Archive for the ‘die walküre’ Tag
Two years ago I began a journey into the fire…into San Francisco Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. That journey comes full circle (pun intended) this month.
It all started when I was invited to collaborate on the iconic brand image and identity for this Ring (with the fantastic design and marketing studio Mission-Minded). This alone was a dream come true. I had become an official Wagner-phile when I experienced SFO’s previous naturalistic production in 1999, with my dear operagoing friend Gil. (Watch the documentary Sing Faster for a great glimpse of that beloved production.)
The creative process began with a meeting with Director Francesca Zambello and General Director David Gockley, to discuss the particular approach of this new production (shared with ENO and WNO, but not yet performed in its entirety). The goal: to highlight the concept of destruction and rebirth, and portray a dose of the production’s modernity, including an accessible and familiar visual vernacular. (The production employs a trailer, projections of power lines and electrical towers, an office building board room, a stylish, contemporary bedroom…to mention just a few of these modern nods.)
The iconic image evolved in a direction that also took a tragic nod from 9/11, using the burning and fall of city skyscrapers to show the destruction of a civilization, parallel with that of nature (via a forest). Perched atop this, a reborn/renewed female visage…a triumphant Brünnhilde. The photo-illustration was made up of 15 or so separate images.
It’s that time again! I’m serving up my second annual Top 10 LIVE Performances of the year. It’s a follow-up to my ‘09 list. Sadly, there are no Broadway shows on this list. I plan on remedying that in 2011!
1. Die Walküre, San Francisco Opera (Details)
This production offered one of the finest casts that could possibly be assembled for this opera (and The Ring) in the current operatic landscape. The production said some new things, and offered a few fresh perspectives, but didn’t try too hard, or overshadow the score. Maestro Runnicles is a Wagnerian master, and he and the orchestra rose to the occasion again. Yeah, I was a “Supernumerary” in the production, but I was able to watch much of it from the orchestra during rehearsals, and even accounting for my bias, this would still takes my top spot. Enjoy my full review here.
2. Scalpel! The Musical, Brava Theatre (Details)
Can you say fun? It had me at the opening number, with countless heals and drag runway walks. It was the first show I’ve seen in the Brava, and I immediately loved this venue…the warm lighting, the urban ambience, and the straight, raked seating offering direct views. Even with all the camp and hijinks, the entire cast was completely committed to the material. This was the second mounting of the show, and my fingers are crossed that it returns yet again. Apparently, there was a bit of a curse on the production, with multiple cast injuries (including a very unfortunate broken leg for leading man, Mike Finn), but they pushed through, with some quick and fortuitous replacements and prevailed. Picturing Sara Moore as “poop-raking” TV reporter Kitty Kelly (“Hardballs” host) still makes me laugh.
3. Heidi Melton: Salon at the Rex, The Rex Hotel (Details)
To hear Heidi Melton plead in spoken french AND debut her chest voice was alone faint-worthy, and positively scintillating. And, to hear her in repertoire much outside her core operatic rep and comfort genres was a treat (ie: Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill cabaret, and Korngold songs). Her rendition of Berlin’s “Always” left not a dry eye in the audience. (Her Noe Valley Chamber Music Recital a few weeks before was also very beautiful). No thanks to the Adler “Future is Now” concert, which was on the same night, the recital was over all too soon (evidenced by a jcm quotation here and here)! I stuck around and imbibed and dined at the bar…I wanted to savor the spell Heidi had cast.
Being a part of Francesca Zambello’s production of Die Walküre has raised the bar for me yet again on my operatic excursions as a “Super” at the San Francisco Opera. CHECK!…another dream fulfilled. This time Wagner! When I pass over the scratched and worn stage floor, I still pinch myself and marvel at all the legends who have left their mark in this hallowed place. Here’s a photo-narrative glimpse into this exciting production, and my wonderful world of Wagner.
Yes, True Wagnerians Still Walk the Earth
When’s the last time you saw a Wagner opera and weren’t wishing singers of the past were instead onstage? Well, it would be hard to best this nearly peerless cast, particularly in today’s international crop. Eva-Marie Westbroek as Sieglinde is utter perfection, with a refulgent, voluminous voice, and yet, there’s such a naturalness to her delivery, it’s as if she’s speaking. She exudes considerable warmth in her very convincing acting expressions, and as one reviewer said, she couldn’t play the victim better. She also couldn’t look the part more (as evidenced by this glowing photo). She, and all the principals are a joy backstage too. Given the pressure they’re under to perform a VERY difficult piece, that’s quite a testimony.
In her debut as the Walküre Brünnhilde, Nina Stemme delivers the much expected stamina and bravado, but never betrays her beauty of tone, or pushes outside her “column of sound.” She uses her slighter stature and strong connection to her body to paint an authentically youthful and feisty characterization. No, she doesn’t erase memories of Nilsson’s vocal sword throwing in the highest reaches of “Ho-jo-to-ho!,” but she has a far darker, warmer, and more alluring tone, and greater physicality than Nilsson.
Mark Delavan is tireless, and the model of godly alpha-male strength as Wotan. At times he sings with a legato line, but other times chews up and spits out the german consonants to portray anger, or when commanding others. Backstage, he’s the funniest opera personality I’ve ever been around…cracking up the Supers without fail, with his disarming humor. Enjoy his perspective on Wotan, and at times refreshingly irreverent sense of humor in this interview.
Christopher Ventris as Siegmund is in the Heppner/Windgassen vein, having a brighter, not baritonal Heldentenor tone. However, he is easily heard, and has plenty of thrust to cut through the orchestra. He and Eva-Marie make an appealing and very engaged duo. Ray Aceto as Hunding is genuinely scary and imposing, and wields a very satisfying black basso. Janina Baechle as Fricka doesn’t erase vocal memories of Marjana Lipovšek (‘95), but she is quite perfect in this production’s conception of this role, and is fully and excitingly committed.
In this Act I play one of Hunding’s thuggish *insert grunt here* kinsmen, returning from a day of hunting. I carry in a giant plastic-wrapped meat pack, which I immediately throw to Hunding. (Yes, me, the one who couldn’t throw a ball to save his life as a kid…WHY?!) We all threaten Siegmund with our rifles when he hesitates Hunding’s commands. (I’m at bottom left.) Later Sieglinde ladles us up some slop (aka bloodied plastic cubes) from a giant pot, presumably whipped up from the meat I tossed. Mmm-mmm good! Another Super carries a rope with two rather sad, dangling fowl. Not surprisingly, the kinsmen have been likened to the “Michigan Militia,” present-day paramilitary thugs.
In attempting to peruse all 907 entries of #OperaPlot, I realized that there are so many great ones, taking so many diverse approaches that the result is and will be HIGHLY subjective. Honestly, there are probably 20-30 deserving tweets. But, it will all come down to Jonas’ particular funny bones 😉
Well, as far as my own take, these are the best of those that were posted by midday today on T.O.M.! Hopefully, at least a few of these (and my own!) will make the prize list. My top favs by “chickenfeet2003” and “patty_oboe” are proof that simple can be better. Also, interestingly, very few bel canto operas were tackled…perhaps proof that they are indeed all about the beautiful singing.
The Best of Other’s OperaPlots
villa_lobos Be vewy qwiet, I’m hunting wabbits – Oh Bwunhilde, you’w so wuvwy – stwike da wabbit! [dead] What do you expect, a happy ending? [Die Walküre]
Batter my ears three noted score [Dr. Atomic]
Witch son was that? [Il Trovatore]
Hunchback ticks off boss. Get’s the sack. [Rigoletto]
Patty Oboe She dances just to get a head. [Salome]
musicvstheater Ego Rex,yo! With my mad flow. Tiresias be hatin on my bling tho. Cuz I’m the king, aint no other. Is my ho fly? Word to my mother! [Oedipus Rex] (This entry was accompanied by an amazing rap audio track!)
pschleuse Though cigarettes can be a killer, they’re nothing to a Seguidiller. As Don Jose’s been known to quip, love can really be a gyp. [Carmen]
devoncestes Cougar on the prowl, her cousin shows up. Random Italian Tenor. A silver rose later, prey finds a girl his own age. Time flies. [Der Rosenkavalier]
Bonnie Situation Alb. makes a ring, Loge & Wotan plan a sting. Erda: give up the bling! Fafner: Ka-ching! [Das Rheingold]
DrGeoduck Their relationship was doomed from the beginning. Elsa wanted a champion, but he preferred swanning about. [Lohengrin]
SourceOfHisStrength/IsInHisCoiffure’sLength/&DameColdlyHacksOffHisTresses [Samson & Dalila]
gtheule Cigarettes are unwise and bullfighting is nuts, but a mezzo has them beat for crazy any day of the week. [Carmen]
Sam Neuman The Princess is double-parked, so she has to be succinct: kid’s dead, sister’s engaged, love the habit, sign here, kthxbye. [Suor Angelica]
My Five Best
“Ice Ice Baby” [Jenufa]
My head says Turandon’t! But my heart says Turando! [Turandot]
I’m too sexy for amor—too sexy for Seville. I’m a charmer—I shake my lil tush on the piazza. I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns* [Don Giovanni]
Her name was Violet, she was a call girl. With camélias in her hair & consumption in the air. At the AH-PRAH! Don’t fall in love! [La Traviata]
AsAlbaniansTheyKnew/BothSistersThey’dWoo/AudiencesAgelessHijinksDothTickle. [Così fan tutte]