Noilly Prattle: long night at the opera -- Wagner's "Siegfried"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

long night at the opera -- Wagner's "Siegfried"

     I went to the opera last night in what turned out to be an exquisite endurance test. Road buddy doesn't like Wagner, but I like some of his work so I attended a performance of Siegfried, the third opera in the Ring of the Nibelungen cycle, alone. This is a work of mythology based in the Nordic pantheon of gods and heroes that so enchanted Wagner. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels also carry echoes of these Nordic legends. The four operas in the Ring cycle: Das Rheingold, die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung.

      This production was staged at The Amsterdam Music Theater, which is only a five minute walk from our rental apartment. The show began at 17.30, rather early, I thought, for an evening at the opera. But I didn't leave the theater until 23.00. Road buddy was still awake as I walked in the door. She wondered where I had been as it was so late. She said she was getting ready to call the police, anxious that something nefarious had happened to me. I laughed and said: "What could possible happen between here and the theater. It's just down the street?" "Well, I don't know, you could have had a heart attack, stumbled into a canal and drowned, hit by a bicycle, gotten mugged..." So, I gave her a little pat, and said: "No, nothing happened. I'm fine. I just now left the theater. There were three long acts (it's Wagner, after all) and two long breaks in between. I enjoyed the show, by the way."

stage set composition
in planes and angles
Prudenskaya as Erda
     The theater is not a traditional opera house, but a modern auditorium type theater. The stage set was extended right up to the front row, so that the orchestra was integrated into the very abstract set composed of planes and angles. The set was very versatile and effective for a story of mythology as it takes you immediately out of the world of everyday life and puts you into an undefinable space. The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Hartmut Haenchen gave a very good interpretation of Wagner's evocative music and the cast was overall excellent with the possible exception of Marina Prudenskaya, whose beautiful voice was sometimes difficult to hear over the music. But she looked terrific in a black and white costume divided down the middle with a similarly parted black and white wig. The rest of the cast:

Siegfried   Stephen Gould
Mime   Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke
Der Wanderer   Thomas Johannes Mayer
Alberich   Werner Van Mechelen
Fafner   Jan-Hendrik Rootering
Erda   Marina Prudenskaya
Brünnhilde   Catherine Naglestad

the most delightful little bird I ever saw
      All the characters were well rehearsed in their moves and acting and sang with gusto and elan. The pacing was great and the long Acts moved right along without leaving one bored with dead spaces in the ongoing drama. One particular character, who is not mentioned in the cast, stopped the show for my money. This was a very young boy soprano, whose name I do not know, who played the role of a little bird whose language becomes understood by Siegfried when his sword is bloodied by the blood of the dragon, Fafner, that he has just slain. The boy is an accomplished thespian although he can't be more than 9 or 10-years old. He was really cute miming a little bird, but when he opened his mouth to sing--that was revelation. I've usually seen the little bird done with a puppet and the voice of a coloratura soprano singing from the wings, unseen. Wagner originally called for a boy soprano in this role, and seeing it the way it's supposed to be was an eye opener. Something new, for me, under the sun.

video screen grab of one of the colorful scenes

Siegfried and Brünnhilde

main characters in Act 2

characters in Act 3 and conductor

      After a long dry spell, I was delighted to be able to attend this wonderful performance and
renew my acquaintance with the theater. Looking forward to three shows in Zurich at the end of the month.

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