timesunion, May 19, 2011
Michael Janairo
Wagner: Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, 14 May 2011 (cinema)
'Ring' of endurance
'Die Walkure' at the mall a marathon full of charms
The Metropolitan Opera concluded its 2010-11 Met Live in HD series with a mesmerizing -- and marathon -- performance of the second opera in Wagner's "Ring" cycle, "Die Wulkure."

Already clocking in at five hours and 30 minutes, the performance was in part an endurance test of the comfort of the seats at the Regal Crossgates 18 that became even more difficult once the opera was delayed for 40-minutes due to a technical glitch with "The Machine." That's the nickname for the massive, 45-ton set made of 24 planks that can be horizontal, to suggest floors, ceilings and even the horses of the Valkyries, and horizontal, to suggest trees in a forest or, with projections, a high, rocky mountain.

During the first intermission, one of the technical directors explained that the sensors on the planks wasn't communicating correctly with the computer, which meant that the computer didn't know the planks' positions, and that we, the audience, became nothing more than the playthings of the gods of technology.

In some ways, that runs in direct contrast to the "Ring" cycle itself, a story about a god, Wotan, trying to reclaim an all-powerful ring to escape a prophecy of doom. In "Die Walkure," the second of four operas in the cycle, his hopes rest on his half-human son, Siegmund.

Perhaps at the Met, the high-tech set made an impact, but in the movie theater, where the cameras allowed for amazing close-ups, the singing and acting took center stage. (And helped take my mind off the seat, which I wished reclined like the ones at the Regal theaters in Colonie Center.)

Bryn Terfel as Wotan commands Act II, but only after Stephanie Blythe as his wife Fricka, the goddess of marriage, commands him to let Siegmund die at the hands of Hunding, the husband of a woman he slept with (who also happens to be his twin sister). Eva-Maria Westbroek as the twin sister Sieglinde exults in emotion and power in Act III, when she learns she is pregnant and agrees to go on living. Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund proved to be a true wonder throughout the performance, his dextrous tenor able to convey a wealth of emotion, especially in Act I.

Also of note was Deborah Voigt's Brunnhilde. She captured the impishness, fun and recklessness of Wotan's favorite daughter, adding emotional depth not only to her character but also to Wotan's reactions to her when he punishes her in Act III for her defiance.

The best part of the movie theater experience, however, were the interviews with cast members during the thankfully long (45 minutes) intermissions, which allowed them to be charming opera stars.

As they headed for the wings after taking their bows, Placido Domingo (a charmer in his own right) offered them exuberant praise before interviewing them.

Flush faced and sweaty, the stars praised one another and James Levine, who conducted the big, energetic orchestra.

At one point, Voigt said one of her biggest challenges was in working with Terfel because he was so good at drawing attention to himself.

That shouldn't be an issue Saturday night, when Voigt will be singing a recital, accompanied by Brian Zeger, as a fundraiser for the Mahaiwe theater in Great Barrington, Mass.


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