Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
Yesterday's performance of Siegfried at the Met - the third segment of this season's first complete Ring cycle - was stunning in every sense of the word: musically, visually, theatrically. The lion's share of the credit rightly goes to Wagner himself, who crafted not only the music and text, but the entire mise en scene. But, from my perspective, Robert LePage's vision of this massive music-drama was a far cry from what Alex accused of being " the most witless, wasteful production in modern operatic history." Indeed, whatever kinks the production may have had last season seem to have been mostly worked out.
Let's start with The Machine (designed by Carl Fillion), which has gotten panned all over the place (including in these pages). It is an indisputable fact that The Machine is a remarkable piece of theatrical technology: 24 computer-controlled planks that swing into dozens of different shapes. Does it make noise? When it moves, yes. But here's the thing: it only moves during set changes, and even then, it makes a lot less noise than Gunther Schneider-Siemssen's sets did during the Met's universally-praised Otto Schenk production. Not to mention, it's a helluva lot more efficient: Wagner's instrumental interludes, originally intended to fill the time during set changes, are now put to use as part of the main action.
Even more striking were Pedro Pires' hyper-real computer-generated images, which were projected onto the planks. In Act 1, two streams of water created a rippling pool below. In Act 2, images of birch tree trunks projected onto the now-vertical planks turned the stage into a virtual forest, complete with leaves that seemed to move according to the singers' movements. And, the raging fires in Act 3 were so real, I thought I could almost feel their heat. Watch the Overture to Act 3 below, and you'll see what I mean.
As for the music, Terfel gave a larger-than-life performance as Wotan, his booming voice easily filling the 4,000-seat Met auditorium. Same with Deborah Voigt, who continues to marvel in her first-ever Brünnhilde. Gerhard Siegel was thoroughly convincing as the sniveling, dastardly Mime, while basses Eric Owens (Alberich) and Hans-Peter König (Fafner) made no less an impression than they did two weeks ago in Das Rheingold.
But, this opera is all about it's title character, and tenor Jay Hunter Morris - a Texan who grew up singing church music - was utterly believable as the witless, headstrong hero who "has never learned fear." Throughout, Morris was energetic and engaging, even goofy when the occasion called for it. For the record, Siegfried is a nearly impossible role, requiring hours of upper-range strident singing. (Most tenors who want to have a career of any reasonable length are advised against it.) So, when Morris' voice finally started to give out towards the end of his Act 3 duet with Voigt, only the most unreasonable critic could hold him at fault.
Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi led a clean, relatively quick reading - if you can call 5 1/2 hours quick - with the Met Orchestra delivering its usual astonishing work. Special props to principal hornist Erik Ralske, who nailed the stage solo in Act 2 when Siegfried calls forth the Dragon from his cave.
This season's first of three Ring cycles reaches its epic climax on Tuesday with the wondrous spectacle that is Götterdämmerung. See you there.
(P.S. If Saturday's performance was any indication, there should be a fair number of empty seats in the orchestra on Tuesday, for those who might want to upgrade from the Family Circle or Standing Room. Not that we condone such behavior.)
More pics at the photo page.