Monday, August 22, 2005

Seattle's "Ring"
Finally, a year after buying my tickets, I attended my first "Ring"!
Seattle Opera's production of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" was ecstasy. Here are my observations about all four operas:
"Das Rheingold" -- I loved Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, Eva Podles as Erda – very distinctive voice and perfect for her mysterious part -- and Stephen Milling as Fasolt. But the best male voice in all four operas was Richard Paul Fink as Alberich. He neither spits nor barks his role, but sings and acts it. After the gold is stolen from him and he sings his curse, it sends chills down my back. I would love to hear and see him again. (I hadn’t realized until I looked at the program that I had seen Fink the only other time I had been to Seattle Opera, in 1996, in Andrea Chenier.)
Voices that were adequate but not outstanding: Mime, Freia, Loge, Froh, Donner.
Hearing an opera in person is much different than hearing a recording – I hear motifs and solos in the orchestra I never noticed before. But I noticed the orchestra shorted on strings. Brass were excellent – hardly ever a chipped or blown note.
“Die Walkure” -- The best female voice in Seattle’s “Ring” – Margaret Jane Wray, who sings Sieglinde. I heard none better all four nights. I also loved Hunding (doubles as Fasolt). But during the second intermission, I overheard several people note that they had heard Jane Eaglen in better voice: “She has no middle or low notes, and so she pushes her top range,” was one comment. Her voice did disappear in the lower register; it was as if someone had turned off the volume, but her top notes were secure. Disappointing to see how static Eaglen seemed on stage, and to what lengths the production had made to accommodate her inability to move around. I would not want to see her as Brunnhilde again. They will have to recast this in 2009, and I’d vote for Margaret Jane Wray.
Over breakfast at the hotel, we hear some fellow Ring-goers and join in the conversation. One from Chicago had been to 14 other “Rings” – and she said this one was better than the version done at Lyric Opera.
Greer Grimsley as Wotan is more than adequate to the part. I didn’t love his very dark voice at first but once I got used to it, I liked it fine. I was afraid that he would not be able to moderate his dark tone for the Brunnhilde “Farewell” scene, but he did so beautifully, while acting the part of the grieving and troubled father he is. Bravo.
“Siegfried” -- Most consistent singer in “The Ring“: Alan Woodrow. Never ran out of steam and belted out those ringing high notes, even through his death scene.
(Although my husband said he looks more like a troll than a hero.)
There is no chemistry between Brunnhilde and Siegfried, regrettably….
Overheard: “I talked to one of the violinists, and she said every single musician in the orchestra loves (the maestro) Robert Spano and wants to have him back.”
However: The orchestra suffered from a lack of tightness tonight, I thought, especially compared with the conductor’s pacing of Rheingold and Walkure.
Great dragon!
Went to the “Tech Talk” the next morning. Remarked that at $15 a head, the talk was pure profit for Seattle Opera, since they used the old slides.
"Gotterdammerung” -- The Norn scene was spectacular. The three best female voices in this production, on one stage!
But then Gidon Saks, who had already disappointed me as Fafner, was in feeble voice as Hagen. I remarked to Mike about it. Then, at the beginning of Act II, Speight Jenkins announced that Saks was indisposed and the role would be sung by his understudy, who might have been expecting it after Saks had problems last week, but did a splendid job and got a big hand for it.
My husband's favorite female singer was Nancy Maultsby as Waltraute. But he was impressed with all the Valkyries and the Rheinmaidens, too.
Jane Eaglen pulled off a coup this night, making up for her disappointing performances in “Walkure” and “Siegfried.” I still couldn’t hear her mid-range and low notes.
I found myself getting attached to all of the singers, though, even those who didn’t impress me. Mike and I later spent hours talking about Wotan and what motivated him, and then he said he realized the guy didn’t even exist!
The poignant final scene brought a tear to every eye in the house.
I am looking forward to another “Ring” in 2009, but next time I’ll sign up for every lecture and symposium. And I would get the same seats again.

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