Ring Cycle: Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera

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Friday, April 22, 2011

In this week's Arts File, Kerry Nolan speaks with Anne Midgette, classical music critic for the Washington Post about a new production of Die Walküre, the second of four operas in Wagner's Ring Cycle.

The high-tech production at the Metropolitan Opera features a 45-ton device dubbed "the machine" that shifts the stage and sets beneath the performers feet. It also has some of the best Wagner singers alive today, including Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek making her Met debut. Midgette weighs in on how the production compares to past performances and the impact maestro James Levine has had while conducting Wagner for the past 21 years.

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Hans-Peter König as Hunding

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Stephanie Blythe as Fricka

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Bryn Terfel as Wotan

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Act 3 finale

Guests:

Anne Midgette

Hosted by:

Kerry Nolan

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker
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Comments [7]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

One always should encourage major endeavors to motivate to take on demanding tasks. The Met Opera's undertaking with regard to the RING is commendable. In today's performance, Saturday April 28th, the singers improved as they continued in their respective roles. What was/is most NOT in evidence is the singular beauty of timbre as well as the power that we associate with Wagnerian singers at their best. Most improvement was in the singing of today's Siegmund Frank van Aken replacing the indisposed Jonas Kaufmann. The orchestra under maestro Fabio Luisi was glowing and thew melos of each scene developed with the sense of inevitability. Stephanie Blythe is a treasure vocally with the fullness and amplitude of her magnificent voice, but also her convincing enunciating of the text with the urgency of Fricka's pronouncements. My background of studying the Wagner heldentenor roles with the Met Opera's Wagnerian legends Friedrich Schorr, Margarete Matzenauer, Alexander Kipnis, Karin Branzell, and Nartial Singher and in the cases of Schorr Singher and Kipnis viewing them at the Met in performances reinforces my absolute confidence that Wagner performance will eventually also find new Melchiors and Flagstads to properly represent the majesty, the epic and the consuming passion for delineating the panoramic emotions, actions and aspirations that both WAGNER and SHAKESPEARE penned so immortally.

Apr. 28 2012 05:45 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Now that we are hearing the third act with its most thrilling and familiar "chestnuts" we can rightfully assess the vision of Wagner in his appropriate sequencing, both leitmotive-wise and musically so that everything holds so well together. Each melodic representation of a thing, a person, or an idea had a definitive melodic synonym, known as leitmotives, the building blocs, the cornerstones of Wagner's linked chain. As an opera composer myself, "Shakespeare" and 'The Politcal Shakespeare," I can appreciate the stream of consciousness that enthused WAGNER so passionately over each of his music dramas. Each of Wagner's operas has its own harmonic texture and "feel." Bryn Terfel has in this act nuanced his text ''reading" and consequently his tonal flow is not choppy but well controlled and the forward thrust of his vocal delivery is well measured and controlled. Wotan's Abschied (Farewell) perhaps, as much as any music tone poem like pictures a fiery scene in the orchestrra and pr4ovides theaters with a pictorial splendor of flames and mountain top and jutting rocks ands the Wotan as beautiful and declamatory music as to be in the operatic literature. The opwra is ending now. It is 4:18 PM.

Apr. 28 2012 05:39 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Commnenting on my earlier comments on today's Die Walkure broadcastfrom the MET:
CAVANAUGH, YOU ARE CORRECT IN SAYING THAT SCHORR did not resort to sprechstimme, parlando, breathy voice production. OR SLURRING. If you remember, I am saying this because you undoubtedly do, that the Siegmund today sang bwith a breathy tone, ahd wobbles and even wrong words. HE did improve considerably in the second act, had no wobble and the voice quality became more in line with what one expects at the Met. The biggerst problem I see/hear in today's singers is a lack of body in their voices, and NO DISTINCTIVE BEAUTIFUL TIMBRE.
yES, beautiful but not memorable like a Bjorling, a Melchior, a Gigli, a Tauber, a Lanza, needless to say the "god"
himself Caruso. The vocal techniques common today do not fully express the possibilities of so many otherwise exceptional basically talented singers. Thanks, CAVANAUGH pointing out the obvious.
Apr. 28 2012 05:19 PM

Apr. 28 2012 05:34 PM
Jumperpear from New York

The set was grand, but the production in general was breathtaking, and the set became background. I have zero complaints about the Rheingold (which I saw immediately after running a half-marathon), or Die Walküre, which I saw this weekend. Hojotoho! I am loving all the new operas Peter Gelb is bringing to light, but the old classics, revamped are really packing the opera house as well. This has been a killer season- Wozzeck is my personal favorite. I thank Mr. Gelb and everyone at the Met for being daring! I feel like it's paying off. The old bulls don't like the young bucks, story as old as nature. The chorus of boos Gelb gets is a sign he's doing a lot of things right.

Apr. 24 2011 12:42 PM
kenlane@RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com from BOONTON, NJ

Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund, Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde with James Levine's masterful, deeply committed long-experienced conducting of Wagner, this MUST be a MUST-ATTEND production, whatever the set design. Die Walkuere has gods and humans contesting throughout and empathy expressed on both sides.
Speaking of gods, two of my teachers Friedrich Schorr and, incredibly, the bass Alexander Kipnis sang the Wotans. Those two of my voice teachers not only had GREAT voices but were famous for their acting talents. Friedrich Schorr, the legendary "unico" definitive Hans Sachs and Wotan and Alexander Kipnis, the richest voice and most thrilling BORIS, with competition only from Chaliapin, singular as he was. Kipnis was also a major Mozart and Wagner and lieder singer. Hear what he did with the Erlkonig !!! It helps one to comprehend the talent necessary to perform opera and lieder singing if one has had a career singing opera and concertized with Lieder as the principal ingredient of the solo concert, nowadays not that prevalent.

I am a Wagnerian heldentenor.
I have had the advantage of studying voice with the MET OPERA's Wagnerian superstars baritone Friedrich Schorr, bass Alexander Kipnis, mezzo Margarete Matzenauer, mezzo Karin Branzell, baritone Mack Harrell, and baritone Martial Singher, studying with them at Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music or the New York College of Music, now part of New York University.

Opera's unquestioned Golden Age of Wagner Performance was the Melchior, Flagstad, Schorr, Kipnis and Branzell "team."

I studied with privately, at their residences,
with the stars of the Met in Caruso's day, Frieda Hempel and Margarete Matzenauer.

I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, where all the Shakespeare roles are taught to professional actors and the Wagner opera roles to big-voiced singers.

Website: www.WagnerOpera.com, where from the home page, at Recorded Selections, one may download, free, 37 complete selections from my four concerts at the main hall, the Isaac Stern Auditorium, of Carnegie Hall.

Apr. 23 2011 10:55 AM
The Unrepentant Pelleastrian from New Jersey

David,

"I suspect the previous Ring production will be considered the definitive one in the future..."

No question about it. Otto Schenk was the best.

"I harbor an evil wish that it [the machine] blows a gasket or something..."

My sentiments exactly....

(Ok, just a 'fizzle' would do it for me)

:-)

Apr. 22 2011 09:31 PM
David from Flushing

I suppose it has to happen that "realistic" productions alternate with "abstract" ones. One cannot do the same thing twice in a row it seems.

While the machine is far better than the dimly lit spiral ramp that served the Ring in earlier decades, I harbor an evil wish that it blows a gasket or something. I suspect the previous Ring production will be considered the definitive one in the future.

I suppose for the sake of novelty, one could change the venue as has been done for other operas. How about Miss Liberty's gilt flame as the Rheingold, the Empire State as Vahalla, and the subway as the realm of the poor dwarfs hammering away?

Apr. 22 2011 06:57 PM

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