Monday, June 20, 2011

SF Opera Ring Cycle I: Götterdämmerung

San Francisco OperaAs before, this final installment of San Francisco Opera's Ring Cycle began with Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas & Heidi Melton as the 3 norns, setting a high bar for the rest of the afternoon with their powerful, no holds barred singing. I thought Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde sounded uncharacteristically harsh, but she displayed boundless energy. She always looks ready to pounce. There was a smattering of applause after her 1st scene with the Siegfried of Ian Storey. His hefty, baritonal sound made for an obvious contrast with the previous opera's Siegfried.

Andrea Silvestrelli's voice remained huge & cavernous, even when singing into a pillow as the sleeping Hagen in Act II. Gordon Hawkins is solid as Alberich, though I wished for him to sound even more menacing. The staging of Act II is strangely static. Even though the music is full of movement at the end, the principals just stand around, not interacting. The male chorus made a big, unified sound & communicated strength. Ms. Stemme sounded her normal, healthy self again, & the revenge trio was thrilling. Distressingly, Mr. Storey rapidly lost his voice at the end of the spear-swearing scene, & when he exited, I figured he was done for the afternoon.

Before Act III, General Director David Gockley announced that Mr. Storey had suffered a "vocal indisposition," &, having received attention from a doctor, would continue. Mr. Storey gave out a strong off-stage high note just before entering, & he seemed more or less recovered. The audience laughed when they realized that the Rheinmaidens were collecting used plastic water bottles for recycling. In his death scene, Siegfried's last act is to drag himself toward a sword & attempt to grasp it. This is dramatic, but it goes against the text & the music, in which Siegfried's dying thoughts are of Brünnhilde. Ms. Stemme sang effortlessly through the Immolation Scene. Though her big high notes seem unreal coming out of her small frame, it is the beauty of her low, soft "Ruhe, du Gott" that is the most moving moment.

The orchestra continued to play beautifully for Donald Runnicles. The Funeral Music was expansive & heaving, yet taut. There was a disconcerting moment in Act I when the brass section turned to mush, but really their playing over the entire cycle has been consistently fine, often glowing, & always brave. After the music ended, the curtain came up on Ms. Stemme, & she received a standing ovation & cheers from the audience. There was some booing from the balcony for Francesca Zambello. The backstage crew & orchestra also appeared on stage for the ovations.

Flosshilde at SF Opera Ring CycleBouncing back from a mishap the previous performance, the Opera Tattler paraded around in blue tulle, dressed as a Rheinmaiden (Flosshilde, to be precise). I waved down Patrick after the show, & ran into Out West Arts, who looked cheerful as ever, despite commuting between here & L.A. to attend the cycle. I did the full cycle with standing room tickets. The process is an exercise in willful inefficiency.

§ Götterdämmerung
Conductor - Donald Runnicles
Director - Francesca Zambello

First Norn - Ronnita Miller
Second Norn - Daveda Karanas
Third Norn - Heidi Melton
Brünnhilde - Nina Stemme
Siegfried - Ian Storey
Gunther - Gerd Grochowski
Gutrune - Melissa Citro
Waltraute - Daveda Karanas
Alberich - Gordon Hawkins
Woglinde - Stacey Tappan
Wellgunde - Lauren McNeese
Flosshilde - Renée Tatum

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House
Sun 06/19/11 1:00pm

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