Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

The Further Adventures of Baby Huey

May 01, 2009

Robert Brubaker and Christian Franz
Photo: Beatriz Schiller/Met Opera 2009

So here we are at the problematic third opera of Wagner’s Ring cycle, Siegfried. It is the most comedic of the series, or at least Wagner’s version of comedic, and there was a smattering of laughter on Thursday, though probably not often at the points Wagner intended. Of course, the guy in the bear suit and the dirty laundry pile Siegfried kills in Act II to obtain the Ring didn’t help matters. But besides feeling like I was riding on a Disneyland attraction badly in need of repair, it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant evening. There was more great conducting from Levine and a very reasonable cast on the whole that made the difference. There was some hectoring about the brass section among the audience where I was sitting, but I felt things were improved over Tuesday. Musically, the Metropolitan Opera continues to set the standard for quality musical performances of opera in this country. Now if we could just do something about that pesky theater bit.

Vocally, the cast was filled with folks getting their hands on this material with the Met for the first time. Christian Franz was Siegfried and a participant in virtually every title fight of the evening. He won (or at least took the decision) in all but that thorny last scene. He was heroic, bright-toned, and eminently watchable. The only issue was stamina. By the time our boy Elroy recognizes he could have had a V8 on the mountain top, it was all over but the shouting. Linda Watson, the second replacement for Brünnhilde in this performance, arrived fresh from a run of Walküre in L.A. to wake up in a very different, and much less interesting ring of fire. As I’ve noted before, I’m much more fond of her Brünnhilde than her Isolde, and she was enjoyable to listen to. Her acting tended toward the hammy, but amongst these ruins, it was hard to blame her. Robert Brubaker’s Mime had much the same issue, but vocally there was little to complain about. Albert Dohmen completed the Wotan series in this cycle with real flair, and after all these hours of music, I was rather won over by his portrayal as well.

The best news is that after three operas, I'm actually starting to look forward to how this ends. Of course, I already know. But the things that's been most lacking for me in this cycle thus far is that urge to see the next segment despite its familiarity. I felt that kick in to an extent on Thursday, which is good news. This may be the last hurrah for a very lackluster production from Otto Schenk, but even at this point, this cycle can be a potent reminder of what James Levine was able to achieve in this house over the last several decades when it comes to Wagner. And that is something to admire indeed.



Originally, I was regretting my decision not to go NYC to see this, and then my regret relented after reading your and the O.T.'s initial posts. Now however, I wish I'd gone because a Ring well done does build that sense of excitement as it goes along. I'm glad it's turning around for you.

Gotterdammerung should be the best. Enjoy!
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