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Saturday, March 17, 2007

DVD Review: Siegfried--Into The Woods

Editor's Note: (D flat)
Dear Reader: Wagner Veek got interrupted by a cold (achoo!) so keep reading next week for my reviews of the Met's Die Ägyptische Helene, the New York Philharmonic, and the DVD of Götterdämmerung from the Liceu in Barcelona. All good stuff to look forward to! Without any further delay or to-do, heeere's SIEGFRIED!

The theme of environmental decay continues in the third installment of Harry Kupfer's Barcelona staging of his second Ring cycle. Mime's lair is a massive underground factory floor, complete with a giant wind-powered forge. Siegfried, ever the environmentalist, shears the blades off the propeller at the end of the first act--a welcome change from the usual splitting of the anvil. The World-Ash is still present, a huge hollow log suspended above the stage which Wotan (Falk Struckmann) sometimes uses as a lofty perch. There are less theatrical echos from the director's 1988 cycle here--one feels that more thought went into re-thinking this most difficult opera for this production.

In the title role, John Treleavan has a fine, ringing tenor, sailing through the soft passages and rising to meet the vocal brutalities of the Forging Song. His Siegfried is a burly bully, playing obnoxious, often uncomfortable pranks on Mime and physically abusing his step-parent. But his voice starts to fray in the end of the second act, becoming tight and compressed. Treleavan fares better in the final duet with Brunnhilde, holding his own with some impressive, if strained high notes.

Graham Clark reprises his Mime yet again, and that's never a bad thing in this difficult, unlovable role. The British tenor's voice is sometimes shrill, sometimes lyrical--perfectly suited to the role of Mime. His hyperkinetic Harold Lloyd acting style captures every slimy nuance of the character, and his scenes in Act II are both pathetic and hilarious. (My favorite moment is when he swipes Alberich's hat.) His death scene is a comic highlight with a bloody end--the dwarf actually gets the sword away from Siegfried (the whole plan to begin with) and then actually hands it back to his ward. Clark is a magnificent Mime, but so annoying that his death comes as something of a relief to the ears.

As the Wanderer (Wotan, cleverly disguised by a grey fedora hat) Falk Struckmann gives his finest performance of this cycle, his voice settling comfortably into the deeper pitches of the role. Gunther von Kannen is as ever, firm and deep as Alberich, his opposite number. Andrea Bönig continues her terrific run through this Ring. In Act III, she appears as Erda, tangled in fiber optics, a victim of information overload. She is vocally solid, although her mezzo is a little light for Erda.

The environmental theme dominate the forest scene of Act II. The World-Ash is now a hollow trunk that Wotan hides in, releasing the Forest Bird into the woods like a wind-up toy. Fafner (Erik Halfvarson) literally comes out of the forest floor but this dragon is more pathetic than intimidating. Halfvarson (who also played Hunding in the cycle's Die Walküre) appears in the mechanical cyborg outfit from Rheingold although casting him instead of Matthias Holle is confusing--a first-time viewer might think that Siegfried, trying to kill Fafner has accidentally offed Hunding instead.

The most impressive visuals come in the final act, a near earthquake at the start of the Erda scene and an impressive rendering of the Magic Fire scene in its second iteration. As Brunnhilde, Deborah Polaski sings a beautiful Awakening scene. Her duet with Siegfried has both power and passion, and she copes admirably with the devilishly difficult high notes at the end of the final duet.

Photos: (upper) Knuckle Heads: Graham Clarke as Mime counsels Siegfried (John Treleavan).
(lower) Meet Grandpa: Siegfried (John Treleavan) confronts Wotan (Falk Struckmann)
All photos © 2004 Opus Arte.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.