Support independent arts journalism by joining our Patreon! Currently $5/month.

About Superconductor

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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DVD Review: The Boulez Ring: Siegfried

Workin' man: Manfred Jung at the forge in Act I of Siegfried
Technology and the industrial revolution seem to be the focus of this Siegfried, the third installment from Patrice Chéreau's landmark staging of Wagner's Ring cycle. Wotan (disguised as the Wanderer) seeking to help Siegfried with the forging of the sword Nothung, leaves an industrial-sized drop-forge in Mime's cave in order to automate the process. Fafner rolls into battle inside an enormous wheeled steel dragon. And the old order passes as Siegfried, the young lower-class proletarian, acquired the sword, the ring and the girl in rapid succession.

Vocally, this performance is something of a mixed bag, and a lot of its success hinges on the title character, played by veteran tenor Manfred Jung. Jung, a steely-voiced singer, is capable and energetic as Siegfried, playing the hero as a wide-eyed bumpkin at loose in the world. It;s not a bad conception. To some degree, he is outshone by Heinz Zednik, who here switches to the role of Mime and delivers a fine character tenor performances in this difficult, unsympathetic role.

Donald McIntyre is better suited to the Wanderer, the lowest of the three Wotan parts. His confrontations throughout the opera--with Mime in the Riddle Scene, with Alberich in the forest, and finally with Erda (Ortrud Wenkel) and Siegfried in the last act, are among the most electric scenes in this Siegfried.

Hermann Becht is vocally harsh as Alberich. Along with the Wanderer, he spends a lot of time hiding in the trees as Siegfried confronts Fafner. Fritz Hübner is a solid, if unmemorable dragon. This was one of the first productions to have the character show up in giant form after Siegfried slays the "dragon", and the image of his dead body lying across the forest floor reminds the viewer that Fafner got the Ring by killing his brother in the first place.

Ecstasy: Gwyneth Jones and Manfred Jung in Act III of Siegfried

Siegfried has always been the least popular of the four Ring operas. That may have something to do with there being no women (except for the offstage Forest Bird) in the first two acts. When Gwyneth Jones awakens in Act III, she sings with sharp, bracing clarity in this, the most challenging of the three Brunnhilde roles. The wobble that plagued her voice later on is not present here, and she is a fine actress. Manfred Jung manages to hold his own in their 37-minute duet, and the opera comes to a glorious close as they sing with radiance.

Heinz Zednik and Manfred Jung in the Forging Song from Act I of Siegfried

Trending on Superconductor


Share My Blog!

Share |

Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats