Friday, June 17, 2011

SF Opera Ring Cycle I: Die Walküre

As I was last summer, on Wednesday night I was blown away by the gorgeous singing of this Walküre. Brandon Jovanovich's 1st utterance as Siegmund set the precedent for a continuous stream of vocal lyricism. His singing was beautifully connected, athletic & Italianate. This plus his swoon-worthy stage presence made for a passionate Siegmund. Anja Kampe was equally ardent & soaring. The interior of Hunding's house, filled with guns, hunting trophies & tacky art is hyper-realistic, though the tree is an incongruous flat silhouette. Sieglinde is an active participant in her escape, & it takes both of them to pull the sword from the tree.

Nina Stemme's Brünnhilde bounded on stage at the beginning of act 2 full of energy, her Hojotohs & high trills packing a punch. She playfully strides Wotan's desk & rides him piggy-back. Her humorous reaction to a telephone call got a huge laugh from the audience. Mark Delevan's Wotan is articulate, never blustery, though he is not beyond threatening Brünnhilde with the back of his hand. Elizabeth Bishop has a nice full sound, & her Fricka was controlled & conversational in her argument with Wotan.

In contrast to the previous night, the scene change in act 2 was quiet. During Brünnhilde's pronouncements to Siegmund, soldiers march slowly across the stage holding close-cropped headshots of actual fallen soldiers. Hunding's dogs scamper briefly across the stage, though they are not menacing. I like that Wotan kills Hunding with his bare hands instead of using The Force, as often happens in other productions.

In act 3 the audience applauded the parachuting valkyries, though the stunt is not visible from the balcony. Their combined sound was powerful. Mr. Delevan was convincingly angry when he went down the line of vallkyries, chewing them out, & he grappled physically with Brünnhilde. His subsequent breakdown & tender treatment of her was moving. Mr. Delevan clearly saved up to make a big sound in his final moments, but some of his sound was lost by his placement upstage. Ms. Stemme big, warm voice & energetic movement never flagged. She seems unstoppable.

The orchestra under Donald Runnicles played out the entire evening, & there were wonderfully delicate solos from the clarinet, as well as the flute & harp. I often noticed prominent passages for the viola section & the bass clarinet. There was a fairly consistent intonation problem somewhere in the brasses, but the trumpets were reliably clear, & the final brass chord sounded fine. But there were no real flaws, with Maestro Runnicles keeping the music constantly moving forward in an organic way.

Valkyrie attending SF Opera Ring CycleIt was a treat to run into Out West Arts in the Biergarten before the performance. The last time we saw one another was at the Met's old Ring in 2009. The Opera Tattler, again heading the standees line, showed up as a valkyrie, with winged headgear & a real spear. I was too frightened to stand next to her at the balcony railing, but I should have been more wary of SMike, who tried to run me down in the race upstairs.

§ Die Walküre
San Francisco Opera Ring Cycle 2011

Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Director: Francesca Zambello

Sieglinde: Anja Kampe
Siegmund: Brandon Jovanovich
Hunding: Daniel Sumegi
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Fricka: Elizabeth Bishop

Ortlinde: Melissa Citro
Schwertleite: Cybele Gouverneur
Waltraute: Daveda Karanas
Gerhilde: Sara Gartland
Helmwige: Tamara Wapinsky
Siegrune: Maya Lahyani
Grimgerde: Renée Tatum
Rossweisse: Lauren McNeese

War Memorial Opera House
Wed 06/15/11 7:00pm


Civic Center said...

Agreed on every point (including staying out of my way on that last patch of stairs in the balcony). It's a perfect rendering of what I heard and saw. Sorry to be bailing out for the remainder of the Ring, but we DID see the last two shows earlier this month and life is very short. Say hello to Brian for me at the Biergarten.

Axel Feldheim said...

Ah well, we will just have to get through this Ring Cycle somehow without you. Yes, Brian did look like he was enjoying the Biergarten! Incredibly, he is basically commuting between here & LA all week in order see the cycle. & we thought the Opera Tattle was a committed fanatic!