Opera Now, 5. Mai 2011
Robert Levine
Wagner: Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera
Robert Lepage directs Wagner's Die Walküre at the Met

All talk of Robert Lepage’s production of the Ring Cycle at the Met remains about the sets and videos, and there’s no denying their fascination. Storm clouds turn into a brilliant snowstorm, simple planks transform into a dense forest of trees, and later into horses on which the Valkyries ride.  Molten rocks, snow-capped mountains, all-consuming flames: it’s all quite stunning. But the problem is that it is also distracting. Instead of getting involved with the music, one ends up wondering what the set will do next. In addition, Lepage has forgotten to actually direct his singers at times,  giving them very little to do.

Bryn Terfel’s Wotan is physically as imposing as a Colossus and his dramatic instincts are superb. Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund pays attention to every nuance, every change in the volatile atmosphere of the first act. The voice is capable of exquisite, sweet singing and powerful outbursts. Eva-Marie Westbroek seems to be holding back as Sieglinde. Hans-Peter König is a wonderfully evil-sounding Hunding. Stephanie Blythe’s Fricka, rolled in on a throne adorned with ram’s horns, almost steals the show, with her authority and grand tone. She actually breaks into tears at one point – the epitome of manipulation – and husband Wotan gives in.

Deborah Voigt, singing her first Brünnhilde, is simply wrong for the part. The voice has lost its warmth, edgy at the top, and the mid-range was never strong.

James Levine, leading the glorious Met Orchestra, has trimmed a few minutes off the first and last act from his last outings with this opera, and the new sweep is welcome, keeping the audience riveted.

Robert Levine’s full review of Die Walküre will appear in our August/September issue.


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