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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Metropolitan Opera Preview: Siegfried

The third part of Wagner's Ring presents the greatest challenge for the tenor voice.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Deborah Voigt wakes up on the Machine in Act III of Siegfried.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2011 The Metropolitan Opera.
Although it's part of the Met's much-hyped Robert Lepage production of the Ring Cycle, Wagner's Siegfried might have the worst reputation among the ten operas that are considered to be the German composer's main body of work. Wagner conceived the opera as the "light-hearted" section of the Ring. (In all fairness, it does have a happy ending!)



Since the Meister of Bayreuth did everything on a big scale, that means that this "boy's adventure tale" lasts a solid five and a half hours taking place over three long acts. Also, the soprano doesn't show up until 45 minutes from the opera's end, where she sings a long duet with the (already exhausted) tenor.

With all of these peccadilloes, Siegfried might be the easiest Wagner opera to score tickets to. However, it boasts some really fine music, assuming that the tenor has a powerful, heroic voice that can get over the huge orchestra without punching a hole in your eardrums.

Jay Hunter Morris will platoon in the lead role with tenor Lars Claveman. Deborah Voigt will split cycles too with soprano Katherine Dalayman. Mark Delavan sings his first Wanderer at the Met, alternating the role with baritone Greer Grimsley.

A review of the opening night of Siegfried from October of 2011 can be found here

Siegfried opens April 20, 2013. Please note that the Saturday matinée performance starts at the ungodly hour of 11am. All other performances start at 6pm.


Recording recommendations:

It used to be easier to buy a stand-alone recording of Siegfried, but record company consolidations and reissues (not to mention all those unsold copies of the individual opera) mean that most versions of the opera are available as part of complete Ring recordings. Here are some good ones:

Bayreuth Festival 1967 cond. Karl Böhm (Philips/Decca 1967)
Siegfried: Wolfgang Windgassen
Brunnhilde: Birgit Nilsson
Mime: Erwin Wohlfahrt
The Wanderer (Wotan): Theo Adam
Fafner: Kurt Bohme
Nilsson and Windgassen in prime voice. The rest of the cast isn't perfect, but this is an exciting live performance in good sound in front of a real audience. Karl Böhm, an expert Wagnerian keeps things moving along briskly in the pit. Part of the budget-price reissue of the Böhm Ring.

Bayreuth Festival 1991 cond. Daniel Barenboim (WBC 1995)Siegfried: Siegfried Jerusalem
Brunnhilde: Anne Evans
Mime: Graham Clarke
The Wanderer (Wotan): John Tomlinson
Fafner: Philip Kang
Recently reissued, the Barenboim performance was recorded in the Festspielhaus without an audience. This is Siegfried Jerusalem's best recorded performance in the role (he recorded the part three times if you count once on video!) that bears his name. Graham Clarke is characterful as Mime. English singers John Tomlinson and Anne Evans were cast against type, but both thrive in the Bayreuth acoustic.

Return to the 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera Season Preview!
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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.