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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Last Ring: Part III: Götterdämmerung

Richard Wagner: it's all his fault!

On Saturday night, Götterdämmerung proved to be more of a mixed bag. At first, Jon Frederic West sounded harsher and more metallic than in Siegfried. He coped well with the two most difficult moments in this impossible role--the "baritone" scene when he poses as Gunther and the murderous sixthteenth-note octave drop in Act II. However, he summoned his resources and sang beautifully in the death scene. A good Siegfried makes listeners regret his death. Otherwise, you root for Hagen to kill him.

Speaking of Hagen, John Tomlinson had an off night. Unsteady pitch marred Hagen's Watch, and his Act II "Hoi-ho!" was drowned out by the thundering Met orchestra. Iain Peterson was an undistinguished, shallow Gunther. The Met chorus was its usual spectacular self, making a truly intimidating noise and banging their spear-butts on the stage with gusto in Act II.

Happily, any vocal shortcomings were annihilated (couldn't resist) by the gorgeous performance of Linda Watson, who was a thoroughly satisfying Brünnhilde. This is a tough role as well, with the big duet scenes with Siegfried and Waltraute, the scene where she is attacked by "Gunther", and the second act where she becomes a fully human woman, the Wagner equivalent of a betrayed Verdi heroine. Her Immolation scene was riveting, teetering between sexual ecstasy and fanatic devotion to her deceased Siegfried. Top-notch.

James Levine conducted with his customary skill, although one sensed that he was racing through certain passages in order to get to the more lyric ones. The brass, however, suffered from "fish" notes in the horns and the occasional sour note on the trumpet. However, the band rebounded with an excellent Funeral Music and a thrilling Immolation scene.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats