Arnold Bezuyen as Loge with the frog puppet Alberich
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LAO 2009
I had a chance to get a further update on Los Angeles Opera’s new production of Das Rheingold
last week. In fact I had two, first on Thursday, March 5, and then again on Sunday, March 8. In case it’s not obvious, I do think this production is rather excellent. (My original thoughts on the run can be found here
for those that seem to have a hard time finding my review no matter how hard they look. You know who you are.) I did see the widely reported technical difficulties last Thursday when the large circular set piece failed to rise up revealing Nibelheim below, as well as other mechanical lift malfunctions. Frankly, though, none of this is all that interesting compared to the fact that over the last two weeks, the show has really come together in a cohesive whole, musically and vocally. I was really impressed by how much stronger the cast sounded having had some time to get comfortable with Achim Freyer’s highly raked and technically complicated set. With increased comfort has come improved concentration, and the show is musically top notch. A friend of mine put it best this way – when was the last time you heard a Wagner opera with no shouting, bellowing, screaming or other over-the-top vocal compensations? Oh, they happen, but not often. Best of all, the opera clearly settles around Gordon Hawkins' Alberich and Arnold Bezuyen's Loge, which is as it should be. Bezuyen's portrayal is still dark, but more mischievous than simply menacing. He works the four arms of his costume with glee. Vitalij Kowaljow's performance of Wotan seemed more assured and burnished to me as well.
Of course, the audience seems to be catching on. The staging continues to be off-putting to some, but is winning over others. It is not a comforting bear hug of a production, but it shouldn’t be. It weirds people out and, for a story of ruthless gods behaving badly, it seems completely appropriate. A little bird tells me that even James Conlon, conductor and music director, was a little apprehensive about the idea of being brought out for his curtain call by an exceedingly long-armed Michelle DeYoung in her endlessly plaintive Fricka costume. (In the end, he is not—although he does look anxious just as everyone else in fear of careening down the steep slope of the set during the final bows.) L.A. Opera staff tell me that sales have strengthened more than expected over the run with an unusual number of return visitors. In fact, last Thursday’s weekday show was a near sellout, unheard of here in Los Angeles where much of the audience is car-dependent and lives over an hour away. Tickets for the last two shows are also pretty limited at this point, so it might be worth calling now if you still want to catch this great show.
Labels: LA Opera 08/09