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June 14, 2010

Eric Halfvarson as Hagen
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LAO 2010

I was back at Los Angeles Opera’s Siegfried on Sunday as part of the second Ring Cycle I’m attending there and must admit I was pleasantly surprised. After a somewhat rough and tumble performance of Die Walküre on Thursday, the orchestra and vocalists bounced back with the strongest Siegfried performance I’ve heard them give. And at the center of it all was the best performance I’ve yet heard out of John Treleaven in the title role. Not that it was perfect, but he did more than just get through tonight. He delivered Act III with real energy and was much more on-target pitch-wise than I've seen him. Hopefully he's hit his stride, or something, here and will keep this up over the next two weeks. The orchestra sounded cleaner than it did at he end of last week as well. Overall, it was another lovely performance. I was also taken with the sheer number of younger people in the audience on Sunday. It seems that word about this production is reaching circles of folks you don’t typically spot at the opera and the lower-priced tickets that have become available have been a boon for people wanting to go who otherwise could not afford it. It’s also certainly not the regular subscriber crowd. I think it’s a great thing and I can only hope it translates into a broader audience for LA Opera overall, even after this Ring is sadly gone. Speaking of which, this is just about your last chance to see it before its gone since the final cycle starts this Friday evening, the 18th of June.

Stacey Tappan

I thought I might mention a couple more vocal stars of the cycle who may not always get top billing, though they deserve it. One performer who continues to inspire me is soprano Stacey Tappan. Tappan is singing both the Rhinemaiden Woglinde and the Woodbird in the cycle, so she gets the lucky job of being in most of the productions. She’s been appearing here in L.A. for several years in a number of small roles including a superb turn as the Wren in last season’s production of Braunfels' Die Vögel. Her bright tone and clarity has been a welcome addition to roles that all too often go undercast for a variety of reasons. Tappan is scheduled to reprise these roles next year in the San Francisco Opera Ring cycle and is yet another reason to be there.

Ronnita Nicole Miller

Speaking of Rhinemaidens, another member of L.A.’s cast, Ronnita Nicole Miller, will also be making the trip to San Francisco next year. As a current member of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artists Program, Miller has also secured a number of small but very noticeable parts with LA Opera such as with her performance of Martuccia in Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten. Here in L.A. she is singing both the Rhinemaiden Flosshilde and Schwertleite in Die Walküre. She was one of the highlights of the recent Zarzuela program with Placido Domingo at the Broad Stage as well. Best of all, her San Francisco performances represent a bit of a Ring promotion where she’ll be leaving the Rhine (and Schwertleite) for the role of Erda and the First Norn.

Of course, perhaps the hardest working vocalist of the LA Ring cycle is Eric Halfvarson. He's had a lengthy career on many of the world's great opera stages and L.A. is lucky to hear him sing the Ring cycle villains which he's best known for. The bass sang a spectacular Grand Inquisitor in Verdi’s Don Carlo here in 2006 and he'll be singing the role later this year at the metropolitan Opera as well. His Hagen is malevolent and puckish, wielding a Wagnerian remote control in Freyer's vision of Götterdämmerung over the last several months. It's a remarkable performance here that's also filled with a lot of sadness. But over the entire cycle, Halfvarson’s also busy as Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried and Hunding in Die Walküre. He does it all from crawling around in a kneeling giant costume to racing around the stage with a red LED tube. And all of this while giving a super vocal performance.



Miller has also secured a number of small but very noticeable parts with LA Opera such as with her performance of Martuccia in Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten

I loved her singing in the Schreker, I hope that whenever LAO gets around to doing Die Tote Stadt like they've promised that she sings Brigitta/Lucienne.
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