06 Apr 2009
WAGNER: Siegfried — Rome 1968
Siegfried: Second day of Der Ring des Nibelungen in three acts.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’
‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.
Writing in a programme article to accompany this first revival of her 2010 production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, director Penny Woolcock remarks upon the opera’s ‘plethora of beautiful arias, duets, choral and orchestral music and catchy tunes that spawn earworms’.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Siberian born baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky returned to Dorothy Chandler Hall on May 22nd with a unique all Russian song recital which included songs composed to Pushkin’s poetry and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses of Michelangelo Buonarroti.
As Athanaël, Placido Domingo created a realistic monk who was ostensibly tempted to disregard his vows. The audience knew that had the courtesan Thaïs lived longer, he would have thrown his immortal soul into the wind.
If it is supposed to bring bad luck to even whisper the name of the “Scottish Play” out loud, someone must have screamed Macbeth deafeningly before the performance at Saarbrücken’s State Opera House.
Professional opera returns to the Las Vegas Valley June 6th and 8th with performances of one of the best-known comic operas of all time, Gioachino Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia.
Poulenc’s racy little 1947 confection took stage within Kurt Weill’s peculiar little 1927 singspiel Mahagonny all framed within the current California drought and doomsday predictions of impending global aridity.
Librettist Leonard Foglia based his elegant and literate text on the late Horton Foote’s play, A Coffin in Egypt, and the opera has the original play’s dramatic punch.
As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.
Never thought I’d say it but......
I met with the embattled artistic director of the Opéra et Orchestre National de Montepellier not to talk about his battles. I simply wanted to know the man who had cast and staged a truly extraordinary Mozart/DaPonte trilogy.
Billy Budd, portrayed by handsome lyric tenor Liam Bonner, is a charismatic embodiment of innocence.
This was in almost every respect an excellent performance — which therefore exacerbates the problem lying at the heart, or whatever it is that lies in its place, of the work itself.
A handsome new production, beautifully staged in Marseille’s fine old opera house cried out for a cast to make the opera bel canto.
Kasper Holten’s new production of Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House risks laying the house’s Director of Opera open to charges of antiquated mores and misogyny: for he seems to suggest that the women are just as bad, if not worse, than their seducer — and that a soulful man who seeks genuine love is likely to find his ‘ideal beloved’ forever out of reach.
Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (1681-1732) isn’t a name that trips off opera-goers’ tongues; similarly neglected is Conti’s last opera L’Issipile, despite the fact that composer (who was also a theorbo player at the Viennese Imperial Court) was the first of several opera composers to set Metastasio’s libretto.
Tenor or baritone? Everyone will have their own individual preference about the voice type best suited to Schubert’s Winterreise — and about the manner in which the songs should be performed (narrated, or acted?).
Siegfried: Second day of Der Ring des Nibelungen in three acts.
Music and libretto by Richard Wagner.
First Performance: 16 August 1876, Bayreuth, Festspielhaus
Mime’s forge in the forest
Mime tries in vain to forge a sword strong enough for Siegfried to kill the dragon Fafner. Siegfried returns from the forest with a bear with which he terrifies Mime. He easily breaks the latest sword on the anvil. Mime reproaches him with ingratitude, reminding him that he has brought him up from childhood. Refusing to believe that Mime is his father, Siegfried manages to extract from him the information that his mother, Sieglinde, had died giving birth to him, leaving the fragments of his father’s sword, Nothung. Siegfried demands that Mime reforge this sword and storms out, hoping he may soon be free of the dwarf.
Mime knows he cannot forge the sword, but when the Wanderer (Wotan) appears and offers to answer any three questions on pain of forfeiting his head, Mime asks him only useless questions (about the races of dwarf, giants and gods). When the Wanderer demands a reciprocal question test, Mime is able to answer the first two questions but fails on the third: who will reforge Nothung? The Wanderer tells Mime that his head is forfeit, but he leaves it to be claimed by one who knows no fear.
Mime realises that this is one lesson he has failed to teach Siegfried and tries vainly to make up this omission, but Siegfried is unmoved, even by the mention of the fearsome dragon. Mime has to admit that his skill is unequal to the task of forging Nothung and Siegfried takes to the task himself, breaking all the rules of smithing, but succeeding, while Mime brews a potion he plans to administer to Siegfried when he has killed Fafner, so that he can kill him and seize the ring.
Deep in the forest, near the entrance to Fafner’s cave
Alberich waits near the cave, hoping that someone will kill the dragon and give him the chance to take possession once more of the ring. The Wanderer appears and, to Alberich’s surprise, professes no interest in the ring, but warns him that Mime is bringing Siegfried to kill the dragon. The Wanderer summons Fafner, who rejects Alberich’s offer to protect him from Siegfried in exchange for the ring.
Mime brings Siegfried to the spot, promising that here he will learn fear. Siegfried wonders about his mother and listens to the murmurs of the forest, in particular a bird, whose warbling he tries to imitate on a roughly improvised reed pipe. He gives up and blows a call on his hunting horn, which wakens Fafner. Siegfried kills the dragon; when he pulls out his sword, his hand is splashed with blood. As he sucks it clean, he finds himself able to understand the woodbird, which tells him to take the ring and Tarnhelm from the hoard.
Mime and Alberich meet and quarrel, watching with horror as Siegfried emerges with the ring and Tarnhelm. The woodbird warns Siegfried of Mime’s intended treachery and when Mime offers him the drugged drink, he is able to understand Mime’s thoughts and strikes him dead. The woodbird tells Siegfried of a bride awaiting him on a rock surrounded by fire and he sets off, following the bird.
A wild spot at the foot of a mountain
The Wanderer summons the sleeping Erda, once more seeking the benefit of her wisdom, but she answers that she now knows nothing, suggesting first that he ask the Norns (fates) and then Brünnhilde. She is horrifed to learn about Brünnhilde’s punishment. The Wanderer then says that he has no need of her advice as he has decided to accept gladly the end of his power; he will leave the world to Siegfried, and Brünnhilde will perform the redeeming deed.
But when Siegfried appears, he is impatient to find yet another old man standing in his path. His youthful brashness arouses the Wanderer’s anger and as Siegfried tries to go past, he interposes his spear, pointing out that the sword Siegfried carries has already been shattered by it. Believing that he has found his father’s enemy, Siegfried breaks the spear with his sword.
The Wanderer withdraws, no longer able to oppose Siegfried, who climbs the mountain and passes through the ring of flame which surrounds Brünnhilde. After some hesitation he kisses her awake and she greets him ecstatically by name. At first, however, she shrinks from his embrace, reluctant to lose her divine powers, but eventually responds to his passion and they triumphantly proclaim their love.
[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]