George Loomis reports on Wagner opera, Russian-style.
By George Loomis
Published: October 8, 2004
Last spring the Metropolitan Opera gave three complete cycles of Richard Wagner's four-opera saga, "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (The Ring of the Nibelung). It was business as usual for the New York company. Otto Schenk's ultra-traditional production from the late 1980s was once again on display, James Levine conducted, and the cast included such stalwarts as Jane Eaglen (Bruennhilde) and James Morris (Wotan). With some extra performances of "Die Walkuere" worked into the schedule, one would have thought that the yearnings of Wagner devotees had been amply gratified.
In what might seem a curious redundancy, "Die Walkuere" returned to the Met in the very first week of the new season. But the current performances are anything but redundant, and the main reason is a shakeup in participants. Gone are Eaglen and Morris and even James Levine, who had been the sole conductor of "Ring" operas at the Met (apart from a couple of scattered performances) since the Schenk production was new.
Instead, in the words of The Associated Press, "a Russian revolution" took place. Valery Gergiev, the Met's principal guest conductor and the artistic director of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, took over the baton from Levine. Two years ago Levine entrusted him with another Wagner opera, "Parsifal." This time Gergiev has brought singers from the Mariinsky with him -- the soprano Olga Sergeyeva, who sings Bruennhilde, and two basses, Vladimir Vaneyev and Mikhail Kit, who share the role of Wotan.
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