Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Hunting Grounds

June 22, 2018


Brandon Jovanovich as Siegmund and Karita Mattila as Sieglinde Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera 2018

Opera often seems like a miracle. It’s really just an incredible feat of the hard work of hundreds of artists from different disciplines all working together toward a common goal. But sometimes it still takes some amazing acts of divine intervention for everything to happen when it does.  And much was miraculous about Die Walküre, the second night of Wagner’s Das Ring des Nibelungen as seen in the San Francisco Opera’s current production now on stage. Perhaps the biggest miracle was the substitution of the originally scheduled soprano Evelyn Herlitzius who cancelled just weeks before the opening with the much lauded Iréne Theorin in the central role of Brünnhilde. Finding an artist of Theorin’s stature at the last minute for perhaps the most difficult role in all of opera is one thing; getting her here though was another entirely. Apparently when the current morally bankrupt US administration isn’t busy keeping the county safe from brown-skinned toddlers, opera singers are a close second on their watch list. I’m told every favor imaginable was called in and strings enough for a dozen harps were pulled to get Theorin's visa approved in time under the sad conditions that are increasingly the case in the decline of this once-great nation.

Luckily she did make it and whatever strings were pulled, they were well worth pulling. Theorin was a blazing presence Tuesday, vocally and theatrically. She bounds into Act II with limitless energy clearly pushing all involved from the orchestra and conductor, Donald Runnicles to her Wotan, Greer Grimsley to dig deep. She was thrilling to watch throughout and her fierce, confident tone bore an ease enviable for any vocalist at these echelons of Wagnerian performance. The next miracle was how expertly matched she was with a superb cast across the board. Karita Mattila, an artist with few equals on today’s stage, brought her Sieglinde to town opposite Brandon Jovanovich who reprised his Siegmund from the Ring’s last outing here. Mattila manages frailty, passion, and a growing conviction in her performance that commands everything around her. Jovanovich is noble and warm-toned throughout. Jamie Barton, as Fricka, takes one of the thorniest challenges in all of the Ring's demands. In Act II she manages a mesmerizing, searing turn in straightening out her wayward husband without a decent into caricature. 
These kinds of performances can often go far in making up for a multitude of sins when it comes to a production’s overall quality. But Zambello’s diffuse shifting vision holds steady on this outing. There continues to be enough visual flash and atmosphere to keep things interesting and her parachuting Valkyries excite the crowd as much as they have at any time during the life of this production. The emotional range feels far less telegraphed than it often did during the productions initial run as a confidence and certainty have taken its place. Given that Zambello’s Siegfried has long been a calling care of her Ring production, there is a lot to look forward to this week.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter