Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wagner's Siegfried at the MET

The Metropolitan Opera is in the middle of presenting three Ring Cycles this spring, and this afternoon was the premiere of Siegfried, the third part of Richard Wagner's monumental tetralogy. It is the second year that the Robert Lepage production is seen in its entirety at the house.  This season comes with a few key changes in the cast from the first initial years when the operas debuted. The "machine," the twenty four planks that make up the unit set for the four operas, is still very much with us, and continues to be the source of much controversy, and the topic of most of the audience conversation at intermissions. When the contraption works, it offers a 21st century staging that at times can be arresting as it is maddening. When it malfunctions it is an engineering nightmare that leaves audiences wishing that the MET had kept the previous Otto Schenk staging alone.

Having seen the entire music drama at the house as well as on Blu-Ray DVD I've concluded that this staging is best enjoyed on a 16x9 flat screen monitor at home, or in an HD presentation in the theater. The "machine" robs the staging of depth with much of the action taking place near the apron of the stage. This is perfect for the two dimensional presentation on a theater or home screen. Some audience members have even complained that, depending on what part of the house one sits, the "machine" steals away some of the sound. With money coming in hand over fist from the worldwide HD presentations MET management could probably care less what goes on at the house these days.

Among the artists returning to the roles they created in this production are Gerhard Siegel as Mime and Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried.  These days Mr. Siegel owns the role of Mime.  He is a brilliant actor with a strong heldentenorish voice to match.  Mr. Morris is very strong in the acting department, but his voice, compared to that of Mr. Siegel, is lighter, making the MET's Ring possibly the only production of this work where the Siegfried could sing Mime and vice-versa.  I would love for them to switch roles in a recording of this opera and examine the results.  Likewise, basso-profundo Hans-Peter König was a thunderous Fafner, a voice that harks back to the Golden Age of Wagnerian singers.  Eric Owens, as Alberich, continues to be a phenomenal stage presence, but this afternoon his low notes sounded a bit dry.   Deborah Voigt has become the house Brünnhilde, and this afternoon she sounded strong and radiant, the best I have seen her in quite a while.  Mark Delavan, taking on the role of Wotan for the first time this year, sounded strong and assured.

The Metropolitan Opera orchestra, under Fabio Luisi played flawlessly as usual this very difficult score.  We are so lucky to have such an incredibly fine ensemble playing every night in New York City.

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