Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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The Ring is in the Details

June 09, 2010

Arnold Bezuyen as Loge
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LAO 2010

I’ve seen LA Opera’s production of Das Rheingold six times now between its run last spring and its reappearance this summer. (In case you are wondering, I’ve paid for all but one of those tickets out of my own pocket, sports fans.) I’ve written plenty about the production and my admiration for it, so I wasn’t going to rehash that here and now after my latest visit to the show on Tuesday. But what I would like to do is shine a light on some names that haven’t gotten quite as much attention as they deserve in this run. You’ve read plenty about director Achim Freyer, conductor James Conlon, and the production’s biggest stars, Linda Watson, John Treleaven, and Placido Domingo. But the Ring calls for a huge cast whose “smaller” roles require as much singing and effort as the starring roles in any number of other operas in the standard repertoire. It takes a large number of vocalists to make a Ring cycle work, and Los Angeles is quite lucky to have as strong a cast as it does. Many are in heavy make-up, big costumes, and sometimes masks that may make them less recognizable to audience members than they would otherwise be. So over the next several days, as I’m visiting the second cycle, I’d like to highlight a few of these folks who are giving it their all, even if in some cases they fly a little bit below the radar in such a mammoth undertaking as Wagner’s Ring.

Arnold Bezuyen
Photo: Jochen Quast

The two people who absolutely make Das Rheingold for me here in Los Angeles are Arnold Bezuyen and Richard Paul Fink. Dutch tenor Bezuyen is particularly identified with the role of Loge. He’s more or less owned the role at the Bayreuth Festival since 1998 and will appear there again later this summer. (This is also true of several other singers in the LA Opera cast.) Although Bezuyen performs regularly across Europe, his appearances in the U.S. have been much less frequent. And hearing him sing Loge here makes me think what a shame that is. His Loge can have real bite and menace in his voice when he needs it. Members of the Los Angeles Opera League will be lucky enough to hear him in a benefit recital this Saturday—that I would so be at if it weren’t for the matter of Messiaen in Ojai. Bezuyen’s performance is remarkable not just for his vocal quality but his reveling in the costume crafted for his character by Achim Freyer and his daughter Amanda. The red suit with matching converse sneakers is most notable for the extra set of arms and hands included in it. Bezuyen’s Loge is certainly unpredictable with a passive aggressive streak and he wields his extra limbs with abandon. His Loge is as playful as the entire world around him, which is saying a lot given the alien nature of Freyer's competing landscape.

Richard Paul Fink as Ablerich
Photo: Monika Rittershaus/LAO 2010

American baritone Richard Paul Fink, on the other hand, is an very well-known quantity to American audiences. His Alberich, one of the most respected in the world, has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera on a number of occasions, and he comes to Los Angeles replacing Gordon Hawkins who appeared in the original run of the production here last spring. I would say Fink’s profile is rising, but that would belittle his many achievements in a career marked with numerous excellent performances in a variety of roles around the world. Outside of Alberich, he recently appeared as Nabucco in San Diego and had a well-received turn as Edward Teller in Adams’ Doctor Atomic. I’m especially looking forward to his performance as Henry Kissinger in Adams’ Nixon in China at the Met next February and as Wozzeck in Santa Fe in 2011. His Alberich is forceful, sharp and he delivers the curse impeccably. Like Bezuyen, he takes his costumes limitations and makes them assets. Alberich is one of the characters masked throughout the entire production leaving him no chance to use his facial expressions. On the other hand, this absence allows for a broader physicality in the role. Fink hams up Alberich’s vanity and incompetence as a suitor with histrionic gestures that would look ridiculous in any other setting. But here, behind the mask, in a world beyond the audience’s recognition, they work exceedingly well. It’s that ability to adapt to different situations in a role that is incredibly familiar to him that makes him so fascinating as a performer. So there are two more great reasons to see Das Rheingold in its final outing here on the 18th if you haven’t already.

Richard Paul Fink



I agree that both Loge and Alberich were two of the best formed characters in the LA Ring – and that, as you state, comes down to the singer-actors behind the masks/makeup. But, of course, those of us who live in Seattle have enjoyed Mr. Fink's richly malevolent Alberich (and other performances) over the last few years. He really is a singer who deserves to be more widely appreciated.
While I agree with your praise of Bezuyen and Fink, I can't help but wonder if you got a press kit....
Actually, all of the information above came from the Rheingold program and my own personal experience seeing them. It does read like a press kit, I'll admit, and that's because I think they both deserve a little more attention in all this.
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