Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Metropolitan Opera – Wagner's Die Walkure, February 2, 2008.

Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center – Grand Tier, Seat Box 30-5 ($115).

Conductor – Lorin Maazel; Sigmund – Clifton Forbis, Sieglinde – Deborah Voight, Hunding - Mikhail Petrenko, Woten – James Morris, Brunnhilde – Lisa Gasteen, Fricka – Michelle DeYoung.

Story. Sigmund falls in love with Sieglinde, who is married to Hunding. Hunding challenges Sigmund to a duel. Woten sends Brunnhilde to help Sigmund, but is later forbidden by his wife Fricka to do so. Sigmund is killed and Brunnhilde is punished by Woten for disobeying him. Woten nonetheless puts a wall of fire around Brunnhilde to protect her.

This opera is the second in Wagner's famous Ring Cycle, and the story is quite a bit more complicated. Among other things, Sigmund and Sieglinde are twins, and yet they get married and Sieglinde is pregnant. (She later gives birth to Siegfried who marries Brunnhilde, which complicates things even further: but that is another opera.) Woten seems to be the father of everyone, including the two protagonists and all the “Hildas”. Yet his wife defends the sanctity of marriage.

This is a rather long opera at 4 hours 45 minutes, yet Loren Maazel, who can seem lethargic when conducting the New York Philharmonic, was very energetic. While he used the score, but he was undoubtedly very familiar with the music. We could see him cuing and singing along with the soloists. Alas, there is only one familiar tune: The Rides of the Valkyries.

The singing was excellent. I can understand why people say Voight is a great Wagnerian soprano as her voice indeed soared above the orchestra. Since I didn't have a good view of the stage, I can't comment on the acting. The staging was okay, the fire scene was not as spectacular as I expected, but they should turn on more lights so we could see better.

Maazel had an interview in one of the magazines (probably New York, but I am not sure) which talked about his return to conducting the Met. He made the observation that Wagner, who wrote his own lyrics, wasn't that good a lyricist. Since I have forgotten all my German from my college days, and I depended on the subtitles to understand what was going on, I couldn't tell.

In any case, this was all-in-all an impressive performance. Some people still found reason to boo during the curtain call, though.

See the New York Times article on the return of Maazel to the Met podium. The review is kinder than usual, bordering on a rave.

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