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Die Walküre: Wunder Und Wilde Märe

By Singingscholar @singingscholar
Die Walküre: Wunder und wilde Märe I know it's irresponsible to play favorites with the Ring operas, and of course nearly impossible to really choose, but I love Die Walküre a lot. Wearing flat shoes and armed with chocolate, the Beloved Flatmate and I stood for Friday's performance at the Met. Very fine singing made it an emotionally intense experience. Robert Lepage's production contributes little except a dramatically useful forest for pursuer and pursued in the staged overture and second act. There was a malfunction with the projections in the final act which I mention only to say that although it shouldn't have happened, I didn't feel it was a disastrous distraction; I was prepared for Terfel and Voigt to carry the confrontation in front of a fence instead of an avalanche. More worrisome to me were the lapses in the Met orchestra's customary precision. One brass quaver may be regarded as a misfortune; two looks like carelessness. In Act I the orchestra seemed occasionally ahead of the singers, a problem which was swiftly rectified. Fabio Luisi is currently doing the work of several, and I'm not sure how much time there was for the orchestra to rehearse with him. Overall, however, it was a fine and sensitive performance. This was Wagner on a human scale, with the singers' emotions leading the expression of the orchestra throughout. The coming of spring was beautifully handled; the lovers' embrace was interrupted with a crash, but thereafter the textures of the orchestra were delicate as moonlight. Similar dynamic contrasts were used effectively in the confrontations of Act II. The overture seemed to be played from Siegmund's perspective, the fury of the storm and the threat of echoing horns taking second place to the rhythms of racing blood and hard-won breath. The orchestra found melancholy tenderness for the Wälsungs, an almost breezy tone for Brünnhilde's entrance, and gave a fiercely exuberant Ride. The Valkyries, in this most (in)famously excerpted moment, contributed exceptionally good work. This wild music was sung with beauty of tone, vivid characterization, and good handling of text, making the formal phrases sound like sisters' chatting.
Stephanie Blythe brought welcome dignity to Fricka, but did not seem at her considerable vocal best, lacking some of her usual richness and amplitude of tone. As Hunding, Hans-Peter König sang with commanding (not to say overwhelming) sonority, and gave a vivid portrayal of a man who relished the exercise of personal and social power. Eva-Maria Westbroek was deeply sympathetic as a Sieglinde subdued but not cowed, tender but also fiercely determined. She sang with radiantly blooming sound, and made Sieglinde's Act II desperation intensely compelling. She and her Siegmund, Stuart Skelton, had a very sweet romantic chemistry, a sense of each having found rest in the other. Skelton made an very engaging Siegmund, with sweet-toned and consistently full sound. Nor was he lacking in vocal power. His Siegmund was boyishly eager to please, still confident in himself despite the world's rebuffs. He gave a robust narration of his past, and a bold "Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater," with bright Wälseruf. The Todesverkündigung with Voigt was a highlight of the evening. As the titular Valkyrie, Deborah Voigt seemed to have gained in vocal security and power since her first essay of the role, with more focused sound and consistent support. Her high notes could be edgy, but they weren't shrieked. The Todesverkündigung had me teary from "Siegmund, sieh auf mich," and the power she summoned for "War es so schmählich" was compelling. Bryn Terfel, as king of the gods, gave a commanding performance. His Wotan was bitterly conscious that his carefully constructed relationships of control are falling apart, and seething with barely suppressed anger. Despite what the Beloved Flatmate has dubbed the "PowerPoint Eye," I found his narration to Brünnhilde riveting. Terfel sang powerfully and with the richly expressive use of text for which I love him. The chilling power of "Und für das Ende sorgt Alberich" got under my skin as never before. In this performance, Wotan was much angrier with Brünnhilde in Act II than I'm used to seeing, which set up the intensity of Act III well (and kept me awake for hours afterwards.) Her idea for the magic fire is not a half-conspiratorial suggestion, but a plea for the softening of her father's wrath. The Abschied, of course, wrecked me, and Terfel's roar of pain and anger--"Wer meines Speeres Spitze fürchtet"--rocked me back on my heels. The orchestra made the magic fire's sparkle sound mournful. Halfway through the cycle, things are not looking good for the gods.

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