The Met 'Ring' Gets New Siegfried, One Week From Opening

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The Metropolitan Opera has announced a big casting change for its new production of Richard Wagner's Siegfried.

Gary Lehman, slated for the opera's title role, has stepped down due to illness. The company says he'll be replaced by Jay Hunter Morris, who performed the role with the San Francisco Opera this summer. The production opens Oct. 27.

Lehman was to make a high-profile role debut as Siegfried this season as a replacement for Ben Heppner, who pulled out of the productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung in February.

"Gary has been fighting off a severe viral infection that refuses to leave his system so we thought it prudent to withdraw from Siegfried," said Lehman's manager, Brian Jauhiainen, in an e-mail. "It has robbed Gary of his energy -- a necessary ingredient to have in abundance when taking on the most difficult role on all of opera for the tenor. We trust that he will return to the role for the full Ring Cycle in the Spring of '12."

The Met is presenting Siegfried for three performances this fall, before bringing it back as part of the full, four-opera Ring cycle in April and May of 2012.

As Lehman's replacement in the meantime, Morris has apparently ample experience in the role. He began his Ring career covering Siegfried at Seattle Opera in 2009, after which he traveled to Los Angeles to cover Siegfried there the following year. He made his debut in the role in Francesca Zambello's San Francisco Opera production this summer.

The Met has seen a number of cancellations due to injury or illness this season, most notably in its new production of Don Giovanni.