Tuesday, May 31, 2011

SFO: Siegfried

SiegfriedSunday afternoon I was in upstairs standing room at San Francisco Opera to hear the new Siegfried. It seemed like conductor Donald Runnicles & the orchestra simply picked up where they left off from their beautiful Walküre of last summer. Maestro Runnicles's pacing was elastic & had a powerful, natural flow. The orchestral playing was full of detail, & gorgeous solos popped out frequently, especially from the clarinet, flute & trumpet. The sound coming out of the pit for the stormy act 3 overture was tremendous.

David Cangelosi was terrific as Mime. He sustained a high level of energy throughout, even executing cartwheels & somersaults. His characterization was comic without being sniveling or cowardly, & he got one of the biggest ovations of the afternoon. Jay Hunter Morris's voice does not have the baritonal quality of a heldentenor, but I liked its bright & slightly gritty edge. He was impressively consistent for the entire opera. I never felt, as I have with other Siegfrieds, that he was not going to make it. This Siegfried wears facial hair & does not exude a sense of boyishness or stupidity. Mark Delavan sings the Wanderer with clear diction & a somewhat speech-like quality. His Wanderer comes across as impatient rather than commanding. Gordon Hawkins, as a very bitter Alberich, had an appropriately dark sound. Nina Stemme was exuberant after she awoke as Brünnhilde. She is a small woman, & it is like an optical illusion when that huge, healthy sound comes out of her.

The setting for this production seems to be an apocalyptic, post-industrial wasteland. Mime & Siegfried live in a beat-up trailer at the edge of a scrap yard. I enjoyed Siegfried's food-stealing bear & the can of Pam sitting on a shelf in the trailer. Act 2 takes place at a huge warehouse, which Fafner guards with a gigantic robotic garbage truck. The totally man-made setting went against the music's evocation of a forest, though. The Forest Bird appears on-stage as a perky young girl who takes notes while trying to communicate with Siegfried. Stacey Tappan sang & acted the part spiritedly. I did not understand the Wanderer's encounter with Erda in which they are physically abusive toward one another. Ronnita Miller is a noble Earth mother, & her voice is strong & even throughout its range. She pushed out equally powerful high & low notes.

BiergartenEven though Ring Cycles do not start for another 2 weeks, the audience must have been full of Wagnerites, since there were no signs of restlessness & almost no attrition after the 2nd act. The Opera Tattler attended in standing room, & she left a children's book about the opera to entertain me while she went backstage to work the coffee service between acts. SFMike materialized in standing room as well during act 3. I spent my intermissions eating the 3 sandwiches I had brought to keep me going. A Biergarten was set up on the outside balcony, where one could buy a beer, a sausage in a bun & a Bretzel.

§ Siegfried
San Francisco Opera

Conductor, Donald Runnicles
Director, Francesca Zambello

Siegfried, Jay Hunter Morris
The Wanderer (Wotan), Mark Delavan
Brünnhilde, Nina Stemme
Mime, David Cangelosi
Alberich, Gordon Hawkins
Fafner, Daniel Sumegi
Erda, Ronnita Miller
Forest Bird, Stacey Tappan

Sun 05/29/11 1:00pm


Civic Center said...

Was there really a biergarten? That's great.

Axel Feldheim said...

Yes! It's a great idea. There are signs pointing the way on the grand tier level. I have not checked it out yet, but I watched people drink their beer & eat their sausages from the dress circle level. Now the only thing we need to complete the festival atmosphere is 50 minute intermissions!

The Opera Tattler said...

I am surprised you didn't say anything about how great the harp was in this.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well I am trying not to make my posts too long, so I cannot mention everything. But you made me realize that I neglected to count the harps in this performance.