absurdity. The dragon was especially hilarious, it looked like a tiny puppet on wires, and had plumes of red lights attached to its mouth. One imagines that we are seeing Fafner from Siegfried's fearless point of view here. Siegfried is a clowns around, and his buffoonery is on full display. Though flawed, he somehow did not seem very human, so it was a bit hard to relate to him. Also, the way Fafner's wounding was staged was somewhat confusing if one has not read the libretto, given that the beast we see is so small.

* Tattling * 
The talking was at a minimum for Act I, though a cellular phone rang during the overture. More electronic noise followed in the middle act, a watch alarm rang at least 20 times. There was much speaking from the audience in Act II, and the person next to me in Row H of the orchestra had to implore the woman and girl behind him to be silent. They apologized during the second intermission, and were silent the rest of the opera. Unfortunately this was not the case for the German-speaking couple closer to the middle of Row J, they spoke openly without the slightest bit of embarrassment.

There was a press reception that I had the pleasure of attending. Evidently Quentin Tarantino was also present.

Siegfried at the Bayreuther Festspiele

Bayreuther-siegfried * Notes * 
Siegfried was performed last night as part of the Bayreuther Festspiele. Conductor Christian Thielemann had the orchestra well in hand, there were only the tiniest of brass errors. For the most part, the sound was translucent but full. The singing was solid. Christiane Kohl's keen voice was suitable for the Waldvogel, not exactly beautiful, but effective. Linda Watson's intonation is not always perfect, but her Brünnhilde was sympathetic, one could hear the range of emotions within her voice. Christa Mayer sounded pretty and limpid as Erda, but was perhaps too ethereal. Ain Anger (Fafner) was not frightening at all, neither in his voice or in his movement.

Both Andrew Shore (Alberich) and Albert Dohmen (Wotan) had imposing performances, and their scene together at the beginning of the second act was tremendous. Wolfgang Schmidt was both sycophantic and spiteful as Mime, he could sound warm or gritty depending on the music. Christian Franz sounded much more comfortable as Siegfried here in Bayreuth compared to his performance at the Met earlier this year. He was still quite a thug, childish and silly as far as his acting. However, he did not sound like he was going to crack at any moment, and his voice had a definite brightness. His volume was a tad low until the last act, when he stepped it up. The last scene of the last act was sung with vehemence on both sides.

Tankred Dorst's production continues to amuse. Siegfried's entrance dressed as a bear was funny, as was the dragon, which seemed to consist entirely of smoke, light, and teeth. The choreography for Siegfried in Act I was perhaps too petulant, but he did show a human side after killing Mime. Overall, the characterization of Siegfried was close to convincing.

* Tattling * 
Before the opera even started, we overheard a middle-aged English-speaking man arranging a date with one of the rather young, blond ushers. She seemed understandably bewildered.

There was a distinct electronic noise at the beginning of Act III, and a watch alarm at each hour. At times there were also high-pitched noises coming from hearing aids. Otherwise, people were silent, not laughing at any of the funny bits. A British man in Row 20 of the orchestra level kept shaking my companion's seat with his feet, and was roundly scolded by her after Act I.

Siegfried at the Met (Schenk)

Siegfried * Notes * 
The performance of Siegfried at the Met yesterday evening was a mixed bag. The orchestra sounded lovely, despite some roughness in the brass. The playing was deft and rich. The singing, however, left much to be desired. Siegfried himself, Christian Franz, had a rather frail sound. He had some pretty, warm moments, but he seemed to gasp quiet a bit. He was overwhelmed by the orchestra in Act III, though occasionally some of his shrieking carried over the pit. His percussion was rather good though. Linda Watson was fair as Brünnhilde, her vibrato wide, but her lower range is pleasing. Wendy White was engaging as Erda, without any trace of harshness. Robert Brubaker and Tom Fox sounded fine as Mime and Alberich, and Albert Dohmen rounded out the cast as the Wanderer.

The staging was particularly absurd this evening. For one thing, Siegfried gives Mime a high five, and all of the former's buffoonish, crude nature is heightened in this production. Mime and Alberich skipped, their giddiness and glee was palpable. The set and costumes continue to lack contrast, the characters do not look distinctive at all. The dragon was difficult to make out from the Family Circle, and he seemed to be underwater from the way he was lit. Though the transitional lighting between scenes in the last act was actually clever, one did feel that the scene was different, though the set was not switched out.

* Tattling * 
A cellular phone rang at the beginning of the opera, and another one vibrated on two separate occasions during this act. As poor Franz cracked and wheezed though the second scene of Act III, half a dozen watch alarms went off in the course of 10 minutes. Apparently it was around 11pm.

Talking and whispering continued, though not to the extent of Das Rheingold. The couple next to us in standing room were roundly hushed, and they did remain mostly quiet after that. There was quite a lot of laughing as well, from everyone, it seemed. The titles must have been funny, and the staging certainly was.

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.

Press Release | Official Site