Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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Heroes. Just For One Day.

October 05, 2009

John Treleaven and Linda Watson in LA Opera's Siegfried
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LA Opera 2009

It was a evening of heroes at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last night. And not just because the opera on offer was Siegfried. John Treleaven, the tenor entrusted with the Herculean task of bringing Wagner’s nature boy to life got to prove his own personal mettle onstage as well. In an incident reminiscent of Joyce DiDonato’s own foot fracture at the Royal Opera House this summer, Treleaven's foot got caught somewhere along the line on the highly raked stage used in Achim Freyer’s Ring cycle production causing him to trip during Act III. While the stumble looked somewhat small to the audience, Treleaven was clearly hurt as he continued to limp throughout the final hour of the performance before being assisted off stage at the end by Linda Watson, the evening's Brünnhilde. His final bows were restricted to one of the set's few small horizontal platforms and, I imagine, he was in a fair bit of pain from the looks of things. While I have no idea of his status beyond that, I certainly hope he didn’t suffer the kind of fracture DiDonato did earlier this year and I wish him a speedy recovery. However, like DiDonato, Treleaven did exhibit the same kind of artistic commitment and sacrifice, never missing a beat and bravely carrying on with an hour of daunting singing at the end of an already lengthy performance in what must be extremely challenging conditions. Ironically, even with the injury, Treleaven seemed to bloom vocally in the final moments of Act III apparently coming to new life in the face of adversity. While he may have been somewhat underpowered earlier in the afternoon, there was no doubt that this Act III Siegfried was one caught up in the sweep of love and fear. While I would never wish that kind of accident or injury on any performer, I must admit that seeing someone persevere in this kind of situation does make for some exciting opera.

Of course, as I mentioned in my preview last week, this is a Siegfried production packed with lots of thrills. It’s gorgeous, insightful, and thought provoking. I don't necessarily have a lot more to add to my comments about the dress rehearsal except to say that the rough edges of that evening have clearly been worked out as one would expect. Best of all, three operas into Freyer’s version of the Ring, everything is beginning to come together. The visual logic of the piece has begun to take over and I’ve noticed that friends who’ve been critical of the first two installments of this Ring from earlier this year have discovered a new found pleasure from Freyer’s own system of symbols and images. The cast is really quite good with a superb Mime in Graham Clark and Vitalij Kowaljow' Wotan. Linda Watson was both passionate and regal, which works well in this particular staging.

What's clear at this point is that Los Angeles Opera has a one-of-a-kind Ring cycle on its hands. It's darkly beautiful and unlike anything you've seen before. It's a testament to Freyer's artistry that he's come up with a Ring that rejects much of what is thought to be necessary in a contemporary context to put on Wagner's masterpiece. He turns our desire for the familiarity of predictable places and character relationships on its head while creating something that is funny and moving in many ways. We're so lucky to have this Ring and I can't recommend it highly enough. In fact, as L.A. Opera begins to look beyond the Ring cycle, maybe its time to revisit some of the other works Freyer has provided for the company like Berlioz' La Damnation de Faust or better yet, his staged version of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Just a thought.

UPDATE at 4:15 PST: Sources at L.A. Opera tell me that Treleaven received treatment backstage after yesterday's performance and is on the mend. Word is he'll be back at the next performance on Wednesday 10/7. There are two more performances after that as well on the 11th and 17th. It's great to hear he wasn't more injured and that he'll be back this week.



I really enjoy your reviews. No overblown vocabulary or way-out metaphors to make your points without severe journalistic limitations. It's nice for us plain folk with an average IQ.
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