Thursday, June 24, 2010

SFO: Walküre (round 2)

Tuesday evening I was happily back for a 2nd round of SF Opera's Die Walküre, this time in a seat in the grand tier. Again David Gockley appeared before the curtain to tell us that our Brünnhilde was suffering from a "nasty bronchial infection" but would go. Again I was rapt for the entire performance. Even the ritualistic Todesverkündigung, which I often find boring, felt suspenseful. Maestro Runnicles's conducting was taut & never overblown. Sometimes the orchestral sound was even delicate, & there was often a softness to the horns. There were lovely, floaty clarinet solos, & the flute section sounded sweet in the closing fire music.

This may be the most beautifully sung Walküre I'll ever hear. Mark Delevan does not have a booming voice, but his Verdian singing is warm & very welcome. He was dramatically moving in the way he articulated "das Ende!" in the Act II monologue. He's even more startling in Act III when he exclaims "Und das ich ihm Stücken schlug!" & falls to his knees. Nina Stemme elicited gasps from those around me when she unleashed her powerful Hojotohos. If she sings like this when she is ailing, I really want to know what she sounds like when she feels strong!

From the grand tier I could see elements of the staging that are not visible from the balcony, such as the giant moon at the end of Act I & the appearance of Fricka & Brünnhilde on the overpass in Act II. I was also better able to appreciate how much good acting everyone in the cast is doing. Here's a case where OperaVision truly enhances the experience from the balcony.

The audience was enthusiastic & very un-Wagnerian in applauding during the music, when Ms. Stemme made her entrance, when the Valkyries dropped down by parachute, & at the end of the Valkyries' ensemble. During the intermission the Opera Tattler showed off for us a framed & signed production still from Die Walküre, her prize for winning the facebook popular vote in the Ring Costume Contest. Also, an informant in the downstairs standing room reported seeing Maestro MTT, sporting distinctive blue eyewear.

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