Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SF Opera Götterdämmerung 1


Each time conductor Donald Runnicles appeared in the pit for the Sunday matinee of San Francisco Opera's Götterdämmerung, the audience gave more cheers & applause for the maestro & the orchestra. I feel like the orchestra's playing has steadily improved over the course of this 1st cycle. There was striking playing from all sections & an over-all sheen to the orchestra's sound. I never thought I would pay so much attention to the bass trumpet or bass clarinet. The brass playing was clean yet brash. The horn solos, both from offstage & the pit, sounded courageous & glinting. The strings were vibrant. Maestro Runnicles led the music in an unbroken flow, continually swelling & exhaling, & the opera's big orchestral passages were enthralling.

The opening Norns scene was gripping, all 3 singers sounding dusky & focused, accompanied by a murky & restless orchestra. It was nice to hear mezzo Jamie Barton twice, as a Norn & as Waltraute. Her voice is hearty, with strong low notes, & there are lots of colors to her singing.

Director Francesca Zambello managed to find humor in the Gibichungs Hall scene. Soprano Melissa Citro was a strong-voiced Gutrune, & she comically minced about the stage, conscientiously tidying the furniture, plumping couch pillows & posing herself in preparation for Siegfried's arrival. Baritone Brian Mulligan has an even, taut & pleasing voice, & his Gunther is a decent man who realizes too late that he's a pawn in Hagen's game. Andrea Silvestrelli's hollow, resonant voice is distinctive, & he was a chilling Hagen. I enjoyed every moment of his performance. Bass-baritone Falk Struckmann was a dark, insinuating Alberich. He often enunciated the text spitefully.

Tenor Daniel Brenna has a bounding, easy-going stage manner & was an endearing Siegfried. His voice is somewhat light, but unforced & with clear, bright high notes. His act 3 narrative was lively & engaging, & he sang his death scene affectingly in short, expressive phrases. Soprano Iréne Theorin sings with sustained strength, & her Brünnhilde was consistently stalwart. She varied her performance with a controlled pianissimo during her immolation scene.

Visual impact comes primarily from large digital projections on the scrim & the back of the stage, & the production relies on constantly shifting images of industrial landscapes & natural phenomenon to make its points. I was impressed at how quiet the many scene changes behind the scrim were.

Throughout the opera we see all the female personages physically attacked by men in some way, & the final scene pointedly puts only women on stage. Gutrune witnesses "Starke Scheite" while women dump rifles, tires, debris & Siegfried's body off the back of the stage. Projections depict an apocalyptic snow of portraits of the cast. In the closing moments a girl comes on stage to plant a sapling.

The audience was dedicated & attentively quiet throughout. The only time I noticed people exiting early was during the 1st act. There was a standing ovation from the orchestra level & extended applause & cheering, especially when the scrim went up to reveal the orchestra members on stage, holding up their instruments & waving to us. It was great to see the French horn player singled out. Ring attendees could collect "I Survived!" buttons as they left the theater. Even though this was a matinee performance, my head was so filled with music that I couldn't get to sleep until 2am.

§ Götterdämmerung
San Francisco Opera 2018 Ring Cycle 1

Conductor, Donald Runnicles
Director, Francesca Zambello

Brünnhilde, Iréne Theorin
Siegfried, Daniel Brenna
Gunther, Brian Mulligan
Hagen, Andrea Silvestrelli
Waltraute, Jamie Barton
Gutrune, Melissa Citro
Alberich, Falk Struckmann
First Norn, Ronnita Miller
Second Norn, Jamie Barton
Third Norn, Sarah Cambidge
Woglinde, Stacey Tappan
Wellgunde, Lauren McNeese
Flosshilde, Renée Tatum

Sunday, 06/17/18, 1:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

1 comment:

Michael Strickland said...

Okay, slacker, I'm putting you back on the Civic Center blogroll. Welcome back.